Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) is a very common condition, affecting an estimated 30% of women worldwide. The condition can have a significant impact on daily life affecting relationships, emotional well-being and physical activity – and for hundreds of women gearing up for the Autumn 2018 “fun run season”, worrying about sudden leaks can put a real damper on their training schedule.

A recent survey1, commissioned by Contura, 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. More than a fifth (22%) said the final “tipping point” for seeking help was experiencing leakage whilst running for a bus, whilst 16% said it was the moment their partner pointed out a wet patch.

Yet, for keen runners suffering in silence with SUI, running anything from a 10k to a full marathon can become a daunting experience, creating real anxieties about “leaking” en-route.

As a result, many women feel so embarrassed about the condition they avoid exercise altogether. However, women should also remember that as many as 45% of elite athletes, including runners and triathletes, experience SUI during sporting activity – so you are not alone.

So, with the UK’s biggest half marathon, the Great North Run, coming up (September 9) and around 80 official runs scheduled between now and December, what better time to take positive action?

Mr Steve Foley, Consultant Urologist at the Royal Berkshire NHS Trust (Reading), discusses everything women need to know about SUI ahead of running a 10k, half marathon or the full 26.2 miles:


  1. You’re not the only person suffering with SUI – 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 – or during training. The running community is very supportive and understand that the marathon is incredibly physical, literally blood, sweat and tears!


  1. 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. Waterregulates your body temperature and helps transport nutrients to give you energy and keep you 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.


  1. Speak to your GP to discuss treatment options – don’t be afraid to seek professional advice, surgical procedures can now be minimally invasive and stop leaking altogether. There are a range of treatments available for SUI and speaking to your GP can help you find the best one for you. Many of my patients have been surprised at how quickly they are able to return to their normal routines, reporting no further leaks when exercising, sneezing and even bouncing on a trampoline with their kids. After minimally invasive surgery, a woman can normally return to running within 72hrs.


  1. 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 can assist with doing these exercises correctly.


  1. And finally, check out where the toilets are located on the route – If you are still worried about needing the toilet during your race, 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 starts, and usually along the route. If you can’t find this information on the race website, then check with the even organisers before you start.

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