What No One Tells You About Running

How I learned to stop worrying and embrace my lack of bladder control.
Publish date:
June 1, 2011
body, sports, running, urination

Despite having never been a runner nor liking running very much, I've always wanted to run a competitive race. Perhaps because I'm not very athletically inclined and never played competitive sports, I had some sort of itch to scratch. Like, if I could complete a race, maybe all those years I was picked last for P.E. kickball wouldn't sting as much.

About a year ago, I began training for my first ever 5k -- the See Jane Run Half-Marathon & 5k, a race that is about 99% women*. In total Cathy style, the race is subtitled "I Run for Chocolate and Champagne." There actually is chocolate and champagne waiting for the racers at the finish line. I told you, totally Cathy.

My training was minimal. I practiced running for a month or two around a college track, got bored and then went on a two-week vacation to New England where I ate my weight in lobster rolls and ice cream.

What I didn't realize at the time was that there was another sort of training that would have helped me far more than just running around the track: Kegel exercises.

Kegel exercises, if you don't already know, are toning exercises for the pelvic region that are usually prescribed during pregnancy. The biggest benefit of Kegels is the prevention of urinary incontinence (aka peeing your pants). Believe me, they sound a lot more exciting than they are. Basically, they're just a repeated clenching of the vagina done during your normal daily routine.

How can you tell if someone did their Kegels during pregnancy? Well, she's the gal who *doesn't* murmur "F*#%" after sneezing.

Now, back to the race.

The morning of the race, I was feeling the sort of nervousness that I got when I hadn't prepared for a test in school. The sort of feeling that screams "I don't need to come in first, just don't let me come in last!" This nervousness manifested itself as a feeling that I had to pee. Thinking that it was all nerves, I decided to hold it for the duration of the race. After all, what's 30-plus minutes going to do?

Now here's the part of the story where you think I'm going to say that I peed myself and then something traumatizing happened.

What really happened was far more dignified and boring: I actually stopped mid-way through the race to use the restroom. Yes, I stopped during a race, ran over to a restroom along the track, had trouble locking the door, went pee and then went back to the race. In total, I added about three minutes to my time just by being all ladylike and shit.

My final time was 37 minutes, three of which were spent in a toilet.

Whether or not actively doing my Kegels during pregnancy would have given me better control, I can't say. What I did learn from online research after the race was that it is completely normal for runners (even ones who haven't had babies) to pee in their pants during races. In fact, it's not uncommon for athletes to do the other bathroom act in their pants as well!

So what's the point?

I wish someone told me this peeing-in-the-pants running thing before my race. I'm here to say: "IT IS COMPLETELY NORMAL TO PEE WHEN YOU'RE RUNNING. YOU'RE NOT BROKEN, IT'S JUST A BODY THING."

Next weeked I'm going to be running the 2011 See Jane Run 5k again. My goal is to run the race in less than 31 minutes and if I have to let my bladder go crazy during the race, so be it.

*Despite the fact that it is a race for women, there are a few men who did compete. Last year, for example, of the 1,100 racers, 21 were men. The first person to cross the finish line for the 5k was a man. I love men and everything, but seriously, isn't it kind of a jerk move to have to beat 1,086 women to win your race? The best thing, however, was that even though he was first to cross the finish line, he ended up coming in second. The real winner was a woman who ran with a jogging stroller! Because she had a delayed start (stroller pushers needed to start at the very end of the line), they took off the time it took for her to actually get to the start of the race. Her time was better and she won the race.