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To Pee or Not To Pee

During my TRI on Sunday, I encountered every pee inducing moment possible.  There was the standing in warm water, watching and listening to a few hundred swimmers hit the water, hunching over on my handlebars, and jiggling over big bumps in the road.  By the Women_gotta_go time I started bouncing along in my run, I started to feel like a 2 year in a potty-training morale dilemma.  "Is it ok to just 'go' while running?"

As I am searching for a porty-potty, my bladder thought it had the answer and launched into a full sales presentation to my brain.  My bladder is saying, "Come on, elites do it, Dean Karnazes tells you it is ok."  My brain actually ponders this tidbit a while.  "Well, true.  Elites and professionals do pee on the run.  So, how fast do you have to run to be considered an elite?".  This question ping ponged in my head for a while, trying to find a way to equate my shuffle to the elite speeds category. 

Then the running shoe gods came to the rescue and shouted - "Wait, what about the shoes!?  For goodness sake - don't ruin the shoes.  They are the harmless party in all of this.  This won't be pretty - don't take them down trying such foolishness.  Do not destroy this relationship - you have a good thing going."  He was right.  If I screwed this up and even dribbled a bit on my shoes, they would be out the door forever.

In the end, I just couldn't do it.  But the question bugged me since the race.   It is common?  Do runners do this?  When is it ok?  Do runners talk of such things?  And how do you go against all that you know is right and hygienic?  So I turned to Google for the answer.  If someone can find our site by continually searching for 'horse poop girl' - I can certainly find the answer to this one etiquette question.  My search for, "pee while running" hit the jackpot - you get pages of instructions, wisdom and even forums.  Here are the highlights:

Go_sign Amazing fact #1:  According to a Running Forums poll, 53% of runners would pee while running.  Here seems to be the generally accepted principles:  if it means reaching a Boston Qualifying time (BQ) or Personal Record (PR), you are in a long endurance event or no one could tell that you did it - then go ahead. 

Amazing Fact #2:  Runners are having conversations on this topic!  I was dumbstruck on the wealth of information on this topic.  There are tips on peeing while swimming, biking and running.  A good number are from triathletes.  Probably the best of all is Slowtwitch on "The Fine Art of Evacuation while Biking", but there are more:

Amazing Fact #3:  Generally, it is acceptable, although there are a few races with "no pee" rules - but overall it is treated as a badge of honor when you finally break down and just go with it.   

How could I be running all these years and not know of this perfectly acceptable behavior?  It made me wonder what else I was missing out on.  So I did another Google search on "peeing while working".  I mean come on - there are few endurance events that can match the gruel of 8 hours of meetings.  No luck.  There is not much out there for step by step directions on that one.  And as your friendly HR professional, I would be amiss if I didn't advise you against it.   But now I know.

Photo of ladies room sign by sarandipitous

Photo of go sign by Tanya HK


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I have thought about it (peeing while running), but so far haven't had to and I am not sure if I could.

Reading about peeing at work made me chuckle so loud I had to put my hand in front of my mouth, after all blog reading is still OK at work, but I am sure peeing at work would get me more serious looks, not to mention a possible trip to HR. lol

bill carter


You and Tom are both good. It never fails that when I am reading either one of your articles or one of Tom's, I burst out laughing. This post was no exception.

I'll admit that in the 12 marathons I've run, I am pretty sure that I have never taken a pee in my shorts. For some reason, most of the races I just haven't had to go. My first couple marathons I drank a little too much water right before the race and had to go numerous times. A bush, a tree, or even a porta-pottie if available were all targets. But not so much since then. I will say that in future races, I would probably try to do the deed in the shorts. I just don't know if I could make myself do it.....interesting question.

I would like to know the protocol for puking one's guts out as I have done that a couple times. Is stealth the key?? Could a raised hand in front of the mouth be used to deflect any potential spray and disguise the remnants of yesterday's carb loading?? Or should one just let it fly, a gastric badge of honor?? Thoughts?

Congrats on the Triathalon Amy and as always for the thought provoking post.



I did a post on this once, I'd have to dig it up, it's been awhile. But the response was huge as if I was doing a recap on a recent race. Particularly, my post was about the "urge" to go pee even when you don't necessarily have to go. I still have these bouts since my pregnancy, but more managable. Great post.

Sempre Libera

Wow, I'm amazed people are talking so much about it... guess that cuts down on the embarrassment factor! I'll confess to having peed while running on two occasions, though both times I was pretty desperate (and rather mortified, though no one else seemed to be the wiser for it). As for the shoes - nothing a little soap and water won't clear out! We've all probably already stepped in much nastier things already anyway.


This is so interesting! I'm still fairly new and not up to the really long distances yet, but this is definitely something to think about for when I get there. You are pretty smelly and sweaty after running that long, but urine has a different odor than sweat. I don't think I'd be up to it, but there's grosser things that could happen.


My mom didn't add her comment here, but on the phone this morning, here was her advice - better to be ashamed than in pain. I thought that was a nice guideline to add to the list.

Bella - if you have a chance, come back and list the link - I would love to read it.

Bill - There was actually some discussion on puking - but can't remember the specifics - but it was step to the side and do it down wind (with no one behind you!) The overall rule - don't offend the other runners. So puke freely!

Art Dinkin

Amy, Amy, Amy. How is it you never fail to fascinate me with the nuances of running? :)

I have never had to pee while running, I have always been able to find a private place off the path. (One of the reasons I like running on a wooded bike path!)

As for peeing at work, might I suggest wearing a dark blue suit so no one would notice? :)

Michael Day

Actually, when an elite runner lets it fly while on the run, I guess they ARE peeing at work. This is a dilemma I have yet to face, what with my 20 minute runs...


I dont run for time ... so I definitly do go during a run - in the nearest port-a-potty or restroom. I think whatever works for a person is fine, as long as one does not pull a Paula Radcliffe :)

pat monahan

runners should have to have a beeper like trucks have when backing up. When they pee, it should sound. beep beep beep. to warn the runners behind.

Just a thought.

I guess in the winter time, the steam would be fair warning.

Now guys can use there God given ability to distance themselves from their stream. Is it ok if we expose ourselves in order to stay somewhat dry?

Yeah, I guess I am overthinking this post way too much.


I wonder what the percentage of men to women actually pee while running. I could see a much higher amount of men doing than women. But I never even heard of this being done, let a lone contemplating it. But I have never ran that long to need to do it.

Kent A

I can say the only one I have ever seen in a race relieving themselves was a woman in a half marathon. I guess I was more shocked that she didn't leave the sidewalk area further before squatting. Maybe guys can be just less conspicuous when doing it. I was surprised by the utter lack of portapotties at this race, and perhaps the USATF would take this up as a safety issue similar to the Ipod issue. They could require all associated races have at least 1 every two-three miles for races over 7 miles.


Thanks to all of indulging me in this topic. Running never ceases to amaze me at all it nooks and crannies.

Michael - such an insightful thought. That does it - I just need to become an elite - then there would be no question.

Pat - ok, I hadn't thought about an exposing moments - there would need be a loud beep, beep, beep for that one so everyone could run clear.

Diana - I am guessing more guys do it for PR's because there are more of them out there running.


You mean actually peeing while running, peeing in your shorts? I never thought of that. I guess it makes sense for someone who is running for time - let's say they are leading in the Olympics and just have to go. It's worth it, he, he. But I don't think I could do it. Not without changing shorts afterwards :).


Maybe I have never reached that point before. Or maybe I am not a "real" runner. And being a guy it is always possible to find a tree, bush, nook or cranny. Which brings up another question... Is it more exceptable to pee while running or using the maple tree in the Johnson's yard?
Great post Amy!!!!

Mike Keller

Thanks for the nice word about my blog! I appreciate it....and am glad it drove me to yours, when a commentor on mine said he found me through you!!!



Thanks, Amy!

I've only "let go" once and that was accidental. Let's just say that allergy season and a full bladder don't mix and I didn't quite make it to the port-a-potty. I just don't know that I could do this on purpose--but then I haven't set myself up for a BQ run yet!

Milano Running Mom

I have never done this but thought about it often. Not so much in a race but when I'm out running a long distance and there isn't a place to stop and go. I worry that the smell left behind in my shoes and on my clothes would make me crazy! Ewwww
I'm deep into my 40's and my bladder now has a mind of its own. I may end up giving in some day, but I hope not.

Art Dinkin

Thanks for bringing us back to this post. It suprised me to see that I had commented a year ago! So much has changed since then. Last August, my longest run was a 4 miler that went for 10. Now I am enthralled with the 10+ distances.

A year ago, I wouldn't go. Now, if I am in the middle of a longer run, I wouldn't think twice about it. At the Dam to Dam I stopped at mile 6 for a porta-potty. It took almost 5 minutes to wait in a line of 2 people. After my 15 seconds in the loo, my muscles refused to enjoy the remaining 6.4 miles. I finished... 20 minutes behind my goal (and what I was on pace for before the stop). In other words, my bladder changed my whole run.

I'm no speedster. This was not about making a great time. It was about realizing a goal I had worked hard to hit for several months. The shorts were washed as soon as I got home anyway. I don't see much difference between wet from 100% sweat or being wet from 99% sweat and 1% pee.


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