I’m writing about this because it’s on my mind and because I have no shame and obviously I don’t embarrass easily (see: last post). I’m writing about it because I’m hoping that if there’s someone else out there suffering with a similar problem, he or she won’t feel so alone. I’m hoping that maybe there’s someone out there who’s had this problem and solved it and would be willing to share their advice. But if you are eating right now or plan on eating after reading this post, I suggest coming back another time. If you have a weak stomach and get queasy on the tilt-a-whirl or when someone mentions the words, “bloody poop,” I recommend not reading further than the next sentence. It likely only gets worse.
So you probably know if you read this site that I’ve been training to run a half-marathon in late April. It has been so exciting for me. When I run, I feel so free and powerful and athletic. I feel fit and alive. When I’m done running, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. What’s more? I’m good at it. It comes naturally to me. I love it.
In the past month or two I have been steadily increasing my mileage, and next week I’m slated to run 17 miles, including one 7-mile and one 8-mile run. But here’s the thing, and I understand it’s relatively common in distance runners. Lately, on distances over 5 miles, I have been suffering from major diarrhea. At least, that’s how it started out. I’ve had to stop running because the urge created such pain that I couldn’t endure it. But in the last two or three weeks, there’s been blood. Lots of it. And cramps. And pain for hours and hours afterwards. Last week after a 6.5 mile run, I could barely walk home from the gym because I was so drained from the pain.
Before I go on, I’d like to point out that I have an appointment to see a doctor on April 2. (Because FINALLY, after six months without, I have health insurance!) But I’ve been doing some research on the internet. I’ve heard that sometimes Immodium before a run helps. That changes in diet (less fiber) can help. That being better hydrated can help.
I tried less fiber. I tried running on a completely empty stomach. And I drink over three liters of water a day. Hydration and fiber intake don’t seem to be the problem. And after today’s four-mile run, I’m starting to think that Immodium won’t help either, since today I had the blood without the diarrhea. Immodium will help the runs but it won’t help stop the bleeding.
From what I can tell, about 25% of distance runners suffer from this sort of thing, mainly women. The cause isn’t really well-known but could be that during distance runs, blood is diverted away from the gut to other muscles and certain cells die in the gut. It’s the dead blood cells that you see in your stool. This really doesn’t sound good to me, so I’m glad I have an appointment with a doctor.
What’s killing me is that in all of my research, I have found not one single solution to this problem. I haven’t found anyone who has posted some kind of success in solving this problem, except to stop running, or to limit the runs to shorter distances. Furthermore, I’ve even heard that over time, the problem can occur after even just one mile of running.
The other thing that is seriously making me depressed is that if I can’t find a solution soon, I’m not going to be able to run the half-marathon in April. That makes me want to cry. I KNOW I could run it. When I run, I feel like the wind. I could run it tomorrow if I didn’t have whatever this condition is that makes me want to die after 30 minutes of running. I don’t know what to do. The whole thing sucks. SO MUCH.
Sorry to go on and on about all this disgusting gross stuff that no one really wants to hear about. But if you’ve gotten this far, I commend you and offer you my sincere gratitude. Here’s hoping there’s a solution out there that allows me to keep on running.