What to Know About Runner’s Trot

Medically Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on July 21, 2023
3 min read

Runner’s trot, also known as runner’s diarrhea, can happen during or right after a run. It appears as frequent, loose bowel movements. There isn’t one clear reason why this happens, although some things may raise your odds for it.

Runner’s trot is when you have a strong urge to poop during or right after running. This happens in over a third of runners. It’s more common in long-distance runners, and tends to be more frequent in women than in men. Younger runners are more likely to get it than older ones.  

People who run long distances can have several symptoms during competition and training. The longer the distance you run, the worse these symptoms could become. Some of these signs are: 

  • Bloating
  • Belly cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Fecal incontinence, or being unable to control bowel movements
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain 
  • Urge to poop
  • Bloody stool

The condition might stem from a few things. Gastrointestinal problems happen because blood flow is reduced to those areas, and instead there's an increase of blood flow that goes to the muscles you use to run. 

Mechanical issues. This could include the physical movement of your organs, pre-race anxiety, and general stress. Be sure not to eat too close to your run so that your food won't sit uncomfortably in your stomach while you move. Food tends to move more quickly through the system of an athlete during training.  

Dehydration. If you get dehydrated, you may also have diarrhea, which in turn makes you more dehydrated. Dehydration is typically a short-term problem that can be fixed in a few days.

‌Ischemic colitis. This condition happens in the gastrointestinal system when blood flow to the large intestine is reduced. People who use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are more likely to develop ischemic colitis.

During exercise, there’s less blood flowing to places like your colon, reducing the flow of oxygen and nutrients. With intense enough exercise, reduced blood flow and dehydration can lead to urgent diarrhea and ischemic colitis.

Nutrition. Certain things, like high-fiber and high-fat foods, sweeteners, or caffeine, can upset a runner's stomach. 

When to stop. If you feel intense pain, stop running. This can be hard if you’re in the middle of a race. But in some cases, waiting until after is not an option. If you get runner's trot during and after running long distances, talk to your doctor and get checked for an underlying condition. 

While there’s not a specific cause for runner’s trot, there are some precautions you can take before your long-distance runs. 

Avoid high-fiber foods. One day before running, try to limit foods like beans, fruit, and salad. If you run a lot, try to notice the amount of fiber you can eat that won’t upset your stomach and cause gas. 

Avoid sweeteners. The day before your long-distance run, limit or avoid sugar alcohols like isomalt, sorbitol, and other artificial sweeteners. These are typically in sugar-free candies, gum, and ice cream. 

Avoid caffeine. A few hours before your run, limit caffeine. It can upset your stomach and irritate your bowels.

Don’t eat high-fat foods. Eating these before a race or long run can cause an upset stomach. If you’re going to eat a high-fat diet, do it at least 6 hours before you run. 

Drink plenty of fluids. Before, during, and after you run you should drink water or sports drinks filled with electrolytes. This will help prevent dehydration. Cold drinks are better than warm liquids. 

Avoid NSAIDs. These types of medications include ibuprofen and naproxen. 

Wear comfortable clothes. Running in clothes that are too tight around your waist can irritate your bowels. Loose, comfortable clothing will help make your run a little more enjoyable.

If you aren’t getting relief from these tips, talk to your doctor. They can help you determine if there’s an underlying condition that’s causing diarrhea during your runs. There may be another reason that your bowels get upset while you’re moving. If you’re having severe symptoms, you should get medical help immediately.