I am not a runner. I know I sometimes sound like I am, but I’m really not. I have run in the past and I plan to run in the future, but I have never classified myself as officially being a “runner.” A runner is someone who really loves running. It’s someone who can’t wait to put their running shoes on and head out the door because the time they are running is one of the best parts of the day. Or at least that’s how I have always imagined what being a “runner” would be like. I am definitely not like that.
I don’t actually like running. I don’t get an extreme amount of satisfaction from traveling over long distances using nothing but my own two legs. I run because I can. I run because two years ago, I could hardly make it from my couch to the front door. I run because prior to my surgery, any time I got past a light jog, my colon would give me a very loud, “Stop!” And I train for half-marathons because I am one of those people who needs to have a goal in site to help keep me moving.
I have found that running with an ostomy is not as crazy or as difficult as it may sound. I know that the fear of having your bag fill up while you are running may deter some people. While I understand this may not be the case for everybody, my ostomy tends to shut down as I run. Just this weekend, I went for a 10 mile run in preparation for my half-marathon coming up in just 4 weeks. (Yikes!) And those 10 miles took me around two hours, and in that entire time, I had next to no output into my bag. Now quite often after I finish running, my bag will fill up very quickly, so it is good to have a plan for emptying it fairly quickly once you finish.
Of course, this is not always the way it is and I will admit that I have been out for a run before and had my bag start to fill up. It is not very comfortable to run with a heavy bag, so you have a couple of options here. You can just live with it, especially if you are only going for a short run. Or, if you are running in an urban setting, it may be possible for you to stop at a restaurant or a store to quickly empty. But I have found myself in the situation in places where there is not an easily accessible bathroom. So you know what, I found a secluded place and took care of it. Nice enough, you don’t even have to drop your pants to empty an ostomy bag! And I have used leaves before to wipe it down, but it would not be a bad idea to put a few tissues in your pocket before you leave for a run, just in case.
I have mentioned before that I have hydration issues, so I need to have water with me at all times, even if I’m just going for a short run. On those shorter runs, I will usually just take a water bottle to carry with me, but that can be uncomfortable for longer runs. That’s why I got myself a Fuel Belt, which is one of the best running investments I’ve ever made. Mine carries two small bottles of water, but there are others that carry even more. Plus, it has a little pouch that can either fit my phone or some energy gels for the along the way. I would recommend that anyone with an ostomy to always have water with you on a run. You can get really low on your hydration really fast, especially once we hit these warm, summer months coming up.
Finding the right running pants is also important. The waistband of some of the can rub at just the wrong place and after a while it can get uncomfortable. I prefer to go with something with a higher waist and that fits securely. My favorite pair of pants has a drawstring at the top, and I have found that makes a big difference for me, since I know they won’t be slipping around or pulling on my ostomy bag. Plus, it just helps keep the bag securely in place, so it isn’t moving around too much.
To me, those are the most important things about running with an ostomy: simply making sure you are comfortable and staying hydrated. I really haven’t found it to be any different other than taking those few things into account beforehand.
As I said earlier, having an ostomy has made it possible for me to even be able to this. It has made it possible for me to already have run a triathlon and two half-marathons and to currently be training for my third. I always try to remember that when I am out for my runs and I start thinking about how much legs hurt or the fact that I’m running out of breath or energy… I try to remember how blessed I am to even be able to do this in the first place. I try to remember that because of my ostomy, I can run longer and harder than I ever thought I would. And I will continue to run, simply because I can.
Have you tried running with an ostomy? Have you had an different experiences? Are there any other tips or great running accessories you have found for other ostomates?