The runs while running - most of us who have been running a while have experienced this phenomena at one time or another and if you haven’t you can expect to soon.
I certainly fear it happening during a major race or even when you are going around the neighbourhood block. It can be highly embarrassing and certainly detrimental to your performance and your chances of a PB at your next race.
So why does it happen so often and to so many.
Running - especially long distance running places many demands on the body. One is that we are jiggling our insides constantly which helps jog everything down the tract but also your body when its under stress wants to void itself of all unnecessary load and your digestive system tends to not have enough blood going to it as the muscles are taking up every little bit they can get. All this can lead to digestive distress and I include in this having to vomit, not being able to digest anything and the runs (oh what a glamorous sport we do).
So lets look at ways to avoid getting the runs during that next race.
Things to avoid
1. coffee - or better said caffeine. As this actually speeds up digestion time. Point to note is that some soft drinks, chocolate, tea etc also have caffeine. Too much caffeine can help perk you up for a while but it can also have you running for the loo.
2. Spicy foods - Spices like curry and chilly and their friends should also be avoided before an important run. Don’t pop down to your local indian the night before your marathon. The spices can irritate the lining of your digestive track and can speed up the process.
3. Do you have an intolerance or allergy to Dairy or gluten? Many of us do and if so make sure you avoid these irritants before an event.
4. Don’t experiment with foods before an event. Stick to what you have already tried and tested and know you can handle. That goes too for what you eat during a race. Don’t grab for the organisers electrolyte drink at the drinks station or the orange slices unless you know you do alright with these.
Take your own food and electrolytes, ones you already know.
5. While fibre is a great thing usually for a healthy diet, right before a big event - na not so much. Avoid high fibre cereals or beans, legumes, lentils an even whole food, whole grains. These are much better options usually but not if you want to avoid the runs in a race.
6. Stay away from gels and high sugar electrolyte drinks. The electrolytes are grate but the other stuff in them not so much. (why are they so often blue and red - definitely not a good sign) Many still recommend gels but I have seen so many ultra distance runners especially (and they are the ones who have the most problems with digestion) come unstuck with gels which can upset the digestive system causing often vomiting as well. I have had some horrific experiences with them and guide my athletes away from these.
They may have their place in short distance runs or if you have a cast iron stomach but otherwise stay on the safe side.
What you should do
1. Go natural whenever you can in your diet. High complex carbohydrates are good for giving you energy before an event.
2. Replace dairy with the likes of almond milk if you have a diary problem.
3. Eat real unprocessed foods whenever you can.
4. Regularly up your good bacteria in the gut by taking a probiotic especially if you have recently had antibiotics.
5. Avoid painkillers if you can during a race. They can cause stomach upsets especially the likes of NSAIDS like ibuprofen and voltaren.
6. Consider cutting down or eliminating gluten from your diet (I know I love my bread too) but if you are having regular problems it might pay to try it.