Running Without Pit Stops: How to Manage the Urge to Pee in Long Distance Races

April 13, 2024

Ah, a subject that will send shivers down the spine of any runner who hasever  tackled long distance running. You've trained really hard for that 10k, half, or even full marathon. You're feeling motivated and fantastic as you wake up that morning. That upbeat mood continues on the car journey to the race. After what feels like only a short amount of time, you find yourself at the start line in your finest running attire.

You do the silly warm-ups with a few personalities from a local radio station, and before you know it, the starting buzzer sounds, and you're off! The first mile or two actually go okay; you're not breaking land speed records, but you're not running at a snail's pace either. But then something happens: you feel a slight urge to pee. How did this happen? You peed in one of those stinky porta-potties only a few minutes before the race start. You think it will pass, and you decide to soldier on, blissfully unaware of what's to come. However, the urge only intensifies, and what started as a slight bladder sensation has now snowballed into something far more traumatic. Every step has now become a battle between mind and bladder, and what's worse, you are miles away from the nearest porta-potty. The stress and anxiety of needing to go triggers a cascade of negative thoughts and emotions, and you are verging on the breaking point.

Then you see salvation: an open entrance to a field with a discreet space to relieve yourself. Breaking away from the pack, you make a cross-country detour to relieve yourself in full view of a herd of Holstein Friesians. The worst is over. You make your way back onto the road, having lost your rhythm and momentum, trying your best to catch up with the pack. You won't forget that pain that dragged on for a mile so easily.

Does this story sound familiar? Many runners have experienced the sudden urge to pee mid-race, disrupting their rhythm and focus. But fear not, there are strategies you can employ to minimise the likelihood of needing a pit stop during your next running endeavour. Let's explore some practical tips for managing the urge to pee or poo during long-distance races.

Hydration: As with running any distance of any length, hydration is key. Start hydrating early on race day to ensure a consistent fluid intake throughout the day. This will help avoid the need to consume large amounts of fluids at once, leading to a massive urge to pee mid-race or later on. Include electrolyte drinks if necessary but be careful to avoid overhydration. Finally, avoid that coffee on race day as it is a diuretic and will go straight through you!

Strategic bathroom breaks: Ensure you arrive at the race venue as early as possible so you can utilize the bathrooms as early and as much as possible before the race begins. This will ensure that your bladder is as empty as possible going into the race. However, as in the anecdote above, if you consume too much fluid immediately before the race, then it will not make a difference!

Clothing: If running with the urge to pee is unavoidable, then you can at least wear clothes that help manage that scenario. Wear running clothes that do not put pressure on the bladder area and thus make an urge to pee even more uncomfortable. Moisture-wicking clothing can help manage sweat and minimize discomfort from a full bladder.

Mental preparation: Mind over matter, right? The reality you may find as a runner, particularly if you're running distances like a half marathon or longer, is that having a full bladder or a desperate urge to pee at times is unavoidable. A great piece of advice I was given by an old running friend of mine was to simulate those race scenarios to learn to cope with them, such as the urge to pee. I found this a great help on race day. This mental toughness training, if you want to call it that, helped me immensely in my longer distances.

So there you have it! As you lace up your running shoes and prepare to conquer those longer distance races, the dreaded urge to pee can loom like a dark cloud over your journey. But fear not, fellow runners, for there are strategies to navigate this challenge and keep your focus on the finish line. By staying hydrated smartly, planning strategic bathroom breaks, selecting bladder-friendly clothing, and fortifying your mental resilience, you can minimize the disruptions caused by nature's call and stay on track to achieve your running goals. So, when you are doing your race, arm yourself with these tips and run without any porta-potty (or field) stops towards your personal best

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