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Here’s the thing, for the last six years I’ve struggled with incontinence while running. This is thanks to the beautiful and traumatic experience called childbirth. And, truth be told, it kind of sucks.

I’ve always loved flying down hills, my feet flailing underneath me, and yet somehow still finding confident footing. Now, when I let loose like that, I end up with urine soaked running tights … which then leads to a mad scramble to find something, anything to put under my butt for the drive home. (Reusable grocery bags, a  dirty sweatshirt and an old towel have all been deployed for this task).

The author racing at Crow Pass.

Going to the gym is no better. Grumpy jumpies get me after about 25 seconds. But it’s jumping rope that’s the worst. Two jumps in and leakage begins.

And, don’t even get me started on trampolines. Explaining to my daughter why I couldn’t join her for a good round of “crack the egg” this summer was slightly awkward …

Over the years, I’ve figured out ways to manage — physical therapy for pelvic floor strength coupled with a tampon for bladder support are chief among them. Also, just going to the bathroom a lot while out on the trail to keep “empty” and easing off my fastest-possible pace help too.

The author at Scout Mountain Ultra 50 mile race with her daughter.

And, in all honesty, sometimes I just opt to mountain bike instead of run, because it allows me to feel the rush and the wind, without humiliating side effects.

But even as I sometimes long for those days when I was in my mid-20s, when running hard for hours on end somehow felt effortless, I’m also learning to accept this new way of moving through the world … and sometimes appreciate it.

Sure, I’m now a middle-of-the-packer instead of a podium-finisher, and yes, that’s a bit of a blow to the ego, but it also keeps running real. It means I run because I love it, and not because of glory (real or perceived). It means that I now run with people who just want to be outside for the sake of it, and not people who are set on keeping a certain pace or heartbeat. (Turns out, that’s actually a pretty dang satisfying way to run.)

The author running Big Hole Crest Trail.

It also allows for more empathy for others and gratitude for what I can do. Yeah, I pee my pants when I run, and that sucks … but otherwise, I have a pretty strong, capable body. That’s not to be underestimated.

And, I’ve found myself becoming a de facto advocate for building awareness around incontinence … like this article, and sharing my story with a couple of my guy friends while backpacking in the Wind Rivers this summer.

Rather than sweeping this topic under the rug, it’s time to have a conversation around it. I know I’m not the only one who experiences this, and NOT feeling alone is half the battle with almost anything.

I’d love to to hear your stories. What have been the worst moments for you? For me … visiting a running shoe company’s booth at Outdoor Retailer, hopping on the treadmill to test a pair of shoes, and only realizing after that fact that I’d splattered urine on it. (I was wearing a skirt, so there wasn’t anything to “collect” the pee). I cringe even writing this.

The author with her daughter after finishing at Scout Mountain Ultra 50 race.

And how about the best moments? For me … returning to ultramarathons four years after giving birth, and five years after my previous race, when I had placed second in a 50 miler while unknowingly 4 weeks pregnant. That first 100K after becoming a mom will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the moment when I discovered I can still run long distances, even if it now looks slightly different.

We live in a “no pain, no gain” culture. What I’ve realized through this experience is that often “no pain is gain” … or to put it another way “go slow to go fast.” Meeting yourself where you’re at, and not where you think you should be, is actually the way forward.


 

Call for Comments!

-Do you have any tips that help with incontinence?

-Worst moments dealing with incontinence?

-Any additional resources that help with incontinence?

 

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Showing 10 comments
  • S. Clutten
    Reply

    Have you explored having a bladder sling procedure done? I suffered, as you are, exercising and running post two kids with much frustration. Despite all efforts on my part, I saw no relied. It was having a bladder sling done that significantly helped (not totally eliminated) and gave me back some control. I would recommend it highly.

  • Hannah
    Reply

    My best and worst moment was my first half marathon which was a traily/hilly course and it was when the true reality of my incontinence hit. I hadn’t run up and, more tragically, down so many hills before and my running tights collected an attractive “i’ve pissed myself” patch. When I realised the extent of the very visible damage…for a moment I was utterly embarrassed but what surprised me most was the overwhelming feeling of “so what if I’ve weed myself…I’m running a bloody half marathon” and I was proud of what my body was doing. Running 13.1 miles that is….not the constant drip between my legs!

  • Sarah
    Reply

    I’ve tried all of the options you describe above and have seen no improvement. I’ve basically resigned myself to the fact that sometimes I will just be running with wet shorts. But hey, at least I am able to run. I just carry a lot of anti chafing creams.

  • Karina
    Reply

    Biofeedback: it can really change the game for individual with incontinence, a PT or OT specializing in this technique can provide more intervention! Don’t give up on therapy, it can really help.

  • Amy Hatch
    Amy Hatch
    Reply

    Hey All,

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    S. Clutten: that’s a good reminder on looking into a bladder sling. I held off on exploring that too seriously while deciding whether or not to have a second kid, but now I’m pretty sure we’re one and done : )

    Hannah: Love the perspective and attitude! And high five of the half marathon!

    Sarah: Anti-chafing creams … good call! And sorry to hear that nothing has really helped, but so true that at least we can still run.

    Karina: Biofeedback … interesting! I’ll look into it!

    Cheers

    Amy

  • Nicole
    Reply

    I’ve dealt with the same issue over the past few years! It can be so frustrating! I’ve used pads by ‘Just Go Girl’ which help but need to be changed with long runs. I’m considering the sling as well. Good luck!

  • Sandy Fleming
    Reply

    I wear a pad and always, always wear black! I’ve had two bladder slings or bladder neck suspensions. I broke the first one lose while caring a box of heavy would flooring up attic stairs. The second one has not been very effective.
    Thank you for talking about this, it needs to come out in the light!

  • Elvina Scott
    Reply

    Thank you for writing about this! My mom friends and I started this conversation in hushed tones a few years ago, and I love this essay! My kids are 13 and 10 and were HUGE babies, 9.8 lb and 11.4 lb respectively, and I leaked regularly and often until about a year ago. Relentless yoga and eventually grasping the pelvic floor lock concept “bandahs” has for some reason been what helped me. YEARS later! I will still leak if I am actively holding my pee and descend/go fast/sneeze etc, but no longer the drips and drabs that were so constant. And my MOST embarrassing was at a double Dutch jump rope workshop in front of what seemed like twelve thousand teenagers. Nightmare! Thanks again for this!

  • Kim
    Reply

    I was so embarrassed! I noticed I would “leak” every so often but one time during a race, I actually wore a light colored pant for the first (and last) time, I really peed myself and couldn’t stop it. It wouldn’t have been so bad if they were black but it was quite noticeable with the light grey tights I was wearing. Never again will I wear light colored pants.
    Now my biggest issue is the LSL (long slow leak) I get during ultras. The worst being during 50 or 100 milers, the burn that happens after 10 or so hours…I’ve tried changing my pants several times during races and even putting anti chafe stuff there but nothing works.

  • Tracie Hannick
    Reply

    Mine is not so bad while running but I literally run to the bathroom about 10 times a day and rarely make it in time. It’s infuriating and embarrassing. Medication hasn’t helped. What I have learned over the years is how to pee outside anywhere. Hadn’t thought of a bladder sling. That’s one for the dr! Thanks and happy I am not alone

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