Reader’s Roundtable: Running and Gastro-Intestinal Issues

Sometimes finding one of these is like finding water in the desert!

One of the most popular posts ever to grace the front page of our site is What to Do When You Have to Poop or Pee but There’s Nowhere to GoThat makes us wonder if there’s a runner out there who dares run a route with no bathroom options at all. I don’t think I know a single runner who hasn’t experienced gastro-intestinal distress at least to some degree while running. And yet it seems like no one has an answer for how to get the ol’ digestive track to cooperate. Let’s get to the bottom of this problem once and for all!

So, today we want you to share your trots tales, your poop scoop, your stool stories (sorry!) Have you experienced inconvenient, uncomfortable or potentially scary poop issues on the run? Do you do anything special to prevent having to poop on the run? If you’ve overcome GI issues, how did you figure out what was causing it and how did you fix it?

Cinnamon made Salty Running, takes lots of pictures and drinks lots of coffee. By day she's a camera assistant for films and tv in New York, and by night she's on a quest for zen in the 10k. Her writing is a mix of satirical humor, finding wholeness as an average runner, cheering for runners at all paces and more.

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  1. Two things I’ve had to change at some point in my running life:
    1) I went 5 weeks with very loose stools before I made the decision to cut gluten out of my diet. In 4-5 days, my stools were back to normal. I slowly started adding it back into my diet and I now limit it just slightly. I’m a gluten freak so I still eat it. I just know my symptoms and know when to take it easy on the gluten intake.
    2) Gels or other long run fuel. I had horrible issues during long runs and it took me 2 years to figure out it was the GU I was using. I tried many other brands and figured out the one that doesn’t upset my belly.

      1. I thought I replied yesterday but maybe not! Just in case….PowerGel Vanilla flavor is what I have used the past two races (full and half). I didn’t have any belly issues at all during those races.

  2. I ran a half marathon on Saturday that was totally minimal in every way imaginable. Only 5 water stops, no chip timing (actually no start line, either!), etc. They had zero (yes, zero!!!!) porta-potties along the course. My belly started yelling at about 8 miles. I ended up having to slow from low – mid 8 pace, to high 8, low 9 pace to not poo myself! I made it to the finish intact, thank god! But there were some close calls in that last 5 miles 😉

  3. Well this is timely. I pooped my pants on a run a couple weeks ago. Awful. I waddled two miles home trying to keep it from running down my leg for all to see.

    1. I’m so sorry, Lydia! You’re definitely not alone, I know lots of people who have had it happen. I haven’t but have definitely come REALLY close. And there have been a couple of times when I’ve had to break a law or two and poop in public parks.

  4. After having bathroom issues in Cleveland a few weeks ago, I am a little nervous about it happening again at this week’s marathon. But statistically, it’s rare for me to have to go during a race so I’ll keep that in mind.

    I haven’t had to do it yet, but a friend who shall not be named, makes sure to keep a plastic bag and toilet paper in her car to use before races if the line is just too long.

  5. I drink a glass of a Naked juice and/or a glass of Kefir (depending on the length of the run) as I am warming up, about an hour before my run. This triggers gastro-colic reflex that makes me go a couple of times before my run, and ensures I am “empty.”

  6. Coffee! I use coffee the same way, Caper. I’m nuts about making sure I drink a full cup before I leave the house for a race, plus a 16 ounce glass of water. That way when I get to the race I can hit the port-a-potty and know that my bowels will cooperate.

      1. I prefer diet coke. Of course, that my be part of my several year long unintentional training for a beer mile.

  7. I always take Imodium before longer races and even long runs if I’m worried about having to make frequent stops. One think mg though that I’ve recently learned is that having to poop more frequently is a symptom of overtraining! I’ve noticed that I’ll have no issues and as training ramps up I start having to go mid-run more and more frequently throughout the day. Just some more good for thought 🙂

    1. “…having to poop more frequently is a symptom of overtraining…” Well, that’s interesting. I did a marathon in 2013 and have been struggling ever since with slower paces and less endurance. And more potty issues. Some of this, I’m pretty sure is related to poor eating habits (and related added weight), but I’ve been wondering if I really overdid it in 2013.

    2. Wow, that IS interesting. Looking back, so many things make sense now…

      And I have done Imodium too, for both of my full marathons. I have a horrible nervous tummy – I have issues before races, job interviews, orchestra auditions…at least the latter two are short indoor events.

  8. I’ve pooed in a lot of woods. Pooing in the woods might just be my favorite part of this sport. We need a poomap… a map that everyone adds a pushpin every time they have marked territory on a run…