Poop & Running - My Explosive True Story

"3... 2... 1... GO!!!"

I pushed off from the starting line with the first wave of Minnie Mouses, Tinker Bells, and Tiggers.

I had taken maybe 20 steps when...

"You have got to be kidding me." 

Bad timing for... well, you read the title.

I looked ahead.  The chances of a row of porta-potties showing up this soon after the race's start were next to nil.  And turning around and running upstream was likely to make me Disney cos-play roadkill.  I had one option -- press forward and pray.

The race was the Disneyland 10K over Labor Day weekend in 2014. Dressed in a recycled Jessie from Toy Story running costume thanks to a lack of time from planning my recent wedding, it was my eighth Disney race, but the first race where I desperately wanted to see a john more than a spencer (my husband).

No bueno.  

Every runner knows that before you head to the starting line, you hit up a bathroom and do your business.  In fact, in order to avoid unwelcome stops on the course, you do as much business as you can before the race.  Which I did.  Happily.  So why the heck was it business time again?

All I could do was dimple my muscles together and duck-jog ahead, desperately searching for any sign of an upcoming bathroom.  Every uncomfortable moment felt like an eternity.

Thank you, Mickey!  Disney delivered.  A handfull of porta-potties sat waiting in their aromatic glory at mile 1, and I found myself sprinting ahead at a 5-minute/mile pace to open the door and... do the business, right there in the dark before sun-up.


With gratitude in my soul and relief in my bowels, I burst out of the throne room and back into the pack of mouse ears and race bibs, determined to make up for lost time.  At least the worst was over.

But it wasn't over.  Heavens to Maleficent, was it not over.

A half a mile later, that familiar urge was back.  I couldn't believe it.  I had business'd TWO times this morning - with a vengeance.  There was no way this feeling was legit.

But it was.

Stubbornly, I tried to ignore it.  I pressed forward.

Mile 2:  Ugh, this feeling was not going away.  It was only getting worse.

Mile 2.5:  We were in the parks now, and I continued to pass up each bathroom I came to, despite how magical they appeared.  I was one of those weirdos who actually aimed to get a good time at Disney races, and I had lost a solid few minutes already.  It was worth the risk to skip the bathrooms... wasn't it?  No.  But I was clearly a competitive moron.

Mile 3:  Listening to "It's a Small World" on repeat in my headphones would have been bliss compared to this feeling.  

Mile 3.5:  Every step was like tapping a raw egg's shell harder and harder.

Note:  The rest of this post is not for the proper, squeamish, or bowelless.  You've been warned.

Mile 4:  That was it.  The eggshell cracked.  

I am ashamed and yet strangely liberated to admit, that right there in my favorite part of Frontierland, the Happiest Place on Earth became the crappiest place on earth for me and my poor Jessie costume, and I suddenly gained an even greater and unexpected appreciation for sparkle running skirts (though I doubt Sparkle Athletic would want to include this in their advertising).

Since I used to work for Disney, I knew dozens of people working along the race course, who kindly cheered me on along my "adventure," with no idea just how adventurous it was.  And wanting to show my thanks, I forced myself to cheer them back, all the while praying they "pay no attention to the butt behind the curtain."

One friend snapped this photo of me - not exactly a great game face.  I look like this is my first race ever:

This is one of the most awkward race pictures I've ever seen.  Of anyone.

Since the egg had only cracked and not exploded into oblivion (thank the stars), my urge to hit up a bathroom was just as strong as ever.  The only change was now I was even more uncomfortable than I was before.  Hooray!  But with only a couple miles left, I threw caution to the wind and decided to push forward until the end.

When I finally saw the finish line, I might as well have seen a smoothie shop after crawling across the Sahara. 

Awkward photo #2:  Seeing the finish line.

Makes me wonder what this lady got on video...

When I got to the finish, I ran passed my friends with cameras, grabbed my medal at a full sprint, nearly pushed over the medal photographers, barged through the banana passers, and booked it across the parking lot to the row of porta potties just about a half mile from the finish line.

As is the theme for this race, I again felt like I wasn't going to make it.

I threw open a door, turned around and...

This is where I would place a "censored" screenshot and play classical music, if I could.

In the end, the unfortunate truth was that the person before me had left a not-so-desirable gift on the seat, and when my shaking hands rushed to wipe it down with toilet paper, I found that the paper roll was brand new, and I couldn't tear the wrapper off fast enough.

I didn't make it.

What was going to be a 2-minute endeavor, turned into 45 minutes.  My husband, who had seen me cross the finish line, thought I was abducted by Ultron.

Good thing I paid over a hundred bucks for this experience.

And to think it was a clean new roll of TP that finished me off.

So Why Does Running Make You Run to a Bathroom?

According to Kelly O'Mara of Competitor.com in her article "Why Do I Have to Poop When I Run," GI issues during races are incredibly common for runners.

Even Paula Radcliffe, who was the women's world record holder for the marathon, had to stop on the side of the road on her way to win the 2005 London Marathon and take a dump in front of thousands of spectators.


Apparently there are a few contributors to a runner's common need to pop a squat:

  • The constant pounding on the pavement shakes up the intestines, which then, want a release.
  • Bloodflow often leaves a runner's internal organs and head to exercise muscles, which slows the food absorption process.
  • Runners often don't drink a lot of water, and dehydration makes it difficult for a runner's organs to absorb anything lingering in them, so the body does the best thing it knows how to do - flush everything out.
  • Eating before a run churns up your stomach and makes it more likely you'll need to hit up a bathroom.
  • Studies show that runners who ramp up their speed or distance too quickly while training are more susceptible.
  • Food moves more quickly through athletes who are training.
  • Foods in high fat, sugar, or caffeine are top contributors.

Not sure how all this applied in the first 30 seconds of a race for me, but whatever.

While we know many factors that contribute to the runner's runs, the exact cause is difficult to pin down, which make prevention difficult.  Some people suggest avoiding fiber-rich foods 24 hours before a race, or warming up your bowels by eating something small or drinking something warm just before running, to give you a productive bathroom experience.

Haha, "productive bathroom experience."  What am I trying to be, a nurse?

For those of us runners with the runs, O'Mara suggests we can take some comfort from that.  She says, "All that rushing to the bathroom could be reducing your risk of colon cancer.  The rate of colon cancer has been found to be lower among runners, which may be because their bowel content is not present in their colons as long as it is with non-runners."

With friend Jon (not to be confused with a john) and hubby Spencer, after all the "business" was taken care of.

Looking back, I now know that thanks to a souvenir parasite I brought home from my honeymoon in Cancun, I had stored "business" in my bowels for days.  Running the race simply made it all manifest itself within a single hour.  

Thanks to modern medicine, that parasite is now destroyed, hopefully along with my chances of reliving my explosive race adventure.

1 comment:

  1. Hahahaha! Gross. I have honestly never had a bathroom problem this far. Knock on wood.

    I haven't ever seen that picture of Paula. Humiliating!


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