Runner's diarrhea

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Runner's diarrhea, often termed "runner's trots"[1] or "the gingerbread man",[2] is a condition that often affects distance runners, and is characterized by an urgent need for a bowel movement mid-run. If the runner can find a suitable toilet or bush, the resulting stool will be on the higher end of the Bristol stool scale. Whether the stool can be considered diarrhea, or a clinical expression of ischemic enteropathy, is under debate.[3]


The causes of runner's diarrhea remain under debate, although several theories include ischemia and mechanical trauma. The reduced incidence of diarrhea in cyclists would indicate the latter.[4] Diet is often cited as a common cause of diarrhea in distance runners, particularly with meals including berries and dried fruit.[citation needed]

Treatment and prevention[edit]

Runner's diarrhea will normally clear up by itself from several hours to two days after running. As with all forms of diarrhea, replacement of fluids and electrolytes is advisable. Methods to prevent runner's diarrhea will vary between individuals, although it is advisable to consider examining the pre-running diet to determine potential trigger foods.[citation needed]

Famous cases[edit]

During the 1998 London Marathon, winner Catherina McKiernan suffered from stomach cramps, a common euphemism for the condition.[5]

At the 2005 London Marathon, winner Paula Radcliffe, in desperate need for a toilet break during the race, stopped by the road in full view of the crowd and live TV cameras and passed diarrhea. She later blamed a meal of grilled salmon from the previous night for the incident.[6]


  1. ^ Fogoros, R. N. (1980). "'Runner's trots'. Gastrointestinal disturbances in runners". JAMA 243 (17): 1743–4. doi:10.1001/jama.243.17.1743. PMID 6965991. 
  2. ^ Audenshaw, Tony. "Marathon Prayer" (PDF). Marathon Talk. Retrieved 2013-02-27. 
  3. ^ Bounous, G; McArdle, AH (1990). "Marathon runners: the intestinal handicrap". Medical Hypotheses 33 (4): 261–4. doi:10.1016/0306-9877(90)90139-6. PMID 2090928. 
  4. ^ Halvorsen, F A; Lyng, J; Glomsaker, T; Ritland, S (1990). "Gastrointestinal disturbances in marathon runners". British Journal of Sports Medicine 24 (4): 266–8. doi:10.1136/bjsm.24.4.266. PMC 1478906. PMID 2097027. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Innes, John (April 18, 2005). "Relief all round after Paula pauses on road to glory". The Scotsman.