TMI Thursday, or: the time I really almost pooped my pants

You’ve read the title, and you’ve been warned. This post is going to be anything but sweet and innocent and appropriate. If you’d rather not know, now’s the time to turn away. Thankfully, I don’t think I’m going to make TMI Thursday a regular thing; none of you want to know that much about me. But since this blog is about running and I had a major running near-catastrophe, I think it’s justified. All in the name of science, right?


Over the weekend I set out to do a long run. It was almost mid-day and I had a very normal, pre-run morning. I drank some coffee and lots of water, had toast with peanut butter and banana. I even had a Nuun to make sure I wasn’t cramping.

The day was absolutely gorgeous! About 50 degrees, pretty windy by the lake, but otherwise sunny and great. I usually have a pretty strict running route but I decided to switch it up and run in some new-to-me areas. The new-to-me areas ended up being pretty fun to explore. It was more running on the road than I’m used to, but I made sure to go to stretches where I wouldn’t necessarily have lights or cars to interfere with me. I really enjoyed exploring the neighborhoods by foot and the first hour of my run was great. About 3 miles in I had a Clif Shot to keep me fueled for the whole run.

Everything was fine and dandy until about mile 3.5, when I first started feeling my stomach doing some silly things. It wasn’t too unusual, or painful, just more of a “oh, I’ll need a bathroom once I’m done with this run” type feeling. No big deal, happens all the time. I kept chugging along.

A few blocks later, the feeling came back, but stronger. My bowels were trying to get a point across and it wasn’t that I’ll need a bathroom when I’m done. It’s that I’ll need a bathroom, and soon. At this point, I started going through the usual inventory: where are the nearest gas stations, coffee shops, fast food restaurants, book stores, and drug stores that would be willing to let this girl use their facilities. Unfortunately for me, the inventory came up zero. Nothing. Because, you see, I happened to have found myself needing a bathroom in the most inconvenient place I could, and that was an entirely industrial area of the city. I was literally surrounded by factories and Monday-Friday businesses on all four sides for at least half a mile. Problem.

Now, I tried to remain calm. I knew that excitement or nerves only exacerbates my runner’s trots and I was really pretty high anxiety right now. “Keep calm, Natalia,” I kept thinking. “Mind over manner. You won’t go as long as you tell yourself you’re not going to. You have to make it to a bathroom. You have no choice.” The next few blocks started becoming very difficult-I kept getting those terrible cramps that signify something was going to happen and kept mentally telling them to shut up- and then it hit me. I had found myself near my college campus, and I knew there was a Starbucks about 4 blocks away! Salvation was near.

I sped up to try to get to the bathroom sooner. Wrong move. That only made things worse. I was shaking my intestines up more than they needed, and they were taking it the exact wrong way. I slowed down. Then started to walk. The pain subsided for a few moments and I thought that I could keep it up like this until I got to the store. Wrong again. My body was revolting against any attempts to try and stop it from doing its thing. The pains came back ten fold. I was less than three blocks away and I was in such pain trying to hold it in that I had to stop. “Do I stop and go in these bushes nearby?” I thought? “No, you idiot, there’s a steep fall down to the river and you’re right next to a major street and there are no leaves on those bushes yet. That would be no better than doing your business on the sidewalk.” (Sometimes my brain is very honest but not so nice to me.)

The only thing I could think to do was shorten the distance between me and a toilet as quickly as possible, so I started running again. By this time I think my jog looked more like a clenched-butt waddle, but it was getting me where I needed to go. As I was a block away I literally almost lost it. I had to stop right where I was and stand straight up, tensing every muscle in my body.

I would not let it happen. At least not on the middle of the sidewalk. I took time tiptoeing down the street, seriously considering which alley would be the best in terms of concealment. I was a block away but I really did not think I could make it.

As I hobbled the last few hundred feet, I let my mind take over. As a runner, I should have known that my willpower was (usually) stronger than my body. I was just 100 feet from the intersection. Then 50. Then 40. Then I saw it. Butcher paper. On all the windows.



Panic set in. I was doomed. And not only was I doomed, but I was too far to go back to those alleys that now looked like 5 star accommodations for what I needed to do. I searched frantically up and down the street to see if anyone was going to witness what was about to happen. I also thought about what I would do after because I was two miles from home and obviously without any extra clothes. I knew that just about all of the other businesses were probably not going to let a non-customer use their bathroom. (Unfortunately, most of Chicago is really rude about public restroom use and are extremely stingy about anyone that isn’t a customer using their facilities). And I started hearing angels singing and fireworks going off and trumpet fanfares when I looked left and realized that a RAM Racing Store is next to the Starbucks. I had never been happier to see any store front in my entire life. I somehow hobbled in and the innocent employee asked what he could do for me today.
“Can I use your bathroom?” I barely managed to say
“Oh my gosh! Of course! Go!”
And, to add insult to my almost-injury, I had to ask where it was.

I cried when I walked into the bathroom. But not of shame, or pain. I cried because I had never in my life been so happy to see any seat. Ever.
Not my Lazy Boy after a long day. Not the train seat after finishing a horrendously painful last 6 miles to my first marathon. That toilet at RAM Racing in Lincoln Park is my favorite fixture in any building in the entire city of Chicago, and the only reason that this story has a happy ending.

I relieved myself (and was relieved, myself) and continued on my run home. It was actually a very tiring last two miles. The effort that I put into not pooping myself was seriously exhausting, and I was sore everywhere.

And there you have it. The story about the day I almost went. For a while I thought about not posting it but as the days went on and the shame wore off I realized there isn’t any reason not to. Runner’s trots happen to everyone, and so many people have a horror story. To be honest, I’ve had a few experiences of the trots, but never anything that close. I was really truly convinced that I was going to defecate in public and there was no way to stop it. Thankfully, that didn’t come true. But now, I’m on a mission to figure out what’s causing it (bananas, coffee, all my whole grains, lack of water bottle on the run maybe? Do you mean to set yourself up for failure, Natalia?) and fix it permanently.

But to all you runners who have ever experienced it, I’m right there with ya. It’s not that crazy, and it’s totally normal. At least you didn’t feel compelled to write all about it for the internet to read.


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