The “gentle puff”, it’s easy to get away with this one by ignoring it or just blaming someone else. The “slow release” is a dangerous one to manage – it takes control to slowly open the valve and let it out slowly and there is always the risk blowing your cover by letting a little “squeaker” escape. The “involuntary toot” comes from nowhere and takes you by surprise. The “classic” is just quick, loud and unashamed. But my preferred one is the “conveyer belt” reducing a bigger one to a compilation of smaller ones and letting them go with the bounce of each stride. The jarring nature of running makes flatulence during training and races a certainty; it provides endless opportunities for embarrassment. We all know gas builds up in the body when we swallow air while eating but gas is also produced when digesting foods (which produces hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane). The reason the gas comes out so abruptly and frequently while running is that running can speed up the digestion process. Combine that with the pounding of your feet, and you get the increase in fart frequency. Plus, it’s pretty tough to hold them in while running. So yes I fart when running, everyone does, but luckily I am usually running away from it. More disturbingly I have entered others fart zones when out on a run and it’s really not pleasant. However, reassuringly a microbiologist in Canberra has revealed that clothing acts as a filter and prevents the release of any harmful bacteria with flatus. So provided you’re not running behind a naked rear, passing through a fart zone is unpleasant but safe (2001).
Flatulence during running is a real problem for some, trust me I run with a few of them. There tends to be two causes of farts whilst running – swallowing too much air or the production of gas in the gut during digestion. And it is possible to determine whether the cause of farting is swallowing too much air or from production in the gut. It turns out that the gas composition will tell you the gas’s source: too much nitrogen means too much air is swallowed, while carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrogen tend to be found with gut-produced gas(Levitt et al., 1998). But how does a fart in social context of running affect other runner’s views of the farter? By observation, I have noticed that males tend to react differently to the sound of a fart. It seems that men are more likely to laugh whereas women are more likely to show signs of disgust. There may well be some evolutionary basis for this. The sex differences were a little surprising. It turns out that women are more forgiving of loud, accidental farts (the kind that happen in “hot” yoga). Sound matters more than smell in terms of politeness, apparently. However, while people may not think you’re polite, they will think your loud farts are funny, with people who fart loudly being considered more humorous (Lippman, 1980). There is some suggestion that women who fart are judged more negatively than men who fart. However, most probably this varies depending on context, who farts, and who recognises the farting….. so chose your audience if you can!
(2001). Hot air? BMJ : British Medical Journal 323, 1449-1449.
Levitt MD, Furne J, Aeolus MR & Suarez FL. (1998). Evaluation of an extremely flatulent patient: case report and proposed diagnostic and therapeutic approach. Am J Gastroenterol 93, 2276-2281.
Lippman, LG. “Toward a social psychology of flatulence: The interpersonal regulation of natural gas”. Psychology: a Quarterly Journal of Human Behavior, 1980