- To keep up her pace, Tamara Torlakson relieved herself mid-marathon without stopping.
- She doesn’t regret it: She ended up beating her best time 13 months postpartum.
- Running can trigger the bowels for a few reasons, but most runners handle the urge differently.
Tamara Torlakson’s digestive tract is a well-oiled machine. Whenever she has a race or a long-run day, her bowels automatically clear before she hits the road.
Nothing was different the day of the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon, her sixth race of the 26.2-mile distance, in 2018. And yet, about halfway through the race, she realized she needed to go again.
How she handled the urge was unusual — by pooping her pants — but she believes it served her well: Torlakson ended up achieving a personal record as well as legend status in her running circles.
Torlakson was a new mom when she shot for her personal record
After having her first child, Torlakson, then 31, was fueled by a sort of new-mom energy. Some runners say they’ve become faster after giving birth.
“Training was going really well, I knew I was in really good shape,” said Torlakson, an event planner in Sacramento, California, who leads a local women’s running group.
The Mountains 2 Beach Marathon, which starts in Ojai, California, and ends in the coastal city of Ventura, west of Los Angeles, would be her first postpartum race, and she thought she could set a personal record. And, for the first half of the race she was on track to do just that.
But at mile 13 or 14, she realized she needed to go to the bathroom. She didn’t want to lose physical or mental momentum by stopping, nor did she want one pit stop to prompt her colon to request several.
“I thought, ‘I don’t know if it’s possible to poop while running, but I will try,'” Torlakson said. “I didn’t want one poop to mess it all up.”
So, without stopping, she relieved herself into the built-in underwear in her shorts (“I had to focus,” she said) and continued on her way. “It just came out and I felt a lot better,” she said.
Torlakson doesn’t think anyone noticed, and she said she “didn’t give a shit” if they did. “Marathoners don’t judge,” she added.
She maintained a PR pace with soiled shorts for roughly 13 more miles. She kept her mind focused on maintaining her fast clip, not on what was in her shorts. When she neared the finish line, she yelled to her friends, “I pooped my pants!”
Torlakson quickly hit the medical tent for baby wipes and cleaned up in a Porta Potty.
She says it was all worth it to run a three-hour, seven-minute marathon — her fastest by about one minute, 20 seconds — 13 months postpartum.
Runners can experience ‘the trots’ for a few key reasons
Tamara Duker Freuman, a New York City dietitian who works in a gastroenterology practice, told Insider that long-distance running could trigger the bowels simply because of the mechanics of the sport. “Your organs are jostling around,” she said.
It can also lead to temporary incontinence since your blood is shuttled away from the digestive tract and toward your legs, she said.
What you consume before and during a race matters too. A high-fat dinner the night before could lead to more toilet time even if you aren’t running a marathon the next day, and race-day gels with lactose or fructose as their main carbohydrate source (as opposed to straight glucose) can be harder for some people to digest.
But sometimes the race-day runs just happen, no matter what you’ve done to prepare. In that case, runners recommend noting ahead of time where the portable toilets will be on the route and tucking some
or baby wipes in your pocket or fanny pack.
Or you can take Torlakson’s unconventional advice and just keep going. “If I had stopped in a Porta Potty,” she said, “who knows what would’ve happened?”