April 17, 2012

A Call to the Toilet | Marathon Month

In Grete Waitz’s book Run Your First Marathon: Everything You Need to Know to Reach the Finish Line she so tactfully talks about "a call to the toilet". It's a call you have to answer, you can't let it go to voicemail even if you're in the middle of a pack of runners all running towards the finish line miles and miles away. She goes on to talk about her experience with this "call" during a marathon. "One of my most dramatic race stories is also my most awkward. I was in the lead of the London Marathon when I got an attack of diarrhea... in my mind there was no question: I had to keep running, despite the shock of onlookers and worse, the television cameras broadcasting the event to millions of people. It was not a pleasant experience, but winning was.”

The call of the toilet is something everyone running a marathon worries about. I mean everyone, even elites like Lauren Fleshman. What if... And if the call comes what are you going to do about it!? What if there’s no porta-potty? No bush to duck behind? What if it’s just calling and calling and there’s no putting it on hold?

Ways to Prevent “The Call” during the 26.2

- Of course the best way to prevent this is during training. Practice with the gels and fluids you’ll be using during the marathon.
- Practice your dinner and breakfast around a couple key long runs. (Carb load the way you plan to for the race, wake up at ‘race time’ and eat, get out the door at ‘gun time’). Do the full dress/eat rehearsal
- Don’t eat an adventurous meal for dinner or breakfast before the marathon, or really any time within 48 hours of the marathon.
- Make sure you’re hydrated. Dehydration can lead to diarrhea. You need water to digest food properly. Avoid warm drinks though, those can speed up digestion and cause diarrhea.

Oddly enough, most of the time your body will take care of it. You’ll wake up on marathon day and go to the bathroom about 6 times before the guns goes off. Seriously. Your body knows how to prepare for battle.

And if the call comes – you decide how to answer it. But if you’re leading the NYCMarathon I’d just let it happen in your shorts.

For more potty talk check out:
Every Runner Poops by Joe Dudman on Run Oregon Blog
ESPNW interview with Lauren Fleshman before the NYC Marathon
Toilet Training from Today's Runner a UK publication
Runner's Diarrhea - How to Reduce Your Risk by That's Fit (this post could have been titled That's Sh*t)

And finally, some stand-up about marathon pooping: