IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Pooped Myself While Running A Marathon

I typed the obligatory "Why do you have to poop so much after you run?" search into Google and more than three million results popped up.
Publish date:
February 13, 2014
running, marathons, poop, bodily fluids, M

Al Roker did it in the White House, Jenny McCarthy did it at a Playboy signing, Jennifer Lawrence did it "so many times" and I did it while running a marathon.

That's right, I (a grown-ass woman, might I add) pooped myself while running 26.2 miles.

Five years ago, I had no interest in running a marathon. It just wasn't something I thought I could do. I had run a handful of 5ks, but never considered myself a runner. Hell, even after years of playing basketball and lacrosse throughout grade school and college, I never considered myself an athlete. I just wasn't that great at athletics.

Two things got me into running: my dog and a work-sponsored 5k. I needed something to slow my tireless dog down and I wanted to beat my 5k time, so we happily went running together. The reaction I got from my dog when I uttered the words "Does Bowie want to go for a walk?" was all I needed to get out the door.

I started upping my mileage and had a goal to run a half marathon. In January 2012, I ran my first 10 miles. I still remember the feeling I had after hitting that double-digit milestone. I was on a roll and ready to hit my goal NOW.

So instead of signing up for a half marathon, I got overzealous and signed up for Grand Rapids' River Bank Run, the largest 25k (15.5 miles) race in the country. I had a "What's a few more miles?" mentality that got me to 15.5 miles. That same mentality urged me to train for the Grand Rapids Marathon that fall.

As you can imagine, training for a marathon is hard. It's time-consuming, uncomfortable, expensive and you poop. A LOT.

It was around the River Bank Run that I found out about runner's trots. I came back from the race feeling accomplished, proud and needing to drop a deuce so bad every 30 minutes. I typed the obligatory "Why do you have to poop so much after you run?" search into Google and more than three million results popped up. So, it is a thing!

I devoted an embarrassing amount of time learning about pooping and running and how not to do it at the same time. (Spoiler alert: It didn't work.)

Basically, I didn't want to listen to the advice these sites gave. They recommended giving up coffee, alcohol, fatty foods, dairy, bananas, ALL THE STUFF I LIKE. So I just kept doing what I was doing, going for long runs and racing to the bathroom once I got back to my house. I figured I'd be OK on race day if I just listened to my body and took advantage of the Port-A-Potties set out every mile or so.

The morning of the big day, I was full of nerves. It finally hit me how far 26.2 miles is to run. I was so terrified. And I was really concerned about pooping. I didn't want to go so much that it ruined my time. I had a goal in mind (I wanted to finish in four hours) and really wanted to reach it.

There were multiple times I had to mentally slap myself and say, "LINDSAY. YOU ARE RUNNING A MARATHON. TODAY, YOU WILL BE ABLE TO SAY YOU RAN A MARATHON." That was what I needed. Whatever time I got, it wouldn't make the phrase "I ran a marathon" less impressive. I was all of a sudden ready.

The first five miles gave me one of the most exhilarating experiences that I have yet to duplicate as a runner. I kept thinking, "I am really doing this. All my hard work has led to this point and no matter what, I will be a marathon finisher by the end of the day."

Around mile seven, I had a different feeling. One in my stomach. No big deal. The next Port-A-Potty I saw, I jumped in, did my business and got back to it.

Throughout the next few miles, I was feeling great. I was keeping a great pace with no sign of fatigue just yet. I was passing my competition and taking in the beautiful October day. I was killing it.

Until mile 19.

At mile 19, I made a mistake. In every single training article, book, whatever, I’d read, they said to avoid unfamiliar foods. At mile 19, they were passing out pickle juice. I HATE pickles. But, I heard pickle juice is great for preventing cramping, which my legs were starting to do, so down the hatch it went.

Five minutes later, I had to GO. I still had about a half mile left before I hit another Port-A-Potty. I saw some men peeing off to the sides, but that’s just pee and they all covered their business pretty nicely. I was in a situation where there was no way to nicely cover the business. So I just tried to suck it up and hold it until I got to the Port-A-Potty.

Unfortunately, that plan didn’t work too well. I was a quarter mile away when I knew I didn’t have much longer. Holding it in was unbearable, my eyes started to water and I wanted to quit now.

Then, I saw sweet refuge in my line of sight. Oh, my god, I was almost there. “C’mon, Lindsay. Speed up a little, you’re almost there. You can do it, you can do it, you can do... Oh, no, oh, no, oh, no, oh, no.”

I was probably 100 or 200 feet away from the Port-A-Potty when I lost all control and all dignity. I wanted to cry. I wanted to stop. I wanted to go back in time and tell past Lindsay not to sign up for this.

The short walk to the Port-A-Potty was the ultimate walk of shame. I was even more uncomfortable and I was so self-conscious that the other runners would be able to see a butt bulge or even smell what was happening in my pants.

I shamefully stepped into the Port-A-Potty and tried to salvage my underwear, because they were Victoria’s Secret, dammit.

It didn't take long to realize there was no chance in saving them. So I undressed my bottom half, tossed my fancy underwear, cleaned myself up and went back out trying to reclaim whatever dignity I had left in my depleted gas tank.

Oh, and I still had 6.2 miles left.

Those last miles were some of the most depressing moments in my life. Not only was I in pain, tired and ready to quit, I had pooped myself in public. I felt disgusting and dirty, and a shower was still so far away. Those feelings made the last miles seem like an eternity.

But then I realized that I didn’t put in obnoxious amounts of hours and miles to stop, to walk, to give up. So I pushed hard, harder than I’ve ever pushed before, while running at possibly the slowest pace I’ve ever ran. But it didn’t matter, I wasn’t going to stop and I was going to continue to run, no matter how hard it hurt.

During the last two miles, the pain was so bad that I just zoned out. I was in this weird state I’d never been in where everything felt like a dream and I was vaguely aware of my surroundings. I even almost missed my friends and brother cheering for me a half mile away from the finish line. Luckily, I saw them and they brought me back to reality. I paused to give them hugs, because that’s what I really, really needed at that moment. Then I got serious about reaching that finish line.

I crossed it after four hours, 21 minutes and 49 seconds. I was happy with my accomplishment, but more happy it was over. I even heard my name over the loudspeaker!

As I caught my breath and had that finisher’s medal placed around my neck, it really hit me what I just accomplished.

I just finished a marathon, and pooping my pants didn't stop me.