How to run a marathon without needing a poo

by Janet on January 8, 2013

If you’re training for a marathon and starting to cover longer distances in your training runs, you’ll soon discover (at around mile 6 or 7 usually) that the question of needing more than a ‘quick sprinkle’ behind a bush can become a concern.

Sometimes ‘nature calls’ with an insistence that can’t be ignored. The tortoise becomes so curious, there’s no doing anything else until you’ve set the tortoise free. Graphic, but true. It’s a very real problem for a runner.

If you don’t get your fuelling/digestion right, you’ll have problems during the run. Far too often in training, I have hastily downed some morning porridge or bowl of cheerios, laced up and left the house to run, only to find myself halted mid route from a sore stomach and the need to go.

And then what? Sometimes it’s meant abandoning the run and walking home. Sometimes it’s meant trying to blend in – hot and flushed – with other shoppers while I head to the loo in my local supermarket. And then there’s the dreaded ‘in the middle of a field’ situation – needing to find somewhere to go that avoids exposing your bottom to the general public.

So when it comes to running a marathon, toilet matters are very important to you. Where to go, when to go and how to avoid it playing havoc with your race time are big factors in your mind. Especially on a course with no toilet stops!

So – what did I do to get through my first marathon without needing a poo? Here are a few tips that worked for me and my system on the day. I hope they help you too.

  • In training, use your long runs, to experiment with different foods to eat en route. I found that Lucozade sports gels and water worked best for me.  This way, your body starts to get used to getting across a long distance ideally without requiring a bowel movement!
  • If carb loading the day before, stick to carbs and protein, but avoid loads of hi-fibre and fruit/veg. I stuck to pasta, chicken, cereal bars, pretzels, hot chocolate, bagels, granola bar, more bagels, jam and sports drinks. No sultana bran for me!
  • Don’t introduce any new foods that you don’t normally eat – even in a bid to get more energy. If you don’t usually eat brown pasta or brown rice, the day before race day is probably not the time to do so!
  • Eat your pre-race meal 3 hours before you race and keep it light. I ate 1.5 bagels with no butter or anything else.
  • Drink some fresh coffee 3 hours before too – not loads. Say half a cup. This helps shift your bowels apparently.
  • Go to the loo before you run. Wait for a poo to come. Resist the temptation just to go and run. Wait, wait and wait some more. If nothing comes, wander around the house for a bit and wait. Then try again.
  • Find out where you can go to the loo at the race location. Most race routes these days have toilet places – even if not on the route.
  • Before you race, go to the loo again and see if you can get another one out(!). To be honest, you’ll be so nervous or caught up in the pre-race nervous tension of all the other runners that you’ll probably need to anyway. :)
  • Carry around a small pack of tissues in your pocket during the race, just in case you do have to go somewhere en route.
  • During the race, use the fuelling strategy that worked for you in your training long runs. Run with a kit that enables you to carry gels (or your chosen fuel) on your person. I consumed water, gels and isotonic fluid whilst running. I took a gel every 45 mins and took my time to injest while running. I sipped water when I needed it. I took some iso at every water station.
  • Don’t underestimate the benefits of race nerves and positive nervous energy on the day. It does wonders for your determination to get round and ability to over-ride nigggles.
  • Ultimately – if it happens – don’t panic! There’s nothing you can do. Heck, we can all do a Paula if we really need to. The racing spirit brings out the survival instinct in you. You’ll do what you need to do to get round, even if it is behind a bus stop.

Just set that tortoise free if need be and then,  carry on running.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Phil Gardiner-Damms January 9, 2014 at 10:33 am

Thanks for all the good advice I’m doing my first half marathon in Birmingham UK in October 2014 and am desperate for things to go as smoothly as possible


Janet January 9, 2014 at 11:32 am

No problem! All the best with the half. How exciting. Enjoy it!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: