Friday, October 8, 2010

Shit Happens

Finally, ESPN  got on the SUAR bandwagon and agreed that shit happens.

In an article published earlier this week (read HERE), ESPN takes on poop. More specifically, pooping and running. In the eloquent words of the author, “Athletes poop their pants (or shorts) more often than you realize.” The article goes so far as to contend that Jesus pooped, reminding us that even the divine needed to take a dumper. No offense intended. ESPN brought it up.

People!! We all do it!


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it may not be the most attractive of subjects, but everyone's got a story. Whether you messed yourself on the playground when you were in third grade thereby inheriting the nickname “Squirt,” or you are like me and blew up and overflowed the toilet at your boyfriend's grandparent’s house when you were 18, the likelihood is that some bodily function snuck up on you at some point in your life.

For me, the pooping issue started early on. I have a vivid memory of skid marks in my underwear when I was four (but, in my defense, no one is that good at wiping when you’re four, right?). I used to throw my soiled drawers behind the furnace in our basement so I wouldn’t get in trouble. Fortunately for my family, our house never went up in flames of skid marked underwear. We moved from that house when I was five, so SURPRISE to the new owners! In my teens, when that Police song came out that sang, “There’s a little black spot on the sun today,” my dad would always sing “There’s a little brown spot in your underwear.” See? It’s in the genes (jeans).

(Dad, if you’re reading you can comment on this).

As the article states, “Poop is the great equalizer.” For example, when I ran with Dean Karnazes in August I was intimidated, star struck even. Until I reminded myself that he sits on the crapper just like me and pushes one out (no disrespect intended, Dean. As if he reads this blog). Try it sometime. If you’re going for a job interview and feeling the nerves, picture your future boss, pants down, on the toilet reading US Weekly. Like I said, great equalizer.

What I love about the article, is it not only gives great detail about the ultimate crap fests endured by athletes, but it goes into the physiology of why this happens, especially to runners:

“The body starts shunting blood away form the nonessential systems, like digestion and waste, in order to feed the heart, lungs and muscles with nutrients and oxygen. Anytime blood is removed from the colon by exercise, water and other material that should have been absorbed along the way instead pass rapidly to the rectum. There, spikes in volume and pressure trigger nerves in the sphincter that emit urgent warnings to the brain. In less scientific circles this is what is known as prairie doggin.’”

Prairie doggin’? I always thought it was called “turtle head” or something.

My favorite source, the Urban Dictionary, defines prairie doggin’ as: “The uncomfortable sensation resulting from a turd repeatedly pressing against the rectal sphincter and having to be squeezed back in; analogous to a prairie dog popping its head in and out of its burrow.”

To use it in a sentence (like your English teacher always advised): “Damn, I gotta find me a shitter fast cuz I'm prairie doggin’ one monster of a log!”

I don’t know about you, but I feel better knowing why I squirt on runs. What to do about it? Who knows. Here’s what I’ve heard (source):

  1. Stay well hydrated
  2. Avoid caffeine. Caffeine, which can be a performance enhancer, can also speed the movement of waste through your colon
  3. Watch the amount of fiber and fat you consume, especially in the hours before you run. Eating high-fiber foods just before running can wreak havoc on your tummy
  4. Allow 4 to 6 hours before your workout for a big meal to digest
  5. Increase your exercise level gradually, allowing your body to adapt to the demands of a more rigorous regime
  6. Choose foods you know are safe in your system. Avoid trying a new energy bar or sports drink on the day of a race
  7. Avoid anything that fits tightly around your waist. Clothing that's too small, fanny packs and water-bottle holders can put added pressure on your stomach
  8. Choose foods that are naturally constipating, such as bananas, plain bagels, rice, oatmeal and pasta. Avoid adding other things like butter, peanut butter or sauces.

I also find it helpful to cut way back on dairy and fatty foods during the 48 hours leading up to a race or long run.

Fascinating that runners are so driven to keep going that we often ignore signals from the brain telling us to stop for a poo. Or we play the mind game, “Can I make it home before shitting myself?” or “Only 2 more miles to the finish line. I don’t want to ruin my time, so I think I’ll push it even though I’m prairie doggin’” We take gambles with poop and sometimes we win and sometimes it gets messy.

So, be careful out there on your long runs or races this weekend. As the article says, “When the rectum fills to a certain point, for a certain amount of time, there's nothing anyone can do to hold it back.” And just remember, if you do crap yourself it always makes for a good story later. I’ll be your personal support group.


  1. ok, so you own the tiniest bum, I've ever seen.

    yes, I read all that and THAT is the thought that stuck with me.

  2. I think you should just rename your blog Shut Up and Poop.

  3. Well written article on prairie-doggin', and here I always thought it was a low-rent rodeo sport.

  4. You really don't think Dean reads your blog? He must be the only one and it's definitely his loss. Thanks again for a very thought provoking and well written, yet hilarious post. :)

  5. I still maintain that I don't poo. I'm just peeing for a very long time. :)

  6. Thank you for a great post. I've had more then one occasion of prairie-doggin' and it is a relief when I see it's not just me. :)

  7. i can't believe you haven't heard of prairie doggin' before! i think i need to stop reading your blog though, my butt-clenching has increased exponentially recently and yes i'm blaming it on you! :)

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  9. Great an informative "Poopers Anonymous" post today. I like the fact that it will make a good story - and you know you are a blogger if that is one of the things to look forward too!

  10. I first heard of "prairie doggin" a couple of months ago and thought it was hilarious!
    Here's hoping neither of us experience it at the RNR marathon!

  11. Praire doggin...I hadn't heard that before either! Learning something new everyday!

  12. last night I tweeted my lesson for the day: Never drink Cafe Mocha before a run. Go figure =D

    Thanks for the tips! =)

  13. Thanks for offering the support group... "Hi, I'm (insert name) and I've pooped my running shorts"! Great blog.

  14. hahah. you are too much! and that line about "When the rectum fills to a certain point, for a certain amount of time, there's nothing anyone can do to hold it back.” it's legitimately called the defecation reflex.

  15. Way to use Prairie Doggin in a sentence. I give you an A+

  16. I typically have issues with constipation and running helps a lot. Anyone who poops so much and so often that they have to be concerned about it during a run has my admiration and I am openly envious.

    I'm doin' good to have a movement every two days!!! I aspire to be the kinda runner who needs a porta potty during a half marathon. If I had one on deck during a race, I'd be thrilled to pieces to take the hit to my time to pinch one off!

  17. I need to stop reading the comments on your blog. TMI!

    Great post on poop. And you seriously do have a tiny booty.

  18. You're like the poop expert :)

  19. YOUR BLOG IS SO AWESOME! I love that you are honest and open with the gross things associated with running!

  20. This is exactly what I needed to read before my long run tomorrow. Now I wish I hadn't eaten for the past two days! Wait! That would mean I couldn't run. Poops away!

  21. hahaha! I always thought it was a "turtle head pokin out" too.

  22. My husband sings the EXACT same lyrics to that Police song!! He also is a big runner/pooper and had to go take care of business in the woods on our 10 miler this morning!
    LOVE your blog! :-)

  23. Thankfully, I haven't had this sort of problem yet. *crosses fingers* maybe I'm some sort of freak. And I'm okay with that. :)

  24. Glad ESPN finally saw the light. It is definitely a subject to which I can relate, unfortunately!

    How are you feeling, btw? I hope the hip is all better!

  25. "Insert token obsequious praise here"

    Now that's out of the way, click on my name - you'll probably enjoy the photo.

  26. I guess I should just not change anything since I've never had the poop problem... I need an article on pee... during runs, the need hits me instantly and there's no making it to a potty!

  27. And I prefer the term "turtle head".

  28. It's all so true but really... amazingly funny. I just LOVE that Prairie Doggin'. Never heard of it before. Great stuff I learn everytime I visit Shut up and Run.

    It sounds like you're feeling better. Hope that hip pain is 100% gone.

  29. You have to ‘learn’ to be regular. For me - between first and second cups of coffee – like clockwork.

  30. i agree that crapping yourself makes for a great story. i share my story more than people care to hear it!

  31. You are hilarious! I never have this problem, but more the opposite...not being able to poop!

  32. Haha, this was so funny!! My family always jokes about "pooping" experiences.

  33. Lovin' the toilet picture - and am very jealous of both your courage to post such a picture and your extemely tiny bottom :) I hope things work themselves out for you to run Saturday!!

  34. Ahhh yes - the old turtle head. wait, jesus pooped? That wasn't part of the whole water to wine story...

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  39. Thanks for being so open on this issue. I still struggle with great embarrassment concerning it. The rational side of me knows it is completely foolish. I know that many runners know much about it, and I guess that most hikers may be characterized experts. I am a runner and I am a hiker, and I have been it for years. For sure I have had to do # 1 as well as # 2 in the open lots of times both when running and when hiking. Doing # 1 is not that bad. But when it comes to # 2 I feel extremely uncomfortable. I try just to disappear away from others, hoping that nobody observes. I walk as far as possible from the trail or camp site, duck behind a dense bush or a boulder and nervously pulling down. When sitting there I often have tried to tell myself that I am not the only one, all other nice women do, all the handsome men do, but in just that moment I am not able to keep up that thought. The fear that someone should come by getting a glimpse of me in that position is overrunning all rational thinking. At one occasion I discussed it with my husband (who also likes hiking and is much more relaxed about it). He thought that it perhaps might have to do with the fact that my professional position leads me into several formal situations and that I did not like the combined image of me being strong, taking care of official duties in the public space and then in other situations, also in the public space, feeling extremely vulnerable not only exposing my private parts but also leaving such things that we neither like to describe in detail nor even see. Well. I can see the irrational side of it, and therefore I appreciate that you and some others are so open about it. Once I walked in on my brother in law squatting in the bushes. I think we both got very surprised. Afterwards I excused myself to him but he just answered that I should not bother and added: "We all do, don't we?"