Runner's Trots: A Humbling Story On One Can Too-er's Determination To Run

26 Jul 2017

Running is in no way a glamorous sport. When you start running with your fellow Can Too pod mates, bowel movements and loss of toenails will become regular topics of conversation. We’ve all had that terrifying moment during a run when a bad case of the “runner’s trots” comes on. But imagine if this was a struggle every time you laced on your runners?

At Can Too we pride ourselves on fostering a community of support and encourage our participants to share their amazing stories with the community.

One of our wonderful Can Too runners has decided to share her story on her unique experience of training with faecal incontinence, and how her condition is not holding her back from achieving her physical goals.

Let’s Talk About Poo

Faecal incontinence is a messy business.

You wouldn’t wish it on anyone.  But for me, it’s a mechanical failure and nothing to do with disease. Can Too Chair, Annie, told us recently to be grateful for our ability to run. She acknowledged how tough it can be, but reminded us how much tougher it is to battle cancer.  She’s right of course.

Nevertheless, I thought I’d write briefly about my own small battle since there may be other ladies who choose not to run because of incontinence.  Or, like me, should probably buy up shares in Tena (they’re women’s discreet pants that you can wear under lycra and not feel self-conscious), but might appreciate knowing there are others like them.

I Have What My Colorectal Surgeon Called A “Weak Tailend”

How does one get a “weak tail end”? This seems to have been brought about by a number of environmental factors and then compounded by long labouring to birth two large children.  Fast forward a few years after their birth to a rectal prolapse, then surgery to repair that and remove a significant proportion of my colon since it was, as the same colorectal surgeon said, stretched beyond usefulness “a bit like an old stocking that has totally lost its elasticity” (he really did have a nice way of putting things). 

For the next 15 years or so, my life was full of family and my career, and I didn’t make time for regular exercise.  At that time the incontinence restricted itself to the occasional mishap and, much to my children’s amusement, an embarrassing inability to control wind.

About 5 Years Ago I Decided To Take Up Running

Unfortunately, around about the same time I became perimenopausal.  And – different doctor this time, but same delightful turn of phrase (do they learn these things at medical school?) – after increasingly worse episodes of incontinence, and after many specialist appointments, she said looking at my MRI report “you’ve got a lot going on, everything up there is trying to fall down and out”.  Charming.  Seems like as the reproductive hormones die off, things head south.  Isn’t it great being a woman?

I don’t feel I am a true running devotee, not a convert really (not yet) but I recognise the value of staying fit and I have never done anything the easy way.  So I started running in Tena discreet pants.  I didn’t want incontinence to be the reason I stopped running, and it hasn’t been. 

Not sure if anyone in my Can Too Pod has noticed my Tena pants, but I just tell myself “they really wouldn’t care anyway”. 

My husband jokes that as everyone else heads into “old age” and is horrified at the loss of bowel control that often comes with it, I’ll be able to tour nursing homes as a motivational speaker.  I’ll tell them the same as I am telling you – it’s not so bad.

I bought my first pair of incontinence knickers aged 35 and then ran my first half marathon at 50 in Tena discreet pants … a few years on a few half marathons down, I’ve not given up yet!

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