Last month on the Another Mother Runner Facebook page, Billy Jo lamented that she’s been “experiencing the runner’s trots” on half-marathon training runs. She wrote: “There are times I can barely make it home without feeling like I’m going to soil myself.” Her race is on June 25. We asked for gut-friendly suggestions from other runners about what they do to stay fueled and poop-free on longer runs and in races. 

Caveat: We were surprised by the number of folks who said they run on empty stomachs, no matter the distance. Having talked to countless nutrition experts, we can’t get behind that practice but to each her own. 

Here’s a round-up of advice on what to eat—and not eat—as well as some practical tips that’s worked for gals. 

“I used to have the same issue, but it cleared up when I began hydrating more regularly throughout the day. The only food I can take before long runs or races is BelVita biscuits because they don’t upset my stomach. It’s awful, but I used to know where every public bathroom was on my long routes when I was marathon training years ago.”

“I eat yogurt for race days. Nothing for training runs. I will have GU Chews and pretzels while I run. I know what I eat two days before a long run impacts my GI more than what I eat the morning of.”

“I eat quick-cooked oatmeal with milk, and drink water and coffee 30 mins before my runs. I try to bring water with me to sip when it’s hot out. The caffeine in the coffee is supposed to stimulate the bathroom break before you run. If you can’t go before the run try to run a short loop by your house first so you can hit the potty if you need to. Then you should be able to go do the longer distance without needing a stop.”

“If I eat anything, it’s dry plain cereal (like Cheerios) or plain toast. Easy carbs and not much of them.”

“I eat a Pop-Tart at least 30 minutes before a run or race.” 

“Try salt. A lot of tummy issues can be brought on by lack of sodium. Especially in the heat.”

“It can also be what you are eating the day before a run. Eat plain and not a lot of fiber and see if that helps. Good luck with your half. Worse case, I’m sure they will have port-a-potties along the course.”

“I have found that carrying chewable Pepto-Bismol helps reassure my mind that I won’t 💩 myself.”

“I am wondering if part of your issue is the warmer weather. For some people when they get too warm, the blood moves away from their core to their extremities to cool them down and their digestion gets weird. I have seen this in summer races sometimes.”

I eat a banana, applesauce, or a Pop-Tart before long runs. I always take Imodium prior to the start of a half marathon or longer distance race.”

“I would try eliminating dairy from your diet at least temporarily. And by that I mean not just before a long run–avoid dairy until after the half marathon. I had a similar problem years ago and switched from milk to almond milk and avoided other dairy products while I was training for the half. Yogurt seemed to be okay for me. It was odd because I’ve never been lactose intolerant but for some reason, on long runs it would irritate my stomach.”

“It’s not ideal, but take an Imodium daily two days before long runs. I’ve had the unthinkable occur: It was mortifying, but also not the end of the world. Fortunately for me, the first time I exploded, it was raining, and the second time, it was 5:00 a.m.. No bathroom or port-a-potty nearby. I hope you don’t have the same experience, and I wish you run your best race.”

Have a pre-run snack that doesn’t irritate your tummy?
Let us know in the comments below.