What to Do When You Have to Poop or Pee but There’s Nowhere to Go

Salty

Salty

Salty has written 307 posts on Salty Running.

Mommy, lawyer, runner, writer. Competitive runner working on coming back after baby #3. Legal career on hiatus while staying home with the kids (ages 5, 4 and 1.5). Salty Running boss.

Porta Potty by David Shankbone

Normally vile, even nasty construction site port-a-potties are an incredibly welcomed site to a runner who has to go. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s early. Really early. So early you can finish this run and get ready for work and be there on time. So early you woke right at the alarm and headed straight out the door, skipping your usual pre-morning run routine. Today is a good day for an out and back, you think. So you head 3.5 miles out the lonely quiet road and turn around. And of course, as Murphy’s Law dictates, just as you’re at the farthest point from home base (and a bathroom) nature calls.

You try to ignore it. The impulse subsides, only to come roaring back like a wave. You make it three waves or so before you realize you are going to have to take care of this business or the business will happen anyway. In your shorts. You look around and see neighborhood houses or trees or open fields or whatever, but no official places to do your business.

Aw, crap.

What the heck are you supposed to do?

First, let’s discuss what not to do. This, for instance:

The pooping on the building. The doing it more than once in the same public spot. The surveillance cameras. The no wiping (seriously, wtf?) All. Wrong. Here’s what you need to know about pooping on the run the right way.

Where to go.

Always try to find a toilet. Maybe there’s a house under construction in the neighborhood and a port-a-potty for the construction workers.  Maybe you know there’s a Starbucks half a mile away.  Maybe your brother’s girlfriend’s great aunt lives not too far. If there’s a known toilet within a mile of where you are, do whatever you can to hold it and make it to the toilet. McDonald’s, Libraries, whatever. Use their toilet!

cat

Sometimes we all have to go outside of the box. (Photo credit: Kenny Teo (zoompict))

If you can’t hold it or there is no known toilet, then you’re really going to have to improvise. My first choice is always woods. There’s an access drive through the woods that’s overgrown on one of my potty-less neighborhood routes and that’s where I peed when I was pregnant. It was cut back just enough that I could get through, but not too much that there was no cover. If you poop, definitely think about where you could go that would provide a little privacy and would not be an intrusion on someone’s life. Unlike “Malicious Fecal Deposit Lady,” avoid private property if at all possible and definitely avoid going in the middle of where other people have to be – like in someone’s driveway or something like that! I like to find a place where I can cover it. I figure cats gotta know what they’re doing.

If it’s just pee and I’m wearing shorts, I squat, pull the shorts to the side and pee. I can pretty much make it look like I’m tying my shoe. I’ve never tried pooping without pulling the shorts off. In theory it should be able to work, but I really don’t want to carry any souvenirs home from a woods poop, so I have never tried it.

Wiping.

English: Ground level poison ivy in Perrot Sta...

This is poison ivy. Looks harmless, but it’s not, especially to the privates. Leaves of 3, let it be! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I have to go outside of a toilet, I don’t bother wiping if it’s just pee. After three kids, I always have a little pee in the shorts anymore so what’s a little more?  And really, it’s nothing a quick hand wash won’t take care of.

If it’s #2, wiping is a must. If you’re going on a long run and are in doubt about the availability of a toilet, consider bringing TP in a sandwich bag. If you find yourself TP-less and toiletless, go for a big leaf from a tree. Make sure it’s a tree. DO NOT WIPE YOURSELF WITH ANYTHING THAT MIGHT BE POISON IVY.

Ok we’re going to get into the nitty gritty here. Sorry, we gotta go there. When you wipe out in the woods, especially with something like a leaf, it’s not going to do a perfect job, but it’s better than nothing. Use more than one leaf if you have to.  Use one hand and make sure to keep the other hand out of that business and clean. That way if you have to wipe something out of your eye or blow a snot rocket, you have a clean hand for the job. Also, be sure to hit the shower and change ASAP. You don’t want a UTI from the bacteria sure to be on your shorts or tights.

If needing to go becomes a regular problem.

Of course, if needing to go on the run becomes a regular problem, you should plan your routes to include bathrooms if possible or consider taking steps to avoid the urge.

If it’s pee you can’t hold, don’t drink within 45 minutes of leaving for your run. That has helped me during pregnancy and those early postpartum months when I have a harder time holding it.

If it’s poop, I find waking up at least 45 minutes before running and having a half a cup of coffee is enough to empty things out.  I also avoid ice cream and alcohol the evening before an early morning run. They just don’t work for me. You need to experiment with what works for you. Coffee, no coffee. Roll right out of bed, wake up a certain amount of time before hitting the roads. One summer, I found that even with coffee I still had to go during my long runs. So, I tried immodium for long runs and it worked great for me. It causes drowsiness in some, so definitely keep that in mind if you try it.

For more on this subject, read our poop posts.

So dear readers, tell us about your most harrowing “gotta go” experiences. And please, please share your tips for stealthy pooping!

19 Responses to “What to Do When You Have to Poop or Pee but There’s Nowhere to Go”

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  1. Debra says:

    Ug. Yes. It happens to most of us sometime or another. I actually plan my long runs around knowing if/where there is a potty. A few months ago I went on a trail run at a very heavily populated trail. For the last 10 minutes I literally prayed that there were construction porto potties over by the ball fields and there were. One was jammed up against the other so that one door didn’t open and the other didn’t close but I didn’t care. I feel like standards change so quickly when you become a runner. I spent most of my life hating porto potties and that day it was my savior.

  2. Clove says:

    And when the leaves look “iffy” and you’ve forgotten the “poopie pack” (that’s what I call the TP in the sandwich bag) – never underestimate the power of the sock. When the choice is a foot blister or a dirty bum … take the blister.

  3. Cathryn says:

    This is so funny as I had a most UN funny #2 incident in Golden Gate Park the other week. I obviously had no toilet paper and was freaked out that the leaves I had to use might contain poison oak. So far, no itching! Equally obviously, I found a toilet literally a hundred metres further along my run!

    Good advice here on how to handle it relatively gracefully. My only comfort is that we all do it :)

  4. Ginger Ginger says:

    Quote of the post: “You make it three waves or so before you realize you are going to have to take care of this business or the business will happen anyway. In your shorts.”

    This is a great post that I’m sure will be useful for many runners down the road, especially beginners who beg to ask the question but don’t know how.

  5. Cheryl says:

    I keep half a washcloth on me for all runs (hahaha). They make a handy nose blower, sweat wipe, and if you must: a bottom wipe. If you get the cheap thin ones they’re small enough to easily pack and can still be used when they’re sweat soaked where Kleenex and tp fall apart.

  6. Erin says:

    I keep babywipes in a baggie with me if my inners are feeling dicey before a run, and I always try to plan my long runs with several different bathroom options available. I also carry a bit of money on me in case I have to purchase something in order to gain access to a bathroom. I just wish there were more public washrooms available!

  7. Lori Toth says:

    This seems to be a problem I often have, in fact I consider myself an expert on advise. I always carry paper towels folded up and tucked into my shorts. Knowing this is a potential issue I always find places to run where I will not end up like the girl in the video. Hike and bike trails, country roads with woods or corn fields available, or some place you might be passing with public restrooms like gas stations, drugstores, or restaurants. If you have an emergency, again like the girl in the video, for God’s sake avoid the same place for at least a year!

  8. Jojo says:

    I’ve been lucky so far. Most recently was about two weeks ago. I was doing an out and back, and felt the urge (#2). I decided to turn back early. There was a McD’s about 1.5 miles away, and I really booked it to get there! The last part was uphill for about a quarter mile, and I think I broke my record for running up that hill.

    Best motivation to running fast: sprinting for the bathroom

    And what is wrong with that girl.

  9. Joshua says:

    Wow thanks for the info on that. It help me a lot so thank’s

  10. angel zolars says:

    The food lion bag was my safety and lots of paper towels

  11. ayrewolf says:

    Having to potty while doing an on air radio shift.

  12. pem says:

    I take a bag stick in my pants and let go in it and seal/tie it and trow it away
    it always works

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