Thursday, April 23, 2009

In the Running

Well, ladies and gents, since Marathon Monday took place in Boston this week (Monday, April 20th), let’s talk about porta-potties. In case you didn’t know, the Boston Marathon is the oldest annual Marathon in the U.S., first held on Patriots’ Day, April 19th, 1897. It begins in Hopkinton, a small, residential town outside of Boston, and runners make the 26.2-mile haul into the city from there.

Porta potties are a big deal on race day. Radio producer Ian Chillag ran the race last year and checked in with NPR's Bryant Park Project from Hopkinton before he set off on the long run, and what did they discuss? Porta Potties.

Chillag: “Urine is actually a really huge part of Marathoning.”
BPP: “It's twenty-six miles of urine.”

Their words, not mine.

The original Marathon runner, Pheidippides, what did he do? When he ran to Athens to announce the victory of the Greeks over Persia, did he stop to take a piss? We’ll never know.

Clearly, Mr. P did not have rest stops with tables of people handing him little paper cups or bottles of water. That would have been too easy. And you can forget glucose-infused gels that taste of chocolate (a very weird experience). No. He ran and ran, delivered his message, and then he died. So the story goes.

A statue of the original Marathon runner, at the Louvre, collapsing at the end of his race, message in hand. I don't know who those people are in the back. Obviously, they think Pheidippides is hot.

These days, people try to keep Marathon runners living after the fact. And it helps to take care of bodily functions along the way. Of course, Marathon runners have been known to expel all kinds of things while running the race. Sometimes there is just no time to stop. And when you’re pushing you body that hard, well, maybe you lose some level of control. But by that point, it probably doesn’t even matter.

A friend of mine ran the Boston Marathon in 2005, and she described to me the corral feeling of waiting at the starting line - they actually call them "corrals" - being packed in one place with thousands of other people, and needing desperately to use a rest room at exactly the same time as everyone else. And that's just at the beginning.

I ran the San Francisco Marathon last August. My time was nowhere near the winner of the women’s race in Boston this year, who came in at 2:32:16. But I did get somewhat close to my goal, and, bottom line, I finished the race - without having to stop once for the porta-potties. That was probably my biggest goal right there.

I did have to use one before the race. But a nice person let me skip the huge line, however, since it was approximately 2 minutes before my scheduled departure time (of 5:45 a.m., mind you). I made it to the starting gate just as they were calling my start group.

The Boston Globe reported that the 2007 Boston Marathon had 600 porta-potties on the course. I'm thinking: Only 600? That doesn't sound like enough. But that's a fair amount. And I hate to think what clean-up is like, but my guess is it not as bad as if there were no porta-potties. Thank goodness for waste management engineers.

Photo Credit, top: Ian Chillag, NPR

1 comment:

Porta Toilets Potties said...

"26 miles of urine"

lol...that is classic.