Marathon toilet etiquette

Another month, another marathon. The ZMan is now 4 weeks and 26.2 miles away from being a marathon maniac (bronze level only).

On Sunday, still full of Turkey and beer I did my 2nd of 3 marathons in 3 months right here at home in Seattle. I've done the Seattle half and the full before so its getting to the point where I know the course pretty well. This year was a little unusual in that I had no intention of going fast or trying to get a PR. In fact I was purposely running easy and giving some moral support to some team mates and hopefully helping them get a PR and/or break 5 hours. I have another marathon in 4 weeks and there is no injury maniac club for me to join.

The weather was surprisingly warm - maybe even in the 50s but it was very misty and the mist never cleared through the whole race - so I was able to start the race in shorts and a short sleeved shirt with no hat or gloves required. We arrived plenty early to see off the 6 half marathon runners from our team and then the crowds thinned out - Seattle is a bit hilly and apparently that keeps the numbers down for the full. I headed off to the porta-potties where of course there were lines so I got to observe how marathon runners apparently either can't do math or, like the general population, just think they are more important and entitled than anyone else.

Lets assume there are 9 portapotties. Its too crowded to have a line for each one so lines appear every 2 or 3 and here lies the problem. There is no standard for how many potties each line covers and so people assume whatever is to their advantage. So when one becomes free that isn't directly in front of a line people from adjacent lines dash forward trying to add that stall to their lines 'group'. The weak lines get pushed down to a single stall and the more powerful ones end up with 3 or 4. Of course you can't tell this when you stand in line and even worse by the time you get to the front its probably changed. I'd like to thank the guy behind me who took my hint as I slowly moved our line across to reclaim an additional bathroom after the line to our left somehow claimed 5 stalls leaving us with just one on the end. My particular favourites are the folk who seeing 20 lines for 50 bathrooms find the biggest gap between the lines and start up a line between them, thereby avoiding the need to stand in line at all. As a good friend of mine suggested yesterday "tip it over with the door down and see how they feel"! But more on bathrooms later.....

So 8:15am M, C and I head off for a nice slow 12 minute mile. We started from the back because there's no point in fighting the crowds and we didn't want to be dragged along off our pace. M is on his 1st marathon too. 1st water stop is out of cups - they have plenty of water and Gatorade so we drink from the jugs (so far no diseases that I can see) and carry on. Up onto the freeway HOV lanes, under the tunnel and out onto the lake. We are all wearing GPS watches which get totally confused by the tunnel and we are on rough estimates for pace. The lake is very cool because the mist means you can't see anything. The bridge disappears into the fog and runners (yes the fast ones are already on the way back) are popping out of it. We are right on our planned pace and everyone is moving well. On the way back we see the back markers who are being followed at a crawl by 2 police cruisers and the sweeper car. The cops have their flashing lights on full for some reason. The roads are closed for at least another hour so the only purpose it seems is to harass the lady at the back into speeding up. Not cool if you ask me.

I can feel the need for a bathroom break and Seattle always has then at each mile and the upcoming one seems like it has no line so I run ahead and just as I get there a guy nips in in front of me. No worries eh? Guys are usually fast in the bathroom? Not this guy.... I stand there for several minutes... C&M run past waving and then I wait a few more. Should I knock? Should I run to the next one? C&M are fading into the distance and I see M looking over his shoulder. Finally out he comes and I do what I need to do in seconds. Now I have to catch up - it takes me a good half a mile and I'm breathing pretty heavy. Apparently they were wondering where I was when they hear someone yell "go andy" - Yes I'm wearing my shirt with my name on it again and it works its magic for most of the course. As always its the woo-girls and the people with kids who call my name. Though this year the frat boy types manning the mile markers seem to have fun yelling at me through their megaphones too. M&C seem to enjoy the extra attention we get. Later in the race we would get "Go Andy and Andy's friend"!

Before we know it we are down at the half way mark. Our goal was 2:30 at this point and we hit it at 2:29:32 according to my watch - that's pretty spot on if you ask me. Seattle has a hard 2nd half but the plan is to do the 2nd half a little faster and break 5 hours well as long as the legs and the hills don't have other ideas.

Round about mile 15/16 we leave M. He is on a slightly slower race plan than us. He's not going to be too far behind but since its his first he is going to take it a little bit slower. I notice about this point that the jovial man chit-chat has slowed quite a lot - its a pretty common place to be noticing that your legs are more tired that you hoped. C and I keep going at somewhere around 10:50 pace I think and then the hills start. They are small ones at first but on tired legs they seem bigger. C is more tired than he wanted to be so we slow down a bit. Coach N and assistant coach/baby daddy J are just before the 1st nasty hill to cheer us on. The water stops seem very close together here and we actually skip one when C tells me that its only been 8 minutes since the last one. We walk the 1st very steep part and the jog up to the waterstop at the top. C takes his merry time eating his Gu on the way down the other side and I realise we need to run because I know J and the cowbell team will be at the bottom and we will never hear the last of it if they see us walking DOWNhill. Thankfully due to the mist they don't see us until we are running again. Just 5 miles to go here and though we've slowed we might still make 5 hours.

The final climb up to mile 23 is slower than we need and there is just not enough Lycra in the world to drag us up there faster. At the top is the guy with the Crispy Creme's again... I LOVE that guy. Poor C is allergic to wheat so I eat extra for him. I'm pretty sure 5 hours is out of the question now but we can still get a PR for C with a bit of work. C tries to send me on but I'm a big Top Gun fan and I know you never leave your wingman. There's one uphill to cross the freeway then its half a mile downhill then mostly flat to the finish line. The downhill gives us a bit of a second wind and I pick it up for the final mile hoping that C can follow and he does. We skip the final water stop and drop down under I-99 - the short climb the other side is a cruel end to the race but I 'encourage' C and we run the whole way up. Now its flat into the stadium and the PR is in the bag.... there's the cowbell crew with my finish line donuts and 5:04 and the medal. We ran 10:47 pace for the last 1.5 miles and 10:06 pace for the last half mile. M is not far behind and broke 5:10. Interestingly enough even though we were slower than the plan for the 2nd half we still passed far more people than passed us after the half way point - I guess there are lots of people who just go out too fast.

I have decided 5 hour pace is a very nice pace to run. You still feel tired at the same spots as usual but never got that feeling of 'Oh man I have to stop here'.  Even better at the finish I still felt like I could have kept going and probably have beaten my 50k pace from earlier this year. 2 days later I have some stiff places if I sit still for too long but on the whole I'm feeling really good and not worried about doing it all again in 4 weeks time. Now I'm wondering how much is left in my legs and if I can get a PR before the year is out!

And to summarize the toilet etiquette:

  1. One line for 3 portapotties - no more no less
  2. Do not extend your line to your neighbours portapotties
  3. Do not make a new line when there are obviously perfectly good lines to stand in
  4. If there's only one bathroom then poop over the side of the bridge and don't hold up important looking runners with their name on their shirt. (I should have just gone over the side of the bridge - how many people can say they peed from the HOV lane on I90?)


Published 02 December 2008 09:26 AM by zman
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