What's the Deal With Runners 'Going' in Public?

Long lines at the Porta-Potty are par for the course at most running events. (Photo: Blulz60/Shutterstock)

By now you've probably seen the news about the runner who has been dubbed the "Mad Pooper" due to her tendency to use a certain Colorado Springs neighborhood as a potty while she's out on her runs. While most non-runners are shaking their heads in disgust, many runners can't help but feel a little of this woman's pain. A quick search of the comments in running forums reveals that the vast majority may have even found themselves in a similar position at least once.

So that begs the question: What's the deal with runners relieving themselves on a run?

Take a look through any running website or Twitter thread and you will see that the topic that dominates most discussions is not who broke the latest running record or even which shoes will help you run the fastest. It's poop. How to poop, what to eat to avoid having to poop, and how to prevent the need to stop mid-run to poop.

Why are runners so obsessed with poop? According to Runner's Word magazine, as many as 60 percent of runners report experiencing "bathroom issues" while out on a run. Here's why:

The scoop on runners and ... you know

After you eat, food is broken down, processed and absorbed throughout your digestive tract. Blood flow is diverted to the stomach and intestines to help the process along and hormones are secreted to promote movement within the intestines. Under normal conditions, your food moves right on through until it makes its way out the other side. But when your body tries to do all of that during a run ... well, let's just say complications arise.

First of all, running diverts blood away from the digestive system and into the working muscles. To make matters worse, the release of hormones gets amplified because your body is all fired up from the run. And to top it all off, all the jostling caused by running affects how food moves through the system.

All of these factors combined mean that even a simple banana can lead to intense cramping and gastrointestinal distress if it's not digested completely before a run. Hence the obsession with running and pooping.

That's why runners nervously stand in long lines at the Porta-Potty before any running event. It's also why many a runner has been found in a compromising position while out on a run. An unplanned pit stop at a gas station. Or a restaurant. Or a library. Maybe even an emergency dash into the woods.

In all of my years as a runner, though, I've never before heard of a situation where a runner continually targets a particular neighborhood and does her business — emergency or otherwise — in plain sight. That's not normal running behavior. And it's clearly muddying the sport's reputation.

Hopefully, officials can identify this runner soon so that Colorado Springs families can go back to eating their breakfast in peace. And runners everywhere can find new ways to obsess about their favorite topic.