For those of you who have never run an organized road race, I feel I must explain the porta-potty situation. That last observance of nature’s call is an essential part of every runner’s pre-race ritual. Though race starts are never far from a veritable wall of porta-potties, wait times range from ten to thirty minutes. After their first visit to the porta-potty, many runners get right back in line, knowing that they’ll need to go again by the time the wait is over. Properly timed, this strategy can rid a runner of most ballast before the starting gun fires.
You may have guessed why I bring this up. I ran the ING Philadelphia Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon this weekend, and I would have posted a time I was pretty proud of, except for the three minute bathroom break that came, urgent and unwelcome, around the five mile mark.
In the weeks prior to the race, I’d been getting my weight down to improve my speed. I went from 206 pounds in mid-August to a little more than 194 on the Thursday before the race. Then Liz arrived Friday, and we went for drinks and bar food. The next day we carb-loaded, and I took that a bit far. By 10 PM on Saturday night, less than 12 hours prior to our start, I was back at 204. A lot of that, of course, was just the mass of food in my digestive tract. You can see where this is going.
The good news is that most races place porta-potties along the route as well, so there was one there when I needed it – and, to be slightly vulgar (as if this whole post hasn’t already been slightly vulgar) I felt a lot faster after the break. I wound up posting an official time of 1:59:24, still a respectable time and good enough to finish in the top third of racers. According to my Garmin, which I stopped during my break, I ran a 1:56:10.
Still, it could have been worse. When Liz watched the 2010 New York City Marathon, she thought one of the runners was bleeding profusely – until she realized the liquid staining his legs was brown, not red. Full credit to that guy, though: he was still running. No bathroom break was going to hurt his finish.