What is the "anger of the gingerbread man", or Why marathon runners poop in their pants during the race

What is the "anger of the gingerbread man", or Why marathon runners poop in their pants during the race

Categories: Sport

Marathon is a sport in which athletes give their best. The distance of 42 kilometers 195 meters is a monstrous test for the body, even a trained one, so sometimes the heart of marathon runners does not stand up and the race ends sadly. Fortunately, the "gingerbread man" comes to athletes much more often — an unpleasant phenomenon, but not fatal. This is what experienced runners call a sudden attack of diarrhea during a race. Alas, there is no time to solve the problem, and you have to "crush the paste" right on the go, in your pants.

What is the "anger of the gingerbread man", or Why marathon runners poop in their pants during the race

The history of the marathon is a chronicle of courage and overcoming, part of which is written in brown ink. Cases of uncontrolled defecation at marathons have always happened and it is impossible to list them all.

What is the "anger of the gingerbread man", or Why marathon runners poop in their pants during the race

Of the most famous, one can recall the case at the 1982 Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, when Julie Moss defecated in sports underpants in front of 20 million viewers. In 2005, at the London Marathon, Paula Radcliffe stopped in front of the cameras several times to empty her intestines. In the end, she won.

Cases of defecation during marathons are so common that viewers sometimes joke about it. In 2017 on The posters "Don't get your pants dirty!" and "No one poops", which were waved by two guys, were seen at the New York Marathon.

I must say that such cases occur in other sports, but there they are usually associated with health problems or errors in the diet. With a marathon, everything is different — the "anger of the gingerbread man" attacks suddenly, unpredictably and an absolutely healthy athlete.

What is the "anger of the gingerbread man", or Why marathon runners poop in their pants during the race

Michael Dobson, a surgeon at Novant Health Clinic in In North Carolina, USA, he is a passionate fan of the marathon and has been part of the medical teams on duty during the competition more than once. About the "brown phenomenon" he says this:

During an extreme race, when the leg muscles work on the verge of possibilities and take maximum resources, the intestines, deprived of blood, become inflamed and this can lead to ischemic colitis. But in this state, it is incredibly difficult to control yourself, even standing still, let alone while running.

What is the "anger of the gingerbread man", or Why marathon runners poop in their pants during the race

But inflammatory processes associated with circulatory disorders are not the only cause of involuntary defecation. Often, trouble for runners occurs due to the relaxation of the muscles of the sphincter. A marathon runner, being at the limit, cannot always control the muscles of the internal and external sphincter and, if enough fecal masses have gathered, they break through these two "lines of defense".

Dr. Dobson says this about this:

The athlete can't do anything about it. Even the refusal of solid food before the race does not guarantee anything — if trouble is destined to happen, then it will happen. Dobson claims that all marathon runners are well aware of this problem, and 60% of athletes themselves have encountered it during competitions. And, yes, they treat it as inevitable, philosophically.

What is the "anger of the gingerbread man", or Why marathon runners poop in their pants during the race

How can I help athletes? Michael Dobson is sure that there is no decent solution yet. Once it was suggested to use diapers for adults, but this is not a good idea, because such an accessory has an impressive weight and will not improve the performance of a marathon runner in any way. Therefore, during the many-hour races, it remains to hope for fortune and the sphincter.

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