5 Solutions for Bathroom Emergencies while Running

poop5We’ve covered bathroom emergencies before, but since that remains one of our most popular articles to date (yes, really) we know we can never talk too much about the topic. You’ll understand why the next time you get caught in a potty emergency! The more prepared you are beforehand, the better.

All runners know the standard emergency pit stops—e.g. public park restrooms, gas stations, the bushes. But sometimes, especially if you’re in a city or a residential suburb, those options just aren’t available. Instead of soiling your neighbor’s driveway, try one of the following options.  I can personally attest that I’ve had ‘success’ at all five!

Here's one...1. Offices.  Office buildings are great, especially medical offices, since there’s usually a restroom in the lobby.  Warning: Sometimes the restrooms can be hard to find, however, and in case of emergency you don’t always have time to search.

2. Stores. Grocery stores often have a public restroom; if the restroom isn’t in the front near the registers, don’t be shy about asking employees! Grocery stores cater to families, so are usually sympathetic even if their restroom is in the back.  I recommend that you take note of where the restrooms are in all the grocery stores along your running routes. Better to know before the fact. And whether it’s Target or Saks 5th Avenue, a department store is always a good bet too!

3. Hotels. Find the bathroom near the lobby. Try to sneak out before the continental breakfast-goers catch a whiff of what just happened.

4. Starbucks. You may not like their coffee, but you’ll love the fact that they are pretty much everywhere. Make sure to examine the menu for a moment with a discerning eye and a demeanor that says, “In fact, I was running here to meet a friend and buy a triple-shot-eight-pump-venti-soy-frappe-no-whip” before breezing by to do your business. And if you can’t find a Starbucks, keep your eyes peeled for other cafes or fast-food joints. Bonus points: on the way out ask politely for a free cup of water or grab some honey packets if you’re running low on fuel!

5. Random people’s houses. This is for real! When your tummy starts rumbling in the ‘burbs, just look for someone out gardening, unloading groceries from her car or sitting on her front porch. Notice I say “her”—if you are going into a random stranger’s residence it’s probably safest and raises the least questions if that stranger is a lady. Plus, if she’s had kids, she’s more likely to sympathize with you than a man. What better way to get to know your neighbors? Or more likely, what better reason to hide your face from your neighbor when you see her in the grocery store later that day?

Bonus! If you’re really in a pinch, you can always try a garbage can. These can be located anywhere. Just tilt the can your way, and for heaven’s sake, try to cover up a little!  This one was definitely NOT me, but was one of my very favorite people and I was there to witness her act of desperation—you know who you are! Are you glad I remember this shining moment in your life?

That’s it, Saltines!  Good luck out there …

Where have you gone in a potty emergency?

I am a 30-something new mother (pet mother too), marathon and ultramarathon runner, healthcare professional, and outdoor enthusiast. I'm working on completing a marathon in all 50 states. I will be blogging about motherhood, running, and any random running-related rant I might come up with.

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16 comments

  1. I live in Washington, D.C., and there is an embarrassment of public restroom riches here. I’ve hit up the U.S. Capitol visitors’ center, the Botanic Gardens, several Smithsonians, and — my favorite — National Airport, which is right off the Mount Vernon Trail. The airport day was especially hot and I was dripping sweat, so I got a lot of strange looks from travelers, all of whom I assume were hoping I wouldn’t be sitting next to them on their flight!

    1. Haha! I recently moved from Shirlington area! And YES, the whole DC area has a serious lack of public bathrooms! I love love LOVE that you went into the National Airport! Hilarious!

  2. I have created a favourite out and back route that passes a golf course, fast food restaurant, a rec centre and a grocery store, giving me a total of 8 possible pitstops round trip, plus a heavily wooded area for emegenicies! Peace of mind is important on those long runs!

  3. In NYC bathrooms are everywhere, but nobody wants to let you use them! Book stores and department stores are usually my go-to! Starbucks often has a line and they aren’t particularly well-maintained. I also have a back-of-the-brain list of dance studios, medical buildings and other offices where there’s no need for a key. I’ve totally peed at my doctor’s office; I just told the security guys I had to go upstairs to drop off a check (because really, they really don’t want to let you in just to pee. I’ve been turned away at university buildings, offices, stores galore…).

    And you can still find yourself in a desert if you’re running through more residential spots or if you’re running in Central or Riverside Park at night. I’ve run all the way to Lexington Avenue from the middle of the park before in desperation! Little did I know that the West Side has far more public restrooms than the East Side.

    And – I’ll admit it, I had to poop so bad once in Red Hook Park that I totally leaned up on a fence and let it happen.

  4. I grew up in a really rural area surrounded by farmland. I was running with a friend one day, and the poops struck – and I knew it was a bad one…and my time was short. My friend’s family happened to own the cornfield we were running past…so yup..pooped in the cornfield. Good news – corn leaves are excellent TP in a pinch…

  5. I have a couple of long run routes that put Starbucks at my halfway point! I’ve never thought to ask for free water, and I always buy a bottle when I’m there. I have the Starbucks app on my phone, so I can buy water without carrying money.
    Honey packets! Brilliant!!!!

  6. I have also found libraries to be a good option. I have not found Starbucks to be a consistent option bc I have gone into some where they lock the door — same is true for gas stations. Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s have always worked for me (McDs is esp good bc many around here have that side door where you can slip in without having to awkwardly avoid eye contact with cashiers!). I have also had luck by being in natural areas where I could tuck off into the woods. Well, maybe “luck” isn’t exactly the right word, lol.

    1. After our last marathon, my sister did a number in the McDs bathroom. We were driving home when the urge hit her…. and that was the closest place. Ha!

  7. I have horrific IBS and am like a poo-ninja when it comes to finding places to go when I’m out running. Being on a trail, or even near a group of trees is usually my lifesaving go-to. Horrific, but true.