My karmic potty break

Potty copyEvery runner I know has a story about an indelicate moment involving bodily functions. This is mine.

It’s not too terribly gross. Safe enough if you happen to be reading this at work – unless you spit coffee on your laptop minutes before you were supposed to forward some report, and then you’ll be mad at me for blowing your cover as a slacker.

You absolutely may not pin your slackerliness on me.

But if that’s not a problem, read on.

It was raining this weekend when Mike and I set out for our latest half marathon. This one was through wine country on weaving country roads. We had a hard time finding the starting line.

The few other times Mike and I had tried to make our way out to this winery, we’d taken wrong turns and ended up lost in wide open space where they pin down the scenery with a house every couple of miles or so. Those other forays were before GPS. This time we thought we were good.

Except Mike doesn’t take our GPS seriously when she says: “in a quarter of a mile … right turn.”

And then: “right turn.”

And then: “bing, bing.”

Mike didn’t turn.

“What are you doing?” I said.

“When are we supposed to turn?” He said. So, mine is not the only female voice in the car that gets ignored.

The fact that we were a little bit late was my fault. My biggest fear on these early morning events is that I won’t have enough time to let … internal systems do their thing before I have to hit the road. This will result in intense lower abdominal discomfort somewhere directly in between the two aid stations located furthest apart on the course.

Last summer we did the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Seattle, which is probably the biggest event I’ve ever run. We were staying with friends about forty minutes away and had to be downtown early, which means I was up somewhere around 4:30, eating oatmeal and drinking coffee and trying to will my stomach to relax.

I never know for sure what my body is telling me on race day, since my head is usually louder, telling me running is stupid, that I’ve undertrained, and that it was probably a mistake to rationalize drinking beer as carbo-loading the night before.

Meanwhile, I’m telling my head to stop being so mean, that I trained just fine, thank you, and if I needed to, I could walk 13 miles and still finish before they pack up. They won’t really close everything down before I’m done.

I know this. From experience.

So … Seattle. With nearly 20,000 runners in this event, they cordoned us into groups based on running pace. Each group would start in increments 5 minutes apart. There would be about 50 different start times over the course of several hours. Mike and the other guys in our group were with the faster runners up front.

I was somewhere near the coast.

By the time I started, my friends were nearing the finish line, and would be waiting for me in sweaty clothes for a good couple hours. Unfortunately, my stomach was protesting about being out of our routine and I ended up personal friends with nearly every porta-john along the route, on which I was following about 19,000 other runners. This made for an even longer wait for my friends and a less than optimal experience for me.

I’ve spent a good portion of my time as a mom of boys cleaning up icky messes that aren’t mine. It comes with the territory. But I have yet to get over my issues with bathrooms. In every nightmare there is a dirty toilet, or two. Using one of those portable things, unless I’m the very first one to do so ever, is on my list of top ten things I would prefer to do a little less than gouging my eyeballs out with a fork. So, the Seattle scene was pretty much no bueno.

Fast forward to our run through wine country. With far fewer people participating, I had a reasonable expectation of clean(er) facilities than the ones in Seattle, and I had to pee. I thought it safe to duck into porta-john and get rid of whatever hadn’t already leaked out and run down my leg.

At the aid station at mile 7.5 there was one: a gray monolith right behind the gal doling out little cups of Gatorade. No line.

I entered and locked the door. I balanced my phone and my water bottle on the hand sanitizer dispenser and adjusted the shirt I’d wrapped around my waist so I didn’t end up peeing on it, and hovered.

I’m no hydraulics expert, but while I can’t see what’s going on down there, I usually have a pretty good expectation of hitting a ten-inch diameter hole from an inch away. But pee was hitting the back of my legs and running down the front of the seat. I adjusted my stance and tried again. And then again. Dammit.

I guess it would have helped if I’d lifted the lid.

I was confessing to Mike in the car afterward when we both agreed there must be a kind of pee karma for parents of boys. I’ve cleaned pee off places from which I would never have imagined pee needed to be cleaned. I still have to hold my nose and avert my eyes when, out of desperation and a desire to keep this place from becoming a biohazard, I muck out the kids’ bathroom for them.

We would just chalk this episode up as one of the few times someone had to deal with my poor aim.

“You know what?” Mike said. “When the kids move out, you should go visit their houses and just pee all over, just to settle the score.”

He always knows the right thing to say in situations like these.



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 photo by Rusty Clark


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  1. I knew there was a good reason why I am not a runner. It must be this (because it can\’t be that I have no endurance and don\’t like it).
    We call them porta-potties where I live.
    I\’m amazed no one has died yet from the diseases I just know are brewing in those things. I\’ve been know to pass right by them in order to take my daughter to pee in the woods rather than submit her to even breathing the air in a porta-potty. It creeps me out.

    1. I have been known to by-pass the porta-potties (we use that term here sometimes too) in favor of peeing in even semi-public places, I hate them so much. So I\’m right there with you. Should have done that this time.

  2. too funny. I drive around my neighbourhood going \” oh yeah, I have peed under that tree, oh and squatted under that bush at 5:30 in the morning during my morning runs years ago…..Probably why I don\’t run anymore…..Now I swim so I am only minutes from a bathroom, (and hey, if I am in the ocean, all bets are off).

    1. Haha, yes, a runner\’s map. We know all of the places along our normal routes where there are clean restrooms, or at least a decent amount of shrubbery in case of emergency.

  3. Oh I\’ve definitely heard my fair share of running potty stories, lol! I loved your story! Sadly, it sounds like something I would do. I also LOVE your husband\’s comment about peeing at your kid\’s houses to settle the score. LOVE IT!

    1. Thanks Melanie!

      I am nowhere near your normal running pace judging by your latest post. You\’d be up at the front of the pack and probably more likely to have the clean bathrooms at your disposal, but I guess all of us eventually have a colorful story to tell about bathrooms.

    1. Probably. If I have a dream about dirty toilets and algebra simultaneously, I KNOW I\’m dealing with some serious anxiety. Or else I\’ve time traveled back to college.

  4. I have a running pee story, but it involves being post partum and having not yet lost my baby weight, and chasing an errant child. It\’s not pretty, totally embarrassing, and kind of hilarious.

    I like yours. I\’m glad I\”m not the only person who does kind of thing.