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Tell Me Tuesday: How to Pee on a Run

What to do when you're nowhere near one of these....
What to do when you're nowhere near one of these....

Anyone who has read the final chapter of Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving--and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity knows I have a big bladder--and that I overshare. If this sentence grosses you out or offends you, I suggest you avert your eyes...for the rest of this post.

Still with me? Here goes:

Saturday, the morning of my 15-mile run to prep for the Vancouver Marathon, was a splendidly sunny day with a slight breeze. As usual, I hydrated well in the 24+ hours pre-run with orange Nuun. Perhaps too well, as I stopped about 3.5 miles in at a public restroom by the river. Filled with relief--but devoid of urine--I continued running. I maintained a comfortable pace, as the TLAM Marathon: Own It plan calls for, until about Mile 13. Then I was supposed to "finish strong" for the final 20-ish minutes. My legs and lungs were game, but my bladder was screaming again. I knew I couldn't bust out a faster pace trying to keep my legs clamped together!

By this point, I was in a more urban setting--and across from a State of Oregon building, actually. I've watched enough episodes of MI-5 and Homeland to know my moves were being recorded by hidden video cameras, so dropping trou (er, capris) wasn't an option, even though the streets were deserted. Then I spied a planter--a large, cement planter with a few ledges jutting out like ersatz seats. Desperately uncomfortable, I hatched a new way to surreptitiously pee in public.

My planter-potty had a wider lip than these ones (and who's to say that's merely water on the sidewalk!?)
My planter-potty had a wider lip than these ones (and who's to say that's merely water on the sidewalk!?)

Sitting on the edge of the planter and drinking water out of my handheld bottle, I let the stream flow. Yes, through my capris and onto the cement under my bum. Eventually it started running down onto the pavement beneath me, but I made a slight production out of waving my bottle around, so surveillance cameras (or passing motorists) would think it was spilling water, not pee. Only a tiny bit ran down my legs into my shoes. I stood up, relieved and ready to bust out those speedier two miles--and incredibly proud of my new covert evacuation method.

Here are some others I've employed over my years of running in urban and suburban settings (with the understanding that if you're on a more rural routes, there's always a clump of vegetation to duck behind):

-If you're sporting a skirt, simply pull the liner or boy-shorts to the side and you can pee modified man-style, standing up. (I employed this method near a grassy strip in downtown PDX before a Doggie Dash.)

-Be creative in your cover. I've peed between a Dumpster and a hedgerow, behind utility sheds, and  in culverts. Mother runner of three Diana, who lives in San Francisco, admits in RLAM she often peed between parked cars in the City by the Bay while preggo.

If payphone booths still existed, maybe you could duck behind one for cover!
If payphone booths still existed, maybe you could duck behind one for cover!

-Utilize unlocked port-a-potties. Molly, my marathon-training buddy, has been having to cop a squat during some of our tempo runs. There are always houses being remodeled in our neighborhood, meaning there is often a Honeybucket on the sidewalk.

-Find a convenience store, coffeeshop, fast food joint, public library, or gas station. I was set to wet myself on a 9-miler once with Molly because a park bathroom was still locked at 6:20 a.m. Then I realized, with great joy, that the java joint across the street was open early. We didn't have any money, but I sent coffee-drinking Jack there later in the week to be a good patron.

-Have a pal be a distraction. I've resorted to a little soft shoe or cheerleading routine (seriously) to distract passersby when my running buddy has been answering the call of nature en pleine air (and in plain view).

But it's my planter-potty I just had to share with the tribe. Now you tell us: How or where do you go #1 (or #2) on a run? 

45 responses to “Tell Me Tuesday: How to Pee on a Run

  1. I must say that reading this was hilarious and the comments even better! I too because of 4 babies have minor leakage issues, so I ALWAYS have on a pad of some sort. But peeing in public has never crossed my mind at races i pee just before the start and since I have only done 5k’s, and limit my intake before a run, I am fine until its over. And since my half training only has me at 6 miles I do the same. But i honestly think if it came to it, peeing my pants would be the go to option esp since my running pants are black.

  2. You.are.awesome. It is because of reading your books that I first took an outdoor pee while running a few days ago. I didn’t even realize people DID that, but man was it liberating!!!

  3. Speaking of holding pee, this post had me giggling so hard, I almost popped out my new pessary.

    In CT, there’s usually a random stone wall or two that I can jump behind. On one of my normal routes, I would go in a row of large white pines blocking the view from both the road and the owner’s house. I usually went between the two thickest, tallest ones…until Hurricane Sandy toppled THE ONE that I used. Gotta find a new pee spot now.

  4. You need a go-girl. I have one and use it mostly when traveling in the car (into a styrofoam cup). But I constantly have to pee. Remember that commercial a few years back, “gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now”, that’s me. I pee before my run, during my run (usually behind a bush since I run trails) and then immediately after. And just last weekend while running 6 miles, I had to poo so I did that at the state park behind a bush too. Just remember to dig a hole first and bury it. My husband, who was running with me, says he loves me even more now 😉

  5. Ok, so I am new to this running thing. Did I read that you pee in your pants? Like you don’t even pull down your pants? Does that get uncomfortable? Do you stink? I will admit I pee myself but that’s just because I have had some babies, if you know what I mean.

  6. I ducked into a parking garage once and wizzed between a pillar and a parked car! Probably video of that somewhere but I figure the security guards need a good laugh once in a while too!

  7. May I just say, this is why it is important to wear _black_ running tights/capris. My days of wearing gray and other not-quickly-wicking color tights ended post-pregnancy. I need a tattoo of a K to remind myself to Kegel.

  8. You are freaking hilarious, I was reading this with my mouth wide open, before busting a gut! The park I run in has port-a-potties throughout, but when we venture longer outside of the park, I will go where ever I can w/o getting arrested. But the plant pot is unchartered territory – I love it! I have mental bladder issues (I always “worry” that I have to go more than I actually do), so I never hold it for very long b/c it ruins my run. You go, Sarah. HILARIOUS.

  9. I am peeing right now as I laugh with love at this post…Excellent, useful and very appropriate for Tuesday Sarah! Love you! Jo.

  10. I first peed outside during marathon training in January. It was like 4:30am and nothing open nearby. So, I squatted behind some bushes. I think the first time is the scariest. I’ve since gone behind a hedge during another early AM run. Not sure I’m brave enough to do more than a pee though unless I’m in a port-o-let or something.

  11. awesome story Sarah! I have a few hospitals on my route along the foothills… easy in and out! Nothing as daring and awesome as your story!

  12. Wow, makes me wonder how many times I’ve been recorded because I just drop trou wherever & whenever I need to go!

  13. I love this story. The only run where I needed to REALLY go number 1 was during the winter. The bike path and route that I was taking had NO places to pee. I was looking the whole run. It was a 9 mile run and by mile 8.75 I was on my road, I could see my house but I just couldn’t go one more step without peeing and that is exactly what I did. I peed my pants and since it was winter I was wearing tights and it was NO big deal at all. In fact if I am wearing tights again and have to pee I will be peeing in my pants.

  14. Best time was when I went for an afternoon run past the Museum of Science in Boston. I just walked in the front door all sweaty and went to the bathroom before the “show your ticket” gate and then jogged back out the front door.
    Actually, the only time I had to go out in the open was at the Princess Half Marathon at mile 1. The portapotty line was 4-6 deep and I didn’t want to wait. There were shrubs and it was pre-dawn.

  15. Top spots for potty:
    1. Any 24 hour grocery store – bathrooms are almost always in the front of the store these days making it much easier to be discrete.
    2. Public (Govt) Buildings – I used to stop by a DMV on my lunch hour run. My co-workers joked that I registered my car ALOT.
    3. Fast Food – sneak in the back door.
    4. Construction Sites – usually great on weekend runs. Potties are usually on the perimeter/entrance.
    I won’t run without bathroom access yet shockingly I almost never use them during races!

  16. Funny that this came up, because THE very thing happened on my morning run today. I was lucky enough to be out running in a secluded wooded park when nature called so I hid behind an evergreen tree and prayed that no one drove by. Mission accomplished and the only witnesses were a few chickadees! I also have the stand up contraption that I took with me overseas and should remember to pack it when I’m trail running this summer. Makes it much easier!

  17. I try to find a tree or bush, but once had to go on the side of an exposed road… I used the pull the shorts to the side method, I ended up a little damp but I just couldn’t hold it one second longer.

  18. Mostly I squat near bushes or trees. I haven’t tried peeing through my clothes yet because I’ve been afraid my shoes would get wet on the inside and well, ick. I try very hard to plan my routes with portapotties or other facilities located every few miles, so that helps some. It limits where I run, especially in the winter when most of the portapotties have been collected, but it also makes for a lot of peace of mind because our trails get a lot of use. When I’m not near one and need to go, I try to pick a spot with some shelter and a good sight distance one way so I can see if someone’s coming and pretend to be examining the plants in the area (or something).

  19. I never suffer the urge to pee since it just dribbles out the entire time while I run (older runner now). I wear “pee pads” on my run, but have had to carefully time when I have my last drink of water before starting a run, to be sure I’ve eliminated everything as much as possible before it. Otherwise, I have people stare at my bum with curiosity, wondering what the big inflated thing is stuffed between my legs, when I’ve drowned my pad, and it slogs around during a long run. Best advice – at an aid station, grab several cups of water, but pour them over you to “cool you off” and to hide any peeing you have to do at the same time. . .

  20. Right after finishing the swimming portion of the Sprint Tri last summer, I had to pee so badly (probably from ingesting so much water! It was not my finest moment), I just sat on the grass next to my bike and peed. Through my pants (after taking off the wetsuit, of course!). They were soaked from the swim anyway, so it’s not like anyone noticed they were wet. I was so exhausted, and I needed the break, and my bladder thanked me for sure. I didn’t want to waste any more energy on walking to the port a potty.

  21. This is my worst nightmare! And I am not glad to know I’m not the only one who has had to deal with it mid run. It also makes me so happy that I run on a rural road. The downside is a lot of where I run is farm land and in the winter, planted with short grass. And because of the rural roads I wear bright colors so I can be easily seen by speedy cars. If I’m not near the trees I just pray a car doesn’t come while doing my business.

  22. My problem is seriously always #2!! Really wish this wasn’t a problem, but well can’t change my anatomy. I am queen of finding unlocked port-a-potties and the little patches of woods in my town. I also know which store owners will take pity on me. The Chinese restaurant is the best because we tend to go there 1-2 times a month so they know me (for more reasons than eating out).

    When I first started running the whole call of nature thing freaked me out, but now, when a girls gotta go a girls gotta go!

  23. I constantly have to go #2 while on long runs, really annoying. Luckily I usually run around our lake so there is some tree cover. But it’s pretty popular so I have to be quick. I always run with my dog so that kind of eliminates stopping at coffee shops, gas stations, etc. I’ve made my dog come into public restrooms and porta porties. Poor dog.

  24. I purchased a product called Urinelle. There is also a Shewee that is not disposable, but I opted for being able to throw it away. It makes peeing while standing easier by providing you with a funnel to direct the flow away from the body (and shoes!). Perfect for the gross portajohns too. Also, I carry individual moist towelettes – the kind they give away in restaurants, etc. – and keep one or two in my pouch in case I need to go #2 because the portas never have enough TP.

  25. I love that story!!!! I love that you told that story!!!! I love that runners have no shame in reverting to our bodily functions, after all, they sort of rule don’t they?

    I have a tiny bladder, I need to pee all the time. If I can make it through a 10 mile run without peeing I am thrilled. I ran my first marathon in Chile in December 2012. It was a great experience, and I was well trained, but this marathon had NOT ONE SINGLE BATHROOM along the entire course! It was small, and in the country, so most people didn’t even know what the heck was going on. That said, around mile 14 I felt the urge to go #2….I held it as long as possible, but finally, upon viewing a little gathering of trees in this mostly farm field landscape, I darted off the road to go. I managed to go-though not my best poop for sure, and then to wipe? rocks, twigs and whatever else. Needless to say, it got me through the rest of the race. I ran a sub 4 hour marathon, but am sure this little pitstop added at least 5 minutes to my time. Oh well, what can you do. At least I didn’t poop my pants

  26. One of my running friends has a micro bladder and struggles mightily to hold it all in. While running through our neighbourhood around 8pm she knew she wouldn’t be able to complete the run without taking care of business. So she knocked on a stranger’s door. The door was answered by an elderly lady who understood her plight completely and she was ushered to the bathroom. She returned smiling “see ? no problem “

  27. I am just so happy that I live out in the country b/c going in the woods is no big deal. You should also practice going “man style” in the shower.

    Sarah, I now know to never borrow your shoes (or any of your running gear).

  28. In the middle of a 50 mi race in the middle of nowhere I had to go so bad I just jumped off the side of the forest service road and dropped my shorts. I had to go so bad I didn’t even bother to jump behind a tree, I still had so far to go I didn’t want to have a mess in my pants, plus I was by myself as most of the racers had really spread out by then. Well right in the middle of my explosive diarrhea one of the other racers support vehicles drove by! I just put my head between my knees while squatting and hoped they wouldn’t recognize me later. “If I can’t see them they can’t see me”…yeah right!

  29. I frequently have stomach issues while running to the point where runs are planned around toilets macdonlds (open early) coffee shops, park toilets, supermarkets done all those, but now I have moved to a rural area with none of these and on my last long run climbed up a hill to do my business hoping the army cadets who train near by were still asleep! Pre running days I would never have dreamed of doing this!

  30. On a 10 mile run on a very secluded trail….I felt the urge to go #2…..I ducked into the trees and found a spot…..but then couldn’t deliver….so, I went on running, uncomfortable and praying that I wouldn’t poop my pants. I modified my route and came to a little strip mall that had an open nail salon. I ran in asked for a bathroom….those poor women were speechless and pointed to the back. I went back for a pedicure a week later with 3 of my friends… was the least I could do!

  31. Woohoo! SBS, you are my outdoor peeing hero! I’ve actually never had to go #1 or #2 that badly that I had to drop my drawers, even during a marathon. I go about 2-4 times before I head out and hope my luck continues for decades as I am a terrible outside pee-er.

  32. Oh do I have a story for this one! Usually we hit up a convenience store or gas station along our route. Recently desperation quickly hit me and I had to go number 2. I quickly ran into a ditch next to the road while my running buddy stood guard. As if this wasn’t embarrassing enough, a car stopped and a man leaned out worried I was hurt. Although nice of him, horrifying for me. I waved him on from my squated position. Lastly, to make this even worse I made a mess of my self and dirtied my gloves, jacket and pants. As fate would have it, there was a gas station a little ways down which I visited and turned all my clothes inside out for the rest of the run.

  33. I’m reading this as the house sleeps and had to keep myself contained as to not wake anyone up. (Momma wants to eat her oatmeal in peace.) I usually just hit port-o-potties, the woods at the end of the trail or gas station. My favorite is the time I had to pee when running with the dog. Thankfully there was a handicap port-o-pottie in the park as I was able to bring him in with me. He didn’t look at me for the rest of the day.

  34. Hospitals always have bathrooms in their lobby-open to the public! I’ve used them more than a few times.

  35. Do not eat this post while eating breakfast. Choking hazard (from laughing that is)! To date I have never had to do this, but I have experience backpacking so I imagine I could if the need arose.

  36. Well….I wear a pad for my constant dribble. I haven’t had to all out pee yet but I love the ideas!!!

  37. I usually run along farm fields which are awesome bathrooms when the corn is high. I have a spot in the woods picked out and I have also gone in a culvert. I do have to watch out for the raspberry bushes. I jumped off the road and landed right in the middle of a bush. You know once you have committed to leaving the road that you are at capacity so I just continued out of the bush. I looked like I had been in a cat fight by the time I got back on the road.

  38. Practice! Sounds weird but true..I can pee/poo anywhere and no mess. Just make sure you are standing down slope, don’t want pee to run back onto your shoes! (Although it is sterile exiting the body, so really you are safer ingesting your own pee or the pee of someone else than touching doorknobs in a public place and then touching your face….)

    Hint, if you keep your down under smooth, it makes it much easier too.

  39. This is great! I imagine it takes practice to actually let go and allow yourself to pee in a planter!

    I had my first public pee two weeks ago at my first marathon in LA. Just out of the start line and headed to the first bush dropped my skirt (why didn’t I think of pulling the shorts to the side??), and peed with the half a dozen men doing the same thing! Kinda felt like a rock star.

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