OK, my intro to this one was a little tongue and cheek and I mean no offence to Mrs Radcliffe and indeed anyone else who suffer with this frustrating and frankly debilitating condition.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is rife in this day and age, partly because of the foods we eat and drink, but also because of the stressors we face on a daily basis. Granted, if you take an inappropriate diet and excessive stress and combine them with the stress reliever that is exercise, you might have a cocktail (or should I say Molotov cocktail) of factors that could easily catch you short when out on a run.

Paula’s comments in the press conference gave several hints into why this incident happened, first thing is ignorance, the second is anxiety. Look, far be it for me to comment on the 3x marathon champs training and diet, but I’m afraid there are several other factors one might wish to consider when aiming to avoid an unwanted accident mid-way round a marathon LIVE on national television!

What is ‘Runner’s Runs’?

In her 3rd Ed. Book on Endurance Sports Nutrition, Suzanne Girard Eberle goes into great detail on the likely causes of what’s technically known as Runner’s (Athletic) Colitis. The studies suggest that approx. 19-26% of runners suffer from this condition whereby the runners experience diarrhoea when running.

In effect, runner’s colitis is inflammation of the bowel during exercise (usually of a pounding nature). The longer or more strenuous the exercise the greater the chances that it will occur. Symptoms include cramping, diarrhoea and even bleeding, so not something to be taken lightly nor to laugh at (although however you look at it, taking a squat on national TV was quite humorous).

Now I appreciate that there could have been a number of factors at play with Paula’s unfortunate turn of events, diet could have been one of them but she kind of ruled that out by admitting to only having white pasta. An underlying infection of some kind could have also been at play, who knows. What I do know is for most people, inflammation of the gut is the cause, and here are some of the reasons why.

Likely causes of Runner’s Run’s

The body is an incredibly advanced ecosystem, so cause and effect is admittedly hard to pin point. Instead here are a few of the likely causes:

Ischemia – Decreased blood flow to the GI tract can cause severe damage to the lining of the gut, some athletes have had to have bowel resections to rectify this

Dehydration – It is widely accepted that one of the best defences over runner’s runs is plenty of fluid pre, intra and post run (check in for tomorrow’s Daily MANtra article for specific info on this). If you haven’t joined the family, do it HERE

Repetitive Jarring/Pounding – The persistent jolting of the intestinal walls can cause injury to the lining of the large intestines (colon), in turn causing bleeding and diarrhoea. NOTE if you ever notice blood do consult your GP immediately

Caffeine – Excessive caffeine intake could be a factor. Caffeine is stimulatory to the mind, but also the bowel

Supplements – Like the above, some pre-workout supplements and Energy supplements contain caffeine, but also the osmotic effect of these products can also cause upset stomachs

Medication – There are various possible perpetrators here, so review your meds with your GP and Pharmacist if issues arise

Diet – You didn’t think I’d miss this one now did you? Yes Paula was right to keep her pre-race meals bland, too much insoluble fibre can cause the gut to retain fluid which can lead to diarrhoea. Spice can irritate the lining of the gut, so too can wholegrain cereal products and regular warm beverages.

Artificial sweeteners, particularly alcohol sugars such as sorbitol, xylitol and aspartame have laxative effects. These are often found in ‘sugar free’ beverages and snacks.


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