Popular Science

Why do marathon runners get the runs?

It doesn't just work your leg muscles—racing is rough on your intestines, too.
a runner rests

It's a real pain.

In 2014, a woman visited a California doctor’s office complaining of a year and a half of watery diarrhea. She seemed healthy—she hadn’t lost weight and was in excellent shape. In fact, she had started running marathons two years prior, and typically ran about 20 miles every weekend. She also mentioned that she had noticed a correlation between her long runs and the uncomfortable bowel movements, which seemed to become less formed and more frequent as her intense training months dragged on. Her doctors advised the woman to stop running such long distances, and her gastrointestinal issues stopped within a month.

, a Netherlands-based physician and triathlete herself, remembers a similar experience with one a patient who was a professional middle-distance runner. The athlete tried everything—giving up and dairy as well as performing pre-race relaxation techniques—to make her gut less sensitive. But

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