How Ali Feller trains for marathons with Crohn’s illness


It’s hard to say if marathon training contributed to these flare-ups, but my doctor and I agree that they always happened at times of high stress. Going to college, studying abroad, getting a promotion, and moving have all caused symptoms.

Marathon training can obviously fit this bill, but I wanted to give it another shot. I hadn’t had a major attack for a few years, mainly because I had found a medication that worked for me. I also have an amazing gastroenterologist, who is actually another marathon runner. He understands how important running is to me, both for my physical and mental well-being, so we worked together to figure out when I really need to quit and when it makes sense to keep running.

I’ve also identified my trigger foods (corn kernels, popcorn, and jicama, which is actually one of my favorite foods), and prioritize getting enough sleep, which for me is seven to eight. hours each night. I think running helps too. Just being outside does wonders for my mental health.

But even when my Crohn’s disease is completely under control, it’s something I have to think about every day. It’s been like that all my life. Having been diagnosed when I was seven years old, I don’t even know what it would be like to wake up and leave the house with no worries. And this is even truer when it comes to running.

Suppose, for example, that I start my morning with an eight-mile run. On a normal day, even when I’m feeling fine and not having a flare-up, I usually poop two or three times before I leave the house, and I usually make at least one bathroom stop during that race. I’m just guaranteed to stop there because that’s when my stomach is most active. I might go back once I get home, but by lunchtime I’m usually fine for the day.

It definitely took some trial and error to figure out what works for me. And while I think everyone needs to experiment to find out what works in their situation, here are some of the strategies I come back to that help me continue to adapt to Crohn’s disease.

Bring your own bathroom essentials.

Being prepared is non-negotiable. I’m not talking about “normal” things like dressing for the weather or making sure you have enough water. They are also important, of course, but for me, I have to consider everything I might need in case I have to go to the bathroom when there are no facilities in sight.

I always bring paper towels and a Ziplock bag to put them in, just in case there’s no way I can get to a real bathroom and have to get out. Unfortunately, that happens sometimes, and I hate it. I don’t think it’s funny or cute, but it’s not going to stop me from running.

In the winter, carrying my bathroom gear is easy; I put it in the pockets of my waistcoat or my running jacket. During the warmer months I put it in the pockets of my shorts if they are roomy enough. Otherwise, I stuff it in my koala clipwhich is designed as a stand for your phone, but also works great as a place to store other things.

Research the route in advance.

My pre-race preparation also includes route reconnaissance. Other runners consult maps to check mileage and elevation, but I’m scouting bathrooms. I’m not just trying to find out where the public restrooms are, I also need to know the details. Do you need to request a key or password? Is there likely to be a line? Is it a single toilet vs multiple cabins?

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