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On the topic of number two

Reginald Holden

Posted on January 21 2019

On the topic of number two

And the Number 1 Topic Runners Like to Discuss Is …

I have a running – pun not intended but I’m just gonna leave it right there anyway – joke about the topics people discuss on their runs. Specifically, about what comes up first. And in my experience, whether I’m running with someone new or catching up with an old friend, the one thing that’s mentioned within the first couple of miles is … well, it’s poo.

Coeur Sports Blog

Who does number two work for?

I mean, this isn’t the case on every single run – in fact, the likelihood of the conversation taking a turn for the toilet seems to increase dramatically with longer runs, as well as with endurance and multi-sport athletes. On the 5ks I knock out with my neighbor, it’s rarely an issue, and that almost certainly has nothing to do with the fact that we know we only have half an hour to plan out where we’re gonna go grab food after we finish. But the two-hour trail run with a few folks training for long course triathlon? Not a doubt in my mind that I’ll soon be learning more than I ever wanted to know about the status of someone’s digestion.

It’s worth noting (and yes, I want this very much on the record) that it’s not like I go around asking people about their bowel movements. Not in real life, and not when I’m out on a run. I don’t inquire as to their frequency, urgency, or anything else fecally-related. So why the hell is it that everyone seems to go directly to topic No. 2?

The simple answer is, because science. See, exercise, particularly for long periods of time, stimulates your gastrointestinal tract – sometimes in unexpected and urgent ways, as my dog Hollie (aka Miss Better-Bring-At-Least-Two-Bags) demonstrates every time we walk farther than the end of the block. And endurance athletes? We move a lot! So even those of us who haven’t gotten caught in a true emergency situation can at least relate to the panic one might feel when they hear a gurgle a few miles into a long training run or ride.

Now, it’s already been noted that we, as triathletes, have a rather complicated relationship with our digestive tracts in general (and yes, of course that was one of the first articles I wrote here – because what topic always comes up early? YEP.), so it’s not only the increased blood flow that puts our minds in the toilet – it could also be nerves, stress, or that new oatmeal you tried, or just unfortunate timing that has us doing our best botanist impression as we fervently check for bushes with a high concentration of non-scratchy leaves.

Running Blog Restrooms

Where is this sign when you need it most?

Okay, okay, fine. So it’s settled that sometimes, triathletes have inconvenient bathroom urges – and that leads to talking about it. Sure. But what if we also had a few other topics at the ready for our next run – topics that also pull from common experiences, but maybe have a little lower ick factor? Here are a few ideas:

Travel. Some people love to explore the world, some people hate it. And many of us have traveled for races, so that’s a natural place for the conversation to go. Like, a couple of years ago, I was in London, and did you know that you have to pay to use the public bathrooms there? Oh, crap – that brings us right back to the exact topic I was trying to avoid. Okay. Let’s try again. Sorry.

Dogs. We all love dogs, right? (Based on the response to my post on which dog would be your triathlon spirit animal, it would appear so.) And it’s kind of nice to share stories about how our four-legged friends improve our quality of life. I mean, there’s nothing better than leaving my phone behind and heading out the door for a nice walk with my sweet old pups, unless, of course, I don’t realize I’m down to just one poop bag until I’m a mile from home and Hollie does what she does best – again, and then again. And, stinker! I’m back to poo. My apologies. Give me another chance, please? I can do this. (Just let me wash my hands first.)

Dogs as running partners

Digestion is serious business!

Races – past and future. It’s such fun to relive your favorite race experiences with someone who gets it – and it’s also pretty special to hear about someone else’s favorite races and what made them so special. You can compare your upcoming race schedule, and also discuss what you look for when you’re picking your next challenge. Are you gunning for a specific distance? Scenic views? Wanting to race with friends? Are you all about the expo, or maybe the post-race party? How about on-course support? It always means a lot to me when there’s solid bike support (because I am terrible at changing a tire quickly), but I have friends who won’t sign up for something without the porta-potty situation being spelled out in the course description. SIGH. When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go – so let’s go on to the next option because, clearly I’ve managed to bring this one around to the very place I’d hoped to avoid. Porta potties. Yuck.

Food. If you love to exercise, it’s almost a given that you love to eat good food, right? A long run is an awesome time to share your favorite recipes, debate where to find the best brunch in town, or … well, never mind. Talking about the food and restaurants you love will almost definitely lead down the path of talking about the food and restaurants with which you’ve had less than ideal experiences. Thank u, next.

Gear. You’re athletes, so of course you’ve got opinions on the best gear to wear for various types of workouts. And this has NOTHING to do with Topic No. 2, so we’re safe. Woot! Do you prefer shorter shorts or does a longer inseam make you more comfortable? Sleeves or no sleeves? What do you look for in a sports bra? What’s your favorite type of running shoe? And when you’re competing in a triathlon, what’s your go-to ensemble? I love the idea of a one-piece because I’m all for fewer pieces to deal with, but it sure makes it hard to – DAMMIT. Bathroom. Again.

So, I think we can all agree on one thing here – that the problem is absolutely, without a doubt NOT me. Hey, I’m ready to delve into a wide and fascinating variety of topics at any given time. It’s not my fault every topic on earth leads to the same place. Although, I guess there are always the safe old standbys of religion and politics …

About the Author

Kristen is a busy (and very funny) woman. She's a writer, a certified triathlon coach, a pet lover and she runs Fit Bottomed Girls which is a site dedicated to empowering women to live a healthy lifestyle.

Kristen Seymour