Runners Sometimes Get the Runs: How Can You Avoid It?

tired runner

Running does many fabulous things for you. It improves your cardiovascular health, it boosts your mood, it burns calories like mad. But there's a dark side to running no one likes talking about: why running makes you poop. Yep, running can give you the runs. Ugh. So how can you avoid it?


I first learned this when a good friend of mine started training for a marathon. Sometimes, during a long training run, he would become seized by the most urgent need to poo. Some runners will actually lose control of their bowels mid-stride. And they'll keep running because that is what a marathon runner does, damn it! You're in it for the long haul. But still ... shudder!

What's behind this craptastic side effect of running? We asked personal trainer Carly Pizzani to explain why this infelicitous phenomenon occurs, and how you might prevent it.

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"Basically what happens is when you're running, especially for a long time, your body directs more blood to the muscles at work while running," Pizzani says. "This means blood flow is diverted away from the GI tract, which can result in diarrhea."

That reminds me of what happens to many women just before labor. And by "many women," I mean me. When I was in labor with my son, I had an expedited evacuation of my bowels, if you catch my drift. Everything had to go so my body could focus on laboring. Fortunately I was at home and this was not a problem for me (or anyone else). Ahem, moving right along then.

But that's not the only cause of marathon runs. "Other causes could be the jostling of the intestines from the motion of running; fructose intolerance (when ingesting sports drinks sweetened with fructose); or increased fiber intake before running," Pizzani explains.

Uh oh, carb loading could be the culprit! But aren't you supposed to eat healthy whole grains? Maybe not right before a very long run. Pizzani recommends you "skip the whole-grain, high-fiber carbs if you want to avoid an unfortunate situation!" And it might be best to skip those sugary sports drinks, too!

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Keep in mind, this happens mainly to long-distance runners, i.e. people training for marathons or maybe half-marathons. Those of us doing just a 30-minute run a few times a week should not worry about involuntary pooping. Seriously. Do not obsess over getting the runner's runs. 

Have you heard of this happening to runners?

avoid pooping while running

Image © Maridav/Shutterstock and © Victoria Ovchinnikova/Shutterstock

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