If all else fails...

You'll know from looking at this picture whether you want to read the rest of this blog post.

If you're an endurance runner, you may already be nodding your head knowingly. If you're not, well, brace yourself for an overview of "runners bowel".

I have had a bit of a rough trot on long runs lately. My hopes of a run PB at my last race at Ironman Cairns went down the drain and  I needed a few unscheduled breaks on my longest long run so far.

I've Googled "what causes runners bowel" and got the following ideas on what I could do stop it.

- Go before you go.
Doesn't work. Trust me.

- Exercise with a bathroom nearby, for example, at a gym.
Not going to happen. Four hours on a treadmill? Shoot me now. Not to mention, this doesn't actually fix the problem of suffering cramps and needing a toilet.

- Train at a different time of the day.
Not going to happen. Besides which, I'm routinely a morning runner. Even on an empty stomach, I don't know where it all comes from. I can't see how training later in the day, on a non-empty stomach, can possibly help.

- Keep a food / toilet diary to see whether diet is causing it.
The reading I've done seems to indicate that the foods that are most likely to cause it are artificial sweeteners (nothing to see here) or fatty foods (not much going on there). Famously, Paula Radcliffe blamed her unfortunate stoppage in the 2008 London marathon on grilled salmon the night before. I do eat salmon reasonably regularly and may have done so before my last long run, but not Ironman Cairns. It is a nice thought and worth thinking about.

- Eat a less fibrous foods in the days leading up to your event or long run.
Tonight the menu is steak, rice and a smaller serving of veges than normal.

- Visualise yourself running strong and unhindered.
Nice idea. Doesn't work. I do practice mental preparation for my big training sessions and races. In none of these visualisations do I think about cramping and looking for a toilet.

- Keep hydrated.
Apparently being dehydrated can contribute so this could be part of it. But since I started carrying a Camelbak on my long runs I feel like I'm drinking more. I'll work on this.

- Nothing.
Even though there's also a theory that it's related to the body drawing blood away from the stomach, it's called "runners bowel" not "exercisers bowel". Cyclists don't really suffer from it, and certainly many of the same criteria would apply, especially professional road races which take more hours than professional marathons. There is therefore also a theory that it's caused by the jostling of the organs caused by running, and I've also read that it's more common in women than in men.

- If all else fails consult your doctor.
Consult your doctor so that they can recommend an anti-diarrhea medication. 

I haven't consulted a doctor but I've spoken at length with a pharmacist. With only two long runs left before the Kurrawa2Duranbah 50k race, it's go time. I'm trialing Gastro-Stop tomorrow.

I may or may not report back on this.

Wish me luck.

References - Mayo Clinic, Women Running Together, Competitor, Active, Wikipedia


  1. Interesting insights, AP. I had a shocker on one of my longer runs this year. It was supposed to be a 21km that I had to cut short. You'd think that running around one of the world's largest capital cities, London, you'd be able to find a toilet, but it regularly became a farce. In one run alone, I came across three toilets, none of which I could use because 1) I didn't have 50p, 2) the toilet was out of order, and 3) it was open only Mon - Fri! Now, I know that this doesn't help with the physical issue itself, but it does highlight that it's a bloody inconvenience. And don't get me started on coordinating periods or how immensely proud I am of the size of my bladder (which was most helpful for 15 hours of Icelandic conditions during the ultramarathon). Good luck and keep me posted x

    1. Thanks Speedy. What I have learned from your comment is that Londoners don't wee or poo on weekends! :)
      Judging from the response both here and on Facebook, this topic is close to many people's hearts. A follow up report is therefore essential to keep you (and everyone else) posted.

  2. Good luck and try not to explode.

    1. Thanks Ian. I returned from my run intact! Hurrah!