Abdominal Pains and Running

If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you – Fred DiVito


I’m recovering today from a severe bout of abdominal pain.  It doesn’t happen all that often (fortunately) but this morning’s episode was nasty.

I got up super early, motivated (okay, as motivated as you can be at 6am), caught up with my push-ups and sit-ups (that I should have completed yesterday), and then headed out onto the treadmill for some HIIT (High intensity, interval, training) runs.

On the training plan, I’m working through, I am now up to sprinting 4 x 400m.  In previous weeks I have completed these at 10.5km (6.5mph), with a four-minute resting interval.  But, as this was the first time doing four sprints, rather than just three, I decided to reduce the speed to 9.5km (5.9mph) and also reduce the resting time to three minutes.

The first sprint felt good.  Nice and relaxed and completed in just over 2.5mins.  During the resting period, I began to feel a rather familiar pain beginning to creep across my lower stomach.  I did the second sprint okay but as soon as I slowed down the burning intensity of the pain began to increase.  Not to the point of anything more than discomfort but enough to question whether I should do the third run.  I did.  And as soon as I slowed down again the pain was growing to the point of no return which meant the sweat on my brow was no longer being induced by the run, it was from the pain.

I rushed to the toilet – the second familiar part of the pain.  Unfortunately, it didn’t make me feel a whole lot better.  Finally, I slowly crawled upstairs and, in my sweaty gear, laid down until the pain passed because I could not do else.

It sounds dramatic but it’s a big problem with me and running.  It’s one of the reasons I’d never enter a proper race because I haven’t found the true cause to it yet and I can’t figure out what sets it off.

When the pains started back in 2014, I went through all manner of hopeful ideas.

Was it because I exercised too early and my abdominal muscles hadn’t warmed up properly?  Was it because I’d eaten too much before I ran?  Was I not running enough?  Did I drink too much (or too little), water?

The pain renders me immobile pretty quickly once it starts. Slowly, the waves of pain disappear after about 30minutes, leaving me with a pulling sensation in my stomach all day.  I feel drained and annoyed.  The only pain I can compare it to (lucky me), is having a really bad period (sorry gents).

I do appear to have found one link to this horrible pain,  That is the eating of grains.  Oats, pasta, bread.  There does seem to be a correlation between the last meal I had and when I run.  Last night I ate pasta.  I would have thought the pasta would have digested since 6pm last night.  Afterall it was simple white pasta.  But it was the last thing I ate.  When I stick to something more protein heavy (soya or fish) I never get the pain.  I know this because I’m usually more careful about what I eat before my run, even if I know I’m running the next day.

Apparently abdominal pain in runners is common but there is no real answer to it.   Or at least I’ve not found one yet.  Knowing it’s more of common complaint means I’m not that worried to go for any further tests.  If it was every run I would be concerned but it works out to about 1 run in every 20.

One thing is for sure, it hasn’t put me off running.

I’d be really curious to know if any other runners get abdominal pain?  If so, have you found a solution to it?


One Reply to “Abdominal Pains and Running”

  1. How annoying is that! And how horrible if it sets in on a run. I’ve never had anything other than a stitch in my stomach area, so I can’t really offer any advice. I wonder what on earth it could be? Me and gluten are old enemies, so I can well believe it is dietary. Perhaps a diet/exercise diary might help identify the cause?


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