When you’ve got to go… you’ve got to go… 

A sudden bowel movement while running is called Runners Trots, it is when you have a strong urge to poop during or after running. 

You may be surprised to know that this happens in over a third of runners!

In this study published by the National Library Of Medicine, 62% of long-distance runners that participated in the study had to stop during their run to have a bowel movement.

If you get the urge to go when you’re running or racing, you’ll want to continue reading…

Why You Feel The Need To Poop When You Run 

Running causes your body to divert blood from your Gastro-Intestinal tract to your muscles, which, if you have much of anything in your system, can contribute to your needing to poop.

The longer the run, the more likely it’s going to mess with how well your gut is functioning. 

This is a common complaint across all endurance athletes, but almost twice as likely for runners

Exercise stimulates your upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract to move more, this increases your risk of pooping.

In 2005, Paula Radcliffe won the London Marathon and broke the women’s world record.

She did however have to stop on the side of the road and release her bowels in front of thousands of fans. She went on to win the race after pooping, saying that cramps had been bothering her.

Unfortunately, Radcliffe’s experience isn’t uncommon for runners — though most of us make it to a port-a-potty.

Having to make a stop at the port-a-potty before a race is completely normal. It only becomes a problem when your toilet stops are getting in the way of your run.

Everything You Need To Know About Runners Trots

Runners trots is usually linked to one of two things. 

Effectively, there are some people that get no blood flow, it diverts completely away from the gut. It’s a normal response for us to divert blood from the guts to the working muscles, but in some people that is exaggerated. 

And when that happens… everything that’s in your intestine and your colon wants to get out. 

Similarly, for a large number of people, runners trots is caused by a lot of irritation, particularly if they have too much glucose. 

So it could be a dietary cause… something like a mild form of Celiac disease, some people have problems with gluten with dairy or high concentrations of glucose.

Firstly, I recommend beginning to look at the nutritional side of things. Loads of people are mildly gluten intolerant and don’t even realize it. 

You should look at different food groups and avoid eating too close to exercise.

This Is How Long You Should Wait After Eating To Go For A Run

One more thing to look out for is the type and amount of gels you consume. You should avoid washing your gels down with another high glucose drink like coke… doing this will trigger your tummy. Rather opt for taking your gels with water. 

If changing your nutritional race/running routine doesn’t work then we suggest seeking medical advice.

How Long Does Runner’s Trots Last?

Runners trots usually begin during your workout or run and can continue in the hours after you’re done running. 

Your tummy runs shouldn’t last for more than 24 hours, if they do it may be a sign of a serious medical condition.

Runners Trots Causes

Needing to poop urgently while running or post-run could be caused by several things as discussed above, but the most common factor is what you eat—either before or during a run.

Certain things, like high-fiber and high-fat foods, sweeteners, or caffeine, can upset your stomach.

In summary, runners trots could be caused by…

  • The physical jostling of internal organs and undigested food and liquids.
  • Decreased blood flow to the intestines as the body diverts blood from the intestines to the muscles being used to run.
  • Increased motility (muscle contraction in the GI tract) as exercise stimulates all muscles in your body
  • Increased production of stress hormones and cytokines (inflammatory proteins), particularly before a race.

Runner’s Trots Symptoms

  • Bloating
  • Belly cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Fecal incontinence, or being unable to control bowel movements
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Bloody stool

What Runners Do When They Have To Poop During a Race

The answer is quite simple really, runners make a note ahead of time where the portable toilets will be on the route and they stick some toilet paper or baby wipes in their pocket or race belt.

Runners generally coordinate their poops, they try to get on a regular schedule of eating, sleeping, running, and pooping. 

They time their meals and most importantly, pack toilet paper.

How To Empty Your Bowels Before Going For a Run

But. First. Coffee.

No really.

Studies have found that regular and decaf coffee has the same poop-inducing effect. Drink your favorite hot drink about 30 minutes before… go time.

Another way to speed up bowel movement is to move your body. Motion can bring on a bowel movement, so try a quick dynamic warm-up routine before stepping out the door.

(You should be warming up anyways!)

10 Tips For Avoiding The Need To Poop While Running

  1. Start to eat a higher-than-normal proportion of carbs (and less protein, fat, and vegetables) at every meal a few days before the race.
  2. It’s essential to start your run properly hydrated.
  3. Avoid creamy and fatty meals, these can upset your stomach and cause GI problems on race morning.
  4. Have a pre-race meal that you have eaten before and contains both protein and carbs.
  5. Avoid pre-race port-a-loo stress by lining up for a port-a-potty, even if you don’t need to go at that moment. By the time you get to the front of the line, chances are high that you’re ready.
  6. Avoid high-fiber foods. One day before running, try to limit foods like beans, fruit, and salad.
  7. In your running, try taking note of how much fiber you can run on before your tummy gets upset.
  8. Avoid sweeteners. The day before your long-distance run, limit or avoid sugar alcohols like isomalt, sorbitol, and other artificial sweeteners.
  9. Avoid NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). These types of medications include ibuprofen and naproxen.
  10. Wear comfortable clothes. Running in clothes that are too tight around your waist can irritate your bowels.

Devlin Eyden has a passion for seeing his athletes grow and excel. From novice runners or cyclists across all disciplines to elite mountain bikers representing South Africa at World Championships. In addition to helping you ride faster, for longer, Devlin also has the personal touch when it comes to your bike setup, aiming at improving the overall rider experience. With his background as a Sport Scientist as well as a Strength & Conditioning specialist, performance is Devlin’s main priority, be it in the gym, the lab or out on the road or trails. Being a keen runner & cyclist and having completed the Cape Epic among others, Devlin has first hand experience in what it take to reach your goals. If you’re looking for a once-off training program or ongoing, high touch support Devlin has you covered.

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