I Pooped Myself While Running a Marathon and Lived to Tell the Tale


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.

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.

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