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Running with UTI

For Christmas I got a great gift… well, it was actually one of those gifts that you get the day before Christmas.  No, not new pajamas…. On Christmas Eve morning I woke up with a horrible burning sensation while peeing and an off smell.  (not an asparagus pee smell.)  Walking from room to room kind of hurt and the urge to go was pretty constant.

cranberries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yep… a Urinary Tract Infection.

I was upset since I had planned on a long run.  For a brief moment I thought to myself, “I can still do this.”  But then as I realized that even just walking down the stairs was kind of painful, I began to rethink running.  So instead I started Googling.

I found plenty of posts in forums from gals who had UTIs in the past and mentioned that they were nearly impossible to just run through.

I also found an interesting article on Running Times about running through illness and it specifically mentioned UTI.

“Premature return to the roads for hard workouts could lead to relapse because of the stress of dehydration on the kidneys,” says Dr. Santoro. He suggests starting back to running with only easy workouts for the first week or so, paying strict attention to fluid intake, and perhaps adding cranberry juice—shown in some studies to reduce recurrence of UTI’s— to the diet.

There was plenty of info on natural cures… but it all seemed to range from crazy herbs that you would have to order online to drinking salt water to the ever popular cranberry.  However, most of them acknowledge that these weren’t actually “cures” most of the time… most of the time you need antibiotics.

Given that it was Christmas Eve on a weekend, I didn’t have a doctor to run right to for this… so I went to Walgreens and did the best I could.  I picked up cranberry pills and a generic version of Azo urinary pain relief pills.  The pain relief pills did help with the pain and the constant urge.  It also makes you pee a horrific shade of orangey-red.  Truly terrifying to see that!

But it got me through a couple of days… and by the 26th I thought I was feeling mostly better.  But that whole night I was awake with pain and when I woke up and tried to attempt a run, it wasn’t happening. I succumbed and called the doctor.  Plus all that Googling had filled me with horror stories of people who left UTIs untreated and it went into their kidneys and they ended up hospitalized.  Yikes!  And while the OTC product seems to provide some relief, all it does is mask the problem leaving the infection there to rage in peace.

I was prescribed Macrobid, or the generic Nitrofurantoin.  Antibiotics scared me because I read online that there is a whole family of antibiotics (fluoroquinolone) that can weaken tendons, causing them to rupture more easily.  Which is bad in general, but especially for runners.  Mine isn’t part of that family.

I’m supposed to be on the drugs for 5 days.  The only real warnings for running while on antibiotics that I’ve found come from the fluoroquinolone warnings.  Granted, your illness that is being treated can make running more difficult… which was very evident in this case for me!

Some of the advice that should be in play for all runners all the time applies in this situation: HYDRATE.

There are some other tips that my doctor gave me for getting over this (and for preventing future occurrences)

  • urinate before and after intercourse
  • wipe front to back
  • increase water consumption
  • don’t hold it!
  • take acetaminophen for the pain

So if you are a runner who wakes up with a burning sensation, don’t just assume you can run through it… you need to take care of it!  Don’t put off treatment because you are afraid your doctor may tell you to stop running due to it.  With proper treatment, you should be back to comfortably running shortly.  If it becomes a recurring issue for you, from what I understand there are earlier symptoms you may start to recognize so you can try the natural methods.  Or maybe your doctor will just send in a prescription for you without requiring an office visit each time.

But take care of yourself… and definitely don’t try to run a race with it… 2.5 miles around the neighborhood was agony for me!


  1. Abby says:

    Oh girl, i know what you’re talking about. I struggled with one for almost an entire month not too long ago. i didn’t blog about it, but it definitely affected my running and I just couldn’t get rid of it! Even WITH antibiotics. It’s gone now… I hope! Gah! They are awful!

    • Jill says:

      I’m sooooo sorry you had one too! It’s definitely one of the most uncomfortable issues, I feel for anyone with one now that I’ve experienced this!

  2. Emilie says:

    Thanks for the info! It never would have occurred to me that running could further irritate a UTI, but it makes so much sense. I hope you’re feeling better now? I’ve usually found that I feel better within a day once I’ve started antibiotics.

    I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have a UTI for a month, ugh!

  3. Nikole Hahn says:

    I had one seven miles from the finish of a 26 mile marathon! Wish I had known about cranberry pills. obviously, on a run, can’t drink cranberry juice. It was exceedingly hot that day too; an early heat wave out in the open desert. I only get UTI’s when it’s really, really hot. So this helps. I hope I don’t get another UTI, but that last seven miles and hours after that were quite painful. They do go away for me by nightfall, but wow! It always happens when it’s really hot. So I think it is connected to hydration. I plan for the next marathon to include lots of cranberry juice in my training, including cranberry pills to keep on hand.

  4. Kate says:

    I had a UTI that went from relatively minor to excruciating within hours on Christmas Eve last year. Luckily, we have a 24 hour urgent care, so I was able to get antibiotics. I just got another one last night (at 3am, of course) and went straight to urgent care again because I wasn’t going to relive my experience last time. If you think you’re getting one, go to the doctor ASAP!! They can get extremely painful very quickly – once they get to that point all the over counter drugs in the world won’t help. My doctor gave me all the same tips you have – I’ve been slacking on drinking water so I think that may have had something to do with my current issue.

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