Running the London Marathon?
Don’t let incontinence stop you in your tracks

5 Things you need to know ahead of race day

Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) is a common condition, affecting an estimated 30% of women worldwide. It occurs when physical movement or certain activities, such as sneezing, coughing, running, exercise or heavy lifting puts pressure on the bladder. There’s little doubt that SUI can have a significant impact on daily life, often affecting relationships and self-esteem.


A specially commissioned survey1 showed that around 9 out of 10 women living with SUI are likely to simply “put up with” the condition, rather than seeking treatment and advice, despite any negative effects on their quality of life.


“As my 40th birthday drew closer I decided to join a running club – for both fitness and social reasons – and I really loved it. But not long after, I noticed I was becoming damp whilst running and, on some occasions, quite wet. I mentioned it to a few of the other ladies I was running with and was surprised that many of them were also experiencing similar problems – but were just resigned to wearing pads on a daily basis.


However, that was just not something I was prepared to do. I didn’t want that to become the new normal for me.


So, I booked an appointment with my GP – a fantastic female GP who was so sympathetic and proactive. I remember her words to me were, ‘let’s get this sorted now’ and she referred me for further tests as a potentially eligible patient for bladder bulking treatment.


Since my treatment, I haven’t looked back. I haven’t experienced another leak and I’d go as far to say it’s changed my life (certainly my life as a keen runner!). Now, I’m really spreading the word about my positive experience amongst those of my friends who might otherwise have carried on suffering in silence”.


Unlike Natalie, many women sadly choose to simply avoid exercise altogether as they are embarrassed about the condition and find that SUI is quite literally stopping them in their tracks…


Mr. Steve Foley, Consultant Urologist at the Royal Berkshire NHS Trust (Reading), discusses everything women need to know about their SUI ahead of running the London Marathon:


1. You aren’t not alone – Last year more than 40,000 people took part in the London Marathon and with 30% of women being affected by SUI, it is safe to say that you won’t be the only person suffering on the day. The running community is very supportive and understand that all fun runs, especially a marathon, are incredibly physical; literally blood, sweat and tears (and in many cases, leaks).


2. Don’t let yourself get dehydrated – Most runners with SUI instinctively try drinking less water to prevent the need to go to the toilet. However, dehydration concentrates your urine, irritating the sensitive lining of your bladder and sugary sports drinks can worsen the problem. Water regulates your body’s temperature and helps transport nutrients to give you energy and keep you healthy. If you’re not hydrated, your body can’t perform at its highest level. Alternatively, while drinking water when running is important, drinking every 10 to 20 minutes is enough to hydrate your body. Too much water will fill your bladder quickly, resulting in a sudden need to urinate.


3. Make sure you include pelvic floor exercises in your regime – Exercising the pelvic floor muscles will improve incontinence in the majority of those who do them consistently and correctly. Isolating the correct muscle is difficult for some, especially if the muscles have become very weak. Having an exercise plan and sticking to it makes a difference in results. Exercise aides are now widely available to purchase and can assist with doing these exercises effectively.


4. Make sure you know where the toilets are located on the route – If you are worried about needing the toilet during the London Marathon, it is a good idea to know where the toilets are located, so you can relieve yourself if necessary. Toilets are available at all the start points, at mile one then every two miles along the course up to and including 24 miles.


5. Speak to your GP about the treatment options that can stop leaking altogether – Bulking agents are a minimally invasive treatment (which means no cutting of the patient’s tissue or skin) and are a safe and effective option which has been used for over 10 years across the NHS. In my clinic, we use Bulkamid® a water-based gel that helps the bladder neck to close when needed to help prevent bladder leaks and has an 80% success rate when used as a first-line treatment.


Many of my patients have been surprised by how quickly they are able to return to their normal routines following bladder bulking treatment and see an instant end to leaks when partaking in exercise, sneezing or even bouncing up and down on a trampoline with their kids. After this form of surgery, women may return to running within 72hrs.


Good luck on Sunday!


1. Fieldwork for the survey, commissioned by Contura, took place 1st – 4th December 2017, among 2,000 women, aged 18+

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