After 19 years of running, I earned a badge I would rather do without. I crapped on a run. It was as horrifying as it sounds. It wasn’t even a long run. It was a measly 5K.
Anyone who has ever trained for a long run or paid attention to running events, knows that “runner’s trot” is a thing. I’ve heard the “messy” stories of marathon runner’s crossing the finish line with, is that “dirt”, is that…”oooh”…
I’ve also experienced the scary urge to go. There’s typically a washroom close enough before it’s too late. I can’t recall a situation in recent years where it’s even been a threat. My routine-oriented self usually gets up early enough to have a coffee, maybe a little yogurt or banana, and let nature do it’s thing BEFORE I head out.
You can probably tell by the way I am writing this, that I don’t particularly enjoy talking about SHIT. And let me be clear, I probably don’t ever want to TALK about this in real life. For blog posts, I like to share stories others might read that will help them (a) from experiencing the same situation, or (b) if they have experienced this situation, know that they are not alone.
This dark morning started out in beautiful Victoria, BC. My last day there on a vacation. I headed out over the Johnson Street Bridge to a newly discovered path called the Galloping Goose Trail. The day before I had admired townhouses partway along the path that I fantasized might be a good place to buy an investment property so that I had a place to visit once in awhile.
Because I was on vacation, my routine leading up to this morning was different than usual. I do find that flying can screw up my system for days afterwards. I had consumed a huge muffin and shared a fibrous bar the day before. I had three drinks (a lot more than my usual one drink a month) a few days prior and was still feeling a bit more tired as a result. Drinking, even a little, can mess with my stomach. I had also been experiencing pre-menstrual symptoms for a couple days. I hadn’t had a coffee in my hotel room nor given my body enough time to “relax” before heading out. Nothing felt particularly ominous when I set out though. It wasn’t until about the 4th kilometre, which isn’t particularly far, that I felt the initial rumblings. By the time it was feeling urgent, I was in an area that was industrial, on a Saturday morning, when everything was closed and not a bathroom in sight. I seriously considered finding a discreet place behind a building a couple times. I may have balled my eyes out afterwards if this had been necessary. Not that what happened was much better. The thought of doing this was horrifying but it seemed like I might not have a better option for a bit.
I decided to walk back, being aware that walking can be better than running in these situations, and for awhile it seemed to be holding things at bay. Alas, by the time I was about 5 min away from my hotel, back near the Johnson Street Bridge, it was too late. And, I really had no warning or opportunity to find a place to squat. I will spare the rest of the details, both for your sake and mine. I texted my husband and said, “I have had a bad accident and I will need the washroom as soon as I get in and please don’t look at me!” He found this amusing afterwards, that I didn’t want him to look at me. Thankfully, there was no one to pass in the boutique hotel I was staying in.
Aside from the very humbling experience of crapping my pants, there were other thoughts going through my head. Sympathy for houseless people who must find themselves in such predicaments often, was chief amongst these thoughts. I know that the Covid-19 pandemic also brought to light the problems with lack of public washrooms in cities. I don’t even know what people do and I feel like I should look into what people are doing to try to fix the problems of accessibility. I was also grateful I was wearing 3/4 pants rather than shorts at the time!
I thought this was a good article about how to avoid runner’s diarrhea. Some main points:
- pay attention to foods consumed that may be triggers (eg, according to the article, high fat foods are often triggers because they take longer to digest and can linger in the digestive tract longer. Then, when you start running, that not-fully-digested food could cause GI distress and ultimately, diarrhea,).
- how food will affect you is very individual and it is important to know your own triggers. However, avoiding having too many foods high in fibre within 24-48 hours of a long run, seems like a good thing to try. Also, avoiding sugar alcohols that can increase feelings of bloating and gassiness.
- dehydration can make matters worse. But, so can drinking too much water, too quickly. To avoid discomfort and cramps, drink small amounts of water consistently throughout your run.
- become aware of washrooms on your planned runs. I think this is good advice, however, in my experience, even the best routes will have stretches without a washroom in sight. There may be bushes, etc., in an emergency, but if you find yourself in an industrial, pavement covered area, where nothing is open, I’m not sure there is much one can do other than plan to make it back to the nearest washroom, if possible.
Have you found yourself in this situation? Do you have tips for planning running/long hiking routes, etc. with bathroom access? Plans for avoiding finding yourself in this situation?
Nicole enjoys running, HIIT-style workouts, strength training, yoga and walking 20,000-40,000 steps a day on vacation.