Should I be potty trained?

When and where to go to the toilet during an ultra run? Especially when the start is early. Should I get potty trained?

Out for a run, with Sara. My belly isn’t feeling great. Not that there’s something wrong with it. It’s just that, you know, I haven’t been to the toilet yet. I am not a first thing in the morning guy. I need to move a little to get my intestines started. It’s not a big problem, except on those days I race, and the start is very early. Like Sussex. So, should I be potty trained?

Don’t worry, I am. I can hold it until I am on the toilet, but having to go, and having to run don’t go hand in hand. I don’t know how that works with you, but if I have to go, I have to go. Yes, I can postpone it for a while, but not for hours. So where to defecate when you’re in the middle of nowhere during an ultra run?


Paula Radcliffe and Tom Dumoulin

I am not the only one having this problem. Lots of famous athletes have had it as well. Paula Radcliffe, former marathon world record holder, did it in her shorts, while running the Olympic marathon of Athens in 2004. A year later, she became famous for peeing on the side of the road during the London Marathon. A marathon she still won.

Tom Dumoulin, one of the best cyclist the Netherlands ever had, won the Giro d’Italia in 2017. It would have been a comfortable victory, if he hadn’t lost 2 minutes in stage 16. Not because of bad legs, but because he had to get of his bike to relief himself on the side of the road, after his intestines played up.


Toilet visits

So yeah, toilet visits are a general problem in long distance sports. Especially, because you’re often far away from a toilet. Sussex, my first ultra, will have 3 toilets on or at least close to the trail. One at the start, one after 6 kilometers, and one after 12 kilometers. I have to run 53, so I might need another stop.

So far in training I have been good. Just on one long run, I had to go. Luckily I was all on my own in the forest. For cases like this, I always have a zip-bag with paper handkerchiefs with me. Then again, that morning I did go to the toilet before the race. The need to go, took me by surprise.

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I’ve had to leave the house a few times before, early in the morning to go to a race. On those days I just got up earlier, so I could go to the toilet at home. This race in Sussex is the earliest start I have had so far, so is the Dolomiti Extreme Trail in June this year. I’ve got one more week until Sussex, I think I will get up early the whole coming week, so I can train my intestines to defecate early morning, in the hope they will do the same on race day. So yes, let’s get potty trained.

Today's training

Recovery Trail Run, with Sara
5 kilometers in 35 minutes and 35 seconds

Yin Yoga Class for Runners 
30 minutes

Foot Flexibility & Strength
20 minutes


John Kraijenbrink

The Running Dutchman

I run. Trails mostly. I am Dutch. That makes me The Running Dutchman.

I am also a massage therapist, yogi, sports science nerd, and journalist/writer. Everything I learn and research about trail running, I share here, on this website, with you.

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