I used to love running. I used to love getting out on the trails, running back and forth to work, participating in races, running everything from parkruns to ultra marathons and my favourite of all, running night races! Then Crohn’s Disease, my arch enemy for the best part of two decades, decided to rear its head and cause a big flare up.
I made the decision to have surgery to help sort things out and have a temporary, but hopefully long reprieve from the disease. This would mean that I could return to running but how would I get on running with a stoma?
How It Used To Be
When I first started running back in 2016 the Crohn’s Disease wasn’t really causing my any issues and I was in remission. This meant that when I ran I don’t experience any issues but perhaps in 2017 (I can’t remember exactly when) it started to become a problem. When running I would get urges to go to toilet which I could largely control until I found a toilet but it became increasingly difficult and on occasions I would either have to dive behind a bush or worse! Even when I could ‘control’ things, it was so frustrating having to stop every mile or two to coopy-down and hold things in.
In April 2018 when the flare up struck my control of my bowels was largely relinquished and consequently I stopped running. If I was loosing control of my bowels simply by walking or standing around, there was no point in trying to run!
I decided to have surgery in August 2018 and afterwards I was reassured by many people that I would live a very normal life and would be able to do everything that I used to do, including running. I was very confident that that would be the case but I was curious about a few things.
Will I Be Running and Pooping at the Same Time?
Without a bag a person would poop once a day, maybe a couple more times and they’d go for long periods without pooping. What I wasn’t sure of was whether the same would be the case for someone with a colostomy bag? Because your bowel is now connected to the outside world and there’s no way of controlling it, would poop just pop out throughout the day? Would I be running and pooping at the same time?
What About the Runner’s Trots?
Then there was the dreaded runner’s trots! I’d been plagued by them for so long I didn’t know if I would still be plagued by them post-surgery. As many people suffer from runner’s trots I never knew if they were related in any way to Crohn’s or if it was simply bowels playing up.
How Will I Cope With Early Morning Runs?
Another thing I was curious about was what happens if I want to head out for an early morning run and my bowels hadn’t emptied? Should I postpone the run, wait until I’ve been to toilet or just head out regardless?
First Post-Surgery Runs
Seven weeks after surgery I made the decision to start running again,or at least give it a try. I felt as though things had healed well and I’d be using a support belt which should keep things in place. I hopped on the treadmill for a mile jog and encouragingly everything felt good. There was no discomfort and not a peep from the stoma. Mind you, with my fitness being greatly reduced by not running, I was more focused with completing the mile than thinking about what the stoma was doing. This is probably the right thing to do.
A couple of days later I followed up that initial test run with another slightly longer 2 mile treadmill run. In the past I usually wouldn’t be able to make it to 2 miles before I had an urge to use the toilet. This time, however, I was able to complete the distance without any issues from the stoma and importantly no sign of the runner’s trots.
First Mid-Run Bag Change
Treadmill runs are never fun so for my next run I headed outside. The plan was to keep it easy and restrict myself to an mile out from the gym and then returning back the same way. It was a morning run and my bowels had been working overnight but after a bag change there was still some movement. A bit of a dilemma but I decided to risk it and run anyway and make sure I had supplies with me if I needed to change the bag.
I had reached the turning point at 1 mile and the bag had been filling up, but not a huge amount. Another dilemma – do I continue back to the gym and hope it doesn’t fill up further or do I stop to change it? I think I would have made it back without an issue but it would be good to experience changing a bag out in the open particularly during a run, rather than leaving that first experience for a race. You know what they say about testing your kit before a race!
Make sure you always test your kit before a race, including your colostomy bag change kit!
I was running alongside a river and there were plenty of secluded seating areas where I could change the bag without being noticed. It was also early in the morning so not many people were around. Like at home, the bag change was quick and easy although I must remember to take wet wipes if I’m going on a run as cleaning the stoma with ‘dry’ dry wipes is a little difficult.
Having to change the bag on a run is likely to be something that is going to happen from time-to-time, particularly if I’m going to be doing very long runs or ultra races, and I don’t see it as being something that is a problem. If it occurs during a race it would be no different to when someone without a stoma has the urge to use the toilet.
Beyond Definition Case
I have posted about the Beyond Defintion Essentials Case before but it’s worth giving it a mention again now that I’ve had to use it on a run. The bag is able to carry two spare bags, rubbish bags and dry wipes (could also squeeze in some wet wipes). This is perfect for short to medium length runs and could probably be used for longer runs. The size of the cases means that it can easily fit in your shorts so no need to carry an a bag or running pack.
There is a larger case available which I’ve also purchased but for most runs I wouldn’t take it with me. It would be suitable for long distance ultra races and for races where you’d have a backpack with you.
My First parkrun With A Stoma
As part of getting back into running I’m going to try and include some parkruns as a way of building up my fitness and trying to get back to the level I was at prior to the flare up.
Rather than simply going to my local parkrun, I’ve decided to go to Bryn Bach Park in Tredegar, the home of my running club Parc Bryn Bach. It will be an opportunity to run with friends and club members for the first time since last year and it’ll be opportunity to wear my Team Colostomy UK vest for the first time.
It also happens to be the first time that a pacing event has been held at Bryn Bach parkrun so rather than trying to pace myself or pushing myself too hard, I can stick with a pacer that will help me run it at a more comfortable pace.
What About Beer + Running + A Stoma?
Beer has been getting on well with my stoma and it appears that running isn’t an issue either. But what happens when you mix beer, running and a stoma? Only one way to find out! It’s been about a year since I was last at the monthly Mikkeller Beer Running Club in Cardiff so perhaps April’s meetup will be the time to put everything to the test.
The Ultimate Beer + Running + Stoma Test?
Will a stoma be able to handle a Beer Mile?
So Running With A Stoma Is Just Like Running Without a Stoma
I’ve only been running for a week or so with a stoma but as I was told pre-surgery, it doesn’t interfere with running and based on early tests it would appear that one huge benefit will be not having to worry about Runner’s Trots. This is a huge win for me and being able to poop in a bag whilst running means that I’ve got a bit more flexibility when it comes to seeking out a toilet.