“I went to the other side of the road where there were less people and though in shock, I just wanted to get away from there….’There’s a guy here,’ [Bill] said, ‘who’s got a car and can get you to the medical staff at the stadium.’ ‘I can’t do that,’ I said, ‘because I’ve been to the toilet in my shorts and it’s somebody’s car. I can’t do that.’ Excerpted from Paula, My Story So Far by Paula Radcliffe.
That was during the 2004 Olympic Marathon in Athens, which ended in disaster for Paula when she had to drop out mid-race due to illness and exhaustion. A year later, At the 2005 London Marathon, Paula famously relieved herself by the side of the road, much to the shock and horror of people watching the race – both live and on TV. She went on to win the race.
There are two groups of athletes: those who have “been to the toilet” in their shorts and those who haven’t. Those of us in the “have” category have learned that it really is no big deal. Do you really want to waste time in the porta-potty (or behind a tree, rock, bush, bystander) during a race? Those are valuable seconds or even minutes…
The trick is learning how to pee while running. (I’m going to keep this family-friendly by not venturing into a poop discussion, but you can read all about that in the ESPN article It happens. Anyway, pooping in the shorts is usually involuntary.) This can take some practice. And for those of you who are worried about the people around you, let me tell you that hardly anyone notices. And if they do, they’re too in awe to say anything. “Wow, he/she can pee while running!” is what they’re likely thinking. Well, that’s what I tell myself, anyway.
Several years ago, during the Frederick Half Marathon, I found myself needing to pee early on in the race. Not having learned the art of peeing while running back then, I scanned the area for a tree, bush, trash can, anything to duck behind. Unfortunately we were running through downtown Frederick and there weren’t many options. And the few options that did present themselves were located right next to spectators with small children. Not being sure how they – or their parents – would react, I decided it was best not to find out. Fortunately I finally spotted a porta-potty. Unfortunately it was occupied. So I waited. Precious seconds ticked away while I stood outside the door. As soon as I got in and locked the door, someone started knocking on it! Talk about anxious runners!
Anyway, the point is that no matter how fast I was, this break cost precious time that I’d rather not give up in a race. So I learned to pee while running. Other places I learned to pee are in a wetsuit, sitting on the grass before a race (preferably triathlon, since it starts with the swim so you’re getting wet anyway) and during transition. Yeah, you thought that was just pool water, didn’t you? I bet some of you are making a mental note never to sit next to me on the ride home, aren’t you? Never fear, I (usually) change clothes.
So next time you’re standing in an endless porta-potting line, think about all that precious time you could be saving if you could just pee in your shorts.
Grossed out? Hey, what’s good enough for the world’s fastest female marathoner is good enough for me.