I have an upset stomach today. It was unfortunate that I discovered this in the middle of my long run this morning.
After only a couple of miles I could feel ominous rumblings in the gut. From then on, gassy churning bubbles made my stomach feel like a lava lamp.
Thankfully this gassiness was the extent of my problems – I had no need to duck into the bushes, nor did I come home with any fake tan streaks down the back of my legs.
I’m not sure what caused this particular stomach complaint this morning. I had a banana an hour before my long run, and usually this doesn’t give me any digestion problems. Yesterday I didn’t eat anything new or different to my normal fare.
Perhaps my system is starting to feel the effects of a hard year’s training, and manifesting its tiredness through the stomach. It puts me in mind of the gastroenteritis bug that sweeps through the Paris metro every winter – tired commuters show one chink of physical vulnerability and next thing they’re groaning in their bathrooms and living on rice water for a week.
If you asked a hundred marathon competitors to name their greatest race-day fear, the most common reply probably wouldn’t be injury or bad weather, but a toilet incident along the route. Physical discomfort, annoyance at queuing for a portaloo mid-race, even the embarrassment of having to run the last few miles following a burst from the bowels – runners dread the possible scenarios.
To lessen your chances of an upset stomach upsetting your race, use your long run days as practice for your pre-race food and routine. See what food, and at what time before your run, works for you. Fibre, fruit juice and caffeine might not be the best thing to eat before a run.
On the morning of a marathon, I aim to have my breakfast eaten at least three hours before the start of the race. During those three hours I make sure to visit a toilet – to relieve the bowels, the bladder and the mind.
Queues for portaloos in the start area can be long, and seem to get longer as the start time draws nearer. The trick is to get there early and not leave your visit to the last minute. I know of one person who heads straight for the portaloo queue, and then once finished goes back to the start of the queue. Again, it’s to ease the mind as much as the bladder.
And in case of emergencies there are portaloos along the route if you need them – in the Dublin Marathon they’re beside the water stations every three miles.
Like everything in your marathon training, preparing well will help dispel any anxiety and give you the confidence to know you can deal with any problems that arise. That relief is usually enough to bring other relief.