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Marathon Runners Peeing Habits: Options, Tips, and the Truth

It’s no secret that marathon runners need to stay hydrated during the race to perform their best. But what happens if you have to go pee and there’s no bathroom in sight? Peeing on the side of the road is not only frowned upon, but it can also be dangerous. Marathon runners peeing during the race is common.

Running a marathon is no easy feat. It takes months of preparation and a lot of hard work. But one of the most important aspects of race day is making sure you’re hydrated. Dehydration can cause all sorts of problems, from muscle cramps to dizziness and even seizures.

That said, the water has to go somewhere. And sometimes, runners have to go to the bathroom mid-race. So, what do you do if you have to go and there’s no bathroom in sight? We’ll look at a few common ways that marathon runners deal with this peeing problem.

text: how do marathon runners pee during the race with a picture of a marathon runner

Marathon Runners Peeing: Marathons, Half Marathons

Do marathon runners pee while they run? Yes, they sure do. One thing legendary distance runner Dean Karnazes knows how to do is pee while running. If you aren’t familiar with Dean Karnazes, click on the link in the next sentence. He ran an astounding 350+ miles without stopping and holds the current world record.

No doubt he had to pee during those few days, so what’s his secret? Well, luckily the great people over at News24 gave us the answer. Practice. Karnazes, and other marathon and ultramarathon long-distance runners, at least the pros, can and do pee while running. This is an option that is only available to men, however, and requires great control of the pelvic floor muscles.

Do Marathon Runners Pee While They Run?

How runners deal with the urge to pee depends on the runner. Casual, or hobbyist runners will find a bush or a porta-potty when they can to relieve themselves. The competitive runners pushing for every second will likely just go. Running a marathon is fraught with sweat and other liquids, what’s one more?

We are going to break down the primary options for relieving yourself on race day. There are four main options to choose from when it comes to peeing during a marathon:

  1. Find a porta-potty
  2. Pee outside
  3. Pee in your pants
  4. Hold it until the end

There are pros and cons to each, however. We’ll break them down below – although they are fairly obvious if you stop and think about them.

Finding a Porta Potty

A toilet break in an actual facility can be nice – even a welcome break – during a marathon. What it isn’t nice for is your time. Generally, there are lines of people waiting to get in, so it can take several minutes off of your race time if it’s bad. If your ultimate goal is to save time and not stand in a line with other runners, this isn’t the option for you.


  • Sanitary
  • Easy
  • Civilized


  • Slow
  • You can cool down
  • May have to leave the route to find one

Pee Outside

Peeing outside is a decent option after you leave the start line. It’s awkward if other people are around, but if you find yourself relatively alone, or a quick corner to duck into, it can work great. Even during a half marathon, the need to relieve yourself can overwhelm even the most trained of pelvic floor muscles.

Elite runners and other pros generally use an option like this. Many runners do not stop after pushing off from the starting line. If that’s you, this may be your move. As Karnazes proved, you can even pee outside while continuing to run and effectively not affect your pace at all.


  • Efficient
  • Saves time
  • Good on long runs like marathons or ultramarathons


  • Takes practice
  • Can be messy
  • Risk of soiling your shoes or other gear

Hold It Until The End

Holding it until the end is the option your bladder will hate. This requires the ultimate control of the pelvic muscles but will not cause the same issue soiling your gear as above. Some people will be able to do this better than others.

Stress incontinence is a real thing and will be fighting you most of the way. Worse, if you’re running in pouring rain or other elements, it can make it even more difficult. Once you’ve started running, the body can create a very strong need to pee. Longer races are worse, but with nerves and other components of race day even shorter races can create issues.

If you go with this option, you’ll be looking at your water bottle in an entirely different way until you eventually get to the finish line. Every time your inner thighs rub together you’ll be thinking about option #4.


  • Sanitary
  • No need to clean up urine later
  • Dignified


  • Uncomfortable
  • Hard to pull off
  • Risk of your body choosing when and where you are going to pee instead of you

Pee in Your Pants

An obvious option, albeit not one many people like to talk about, is peeing in your pants. This requires the least effort and zero training! Surprisingly, we’re all pretty good at it. Most people will dismiss this option, in the long run, deciding to opt for one of the above options. However, for the elite runners, this is a necessary evil.

In your first race, this probably isn’t the answer. But when you’re vying for a PR – sometimes it takes dedication.


  • Easy
  • Quick
  • Somewhat subtle


  • Messy
  • Stinky
  • Somewhat barbaric

4 Tips For Avoiding The Need to Pee During a Marathon

tips for avoiding the need to pee when running

Several tips can help a runner avoid the need to pee during the race. If followed, there will be no need to decide which of the four equally unpleasant options we listed above.

  1. Don’t overhydrate before the race
  2. Don’t drink too much in the AM
  3. Pee right before the race
  4. Push through the urge – it will likely go away

1. Don’t Overhydrate Before the Race

Consistent advice given to marathoners is NOT to overhydrate before the race. In the last few days leading up to the race, drink away. It only takes around 20 minutes for water to be digested and make its way to your kidneys for expulsion. It may take slightly longer than that to have the urge to pee, but ultimately if you drink a lot the night before a race it will be gone by race time.

2. Don’t Drink Too Much in the AM

Another mistake rookies make is to hydrate too much in the morning before the race. If the race is at 8 am, don’t wake up at 6 am and have four cups of coffee – this is going to end badly. Runners need to drink before races, but many swear that with 12oz to 16oz of a sports drink right before the start they are good to go.

There are water stations along the route, but the pros recommend only grabbing a mouthful or two at those stations unless it’s abnormally hot or other environmental issues arise.

3. Pee Right before the Race

Another tip is to pee right before the race. Take an empty Gatorade bottle to the start line and let her rip. Or, just find a porta-potty 20 minutes before the race start and do it the same way you always do. This is something that could, and maybe should be added to your training plans as well. It will help it be more normal on race day.

4. Push Through the Urge – It Will Likely Go Away

Another word of wisdom from many who have done it is to just push through the urge if it creeps up. Similar to our “hold it” method discussed earlier, many times the urge will subside or go away after a mile or two. Heck, it may even help distract you from the pain of pushing yourself through 26.2 miles. Pee can be fickle when running.

Big Time Races: From Tokyo to the Boston Marathon

Racing in the big races can be fraught with issues when it comes to peeing. So many more eyeballs, and even cameras, on the runners, can make it even more nerve-wracking. In these races, it’s even more important to have a plan. Nobody may care if you pull off by a tree in the Tupelo Marathon, but when trying to pee downtown Boston people may be a bit pickier.

Speaking of Boston, the Boston Marathon is one of the most famous marathons in the world. This year more than 25,000 people started the race. That is a lot of potential pee. Peeing is such an issue during the marathon that the residents that live along the route request the runners don’t pee on their lawns.

Talk about an interesting problem.


As we conclude our interesting essay on pee, it’s important to remember that any option is fine as long as it’s legal and safe. Whether you want to fight your pelvic floor muscles for an entire race or simply let it go, stress incontinence or other incontinence issues can be real downers when pushing for your first PR in a big marathon.

Now that we’ve covered all we can about marathon runners peeing, it’s time to go out and get more marathons under your belt!

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About the author

Jasper loves to write about fitness, running, and anything else that gets him moving outdoors. He's an avid hiker, backpacker, and climber who loves to stay fit so he can make sure he's healthy enough to enjoy his favorite hobbies. He also spends time writing about his true passions in life.