The Curse Of “Runner’s Belly”
“Runner’s Belly”, “Radcliffe’s Runs”, “Paula’s Poops”… call it what you want there’s nothing worse than getting caught short while you’re mid run.
I’m guessing a large proportion of Running Junkies readers will relate to this and if you are anything like me, you know the locations of the local “convenience spots” around your favourite routes.
That said, is there anything we can do to help the situation? Anything that exacerbates the problem that can be avoided? Or is it just a case of pad up and push on?
Whatever the case, I’m pretty sure many have experienced it but most don’t discuss it, so it’s time to poke around the poo and reduce the stigma of the icky belly!
What the experts say
In one article I read, the author estimates runners are 40-50% more likely to experience this problem than cyclists or swimmers.
This is due to the increased impact on the body as a whole with running, where as with swimming the water reduces impact through increased buoyancy and in cycling impact is taken on by the bike.
Although I cycle as well as run and the state of the British roads means my gut gets wound up just a badly on my bike. Pot holes…eek!
Now I’m no expert here – all I do know is it is an inconvenient and embarrassing situation for anyone to face during a run!
So why does it happen?
There appears to be a number of theories around the cause of the phenomenon.
A dietitian cited by Amy Reinink proposes that the body naturally diverts blood and oxygen away from the gut to the peripheral limbs to provide more fuel to those areas during exercise.
When combined with the jiggling of the gut caused by the momentum of running this leads to agitation of the gut content, more commonly known as “The Squits”.
Another study from Mindy Solkin cites dehydration as a major cause, advising regular hydration before and during a race.
However, whilst good hydration is essential for a number of reasons and not just overcoming the trots, Mindy Solkin warns blood flow and therefore hydration to the gut is reduced by around 80% during long distances and no amount of hydration during a run can compensate for that.
So what could help?
Adequate hydration is the key to any good run and an upset belly is no exception to that.
Mindy Solkin advises us to avoid alcohol and caffeine the day of your race and the night before and maintain a good diet.
Good pre-run foods include bananas, oat-based products and low fibre carbohydrates.
Other advise includes avoiding heavy meals prior to a race leave at least 2-3 hours between eating and running and not to eat 30 minutes prior to the race, even snacks.
Avoid sugary, carbonated drinks and fruit juices and be aware that non-steroidal medication like Ibuprofen can cause stomach disorders.
And if all else fails…?
Sometimes you just have to accept we’re all only human and when you gotta go, you gotta go!
Paula R is my hero because she “normalised” having a very public motion!
So whatever the experts say, it is a normal bodily quirk and we should all take a leaf out of Paula’s book.
Ultimately, my advise as someone who has experienced this problem on more than one occasion is to take plenty of loo paper with you and keep an eye out for a convenient bush!