Experience From - Eric Robinson , Norm Yarger , Unknown , Melody ? ,

Eric Robinson

"Is it common when people run 100 miles and beyond for the system to "shut down" so to speak? I find it incredible, given the amount of food that must be consumed and digested/metabolized for energy in order to run 100 miles. So where in the world is all this stuff going if her system shuts down?"

I find that food consumed during the run does not normally cause a problem. Either typical ultra food consists almost entirely digestible nutrients with relatively little fiber, or else your body just holds on to it longer hoping to extract the very last calorie.

It's yesterday's meals that are more likely to cause trouble, either due to their actual content or else because by the time you have started running, the meal has already passed the point where your system can implement hyper-extraction mode (e.g. once it gets to the large intestine the only nutrient that can be removed is water, and anything else that remains is ultimately destined for the exterior, or maybe posterior).

"And the next question is, of course, regarding toilet paper."

I vastly prefer good paper towels. You get a wider margin for "error" and you don't have to worry about little squares blowing away in the wind. Ordinary tissue is just about useless in the rain, or when you're drenched in sweat.

"I've heard remarks to the effect that all "used" toilet paper must be carrier out by the runner. And if that's true, what do the lead runners do? Pictures of Ann Trason and Tim Twietmeyer running Western States never show them wearing packs, only carrying water bottles."

Good question, although a ziplock and safety pin will do the trick.

Other practical advice for trail side maneuvers:

Norm Yarger

I always carry a baggie with TP in my belt. Just as long as I don't confuse it with the one that has my Ibuprofin in it I'll be okay. (TP taken orally doesn't do much for muscle cramps) I've had to head off trail into the brush and do what needs to be done.


For those really wanting the whole answer there is a book aptly titled "How to shit in the Woods" - no this is not a joke. It examines all aspects of the problem with chapters devoted to all forms of elimination an addresses problems in a sex specific manner. The book is worth it just for the appendix which has a definitive definition of the word "shit" and the myriad ways it is used in our language. REI ( and many other backpacking oriented stores stock it.

Here are a couple of my tips:


I am so grateful to have learned many ways of the trail when I went through the 28 day Colorado Outward Bound Experience (which I survived). I was shocked at several new ways of dealing with oneself and the trails, however have used it all in trail running.

  1. Defecate at least 150 feet away from a stream-too bad so sad!

  2. We had to use one (only 1) bandana to clean up. We instructed to either wear it around our neck our around our wrist our somewhere where it was attached not to accidentally be lost. Use snow, water, etc to rinse the bandana and put it back on.

  3. In luxury situations, we got to use snow or very large soft leaves from some sort of giant weed in Colorado in combination with the bandana. I kept and used that bandana (WASHED WHEN I GOT HOME!) for several years to later lose it to the Colorado River in a Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim.

  4. Last cardinal rule: use heel of shoe to make a hole in which to bury the material, then bury it. It might take time, but then if time is the issue then one needs not run in that type of environment.