Wednesday, December 30, 2009

When Nature Calls...

When I ran xc/track in college I had the same routine, which always had to include at least 71 (ok, maybe 3) stops to the porta potties.  I will always recall the race in which I was literally running to starting line after hearing “one minute to race time” as I closed the door.

Since then, I’ve always taken note of the massive amounts of runners at the potta potties and always find myself asking questions.  So today, I am finally ready to confess my questions and have even did some research (thanks Google) to find a couple answers...

1. Why don’t running companies brand the porta potties with signs (not permanent of course)? This would be a great way to advertise your company since so many runners are staring at the awful greenish blue color for minutes on end. If anyone wants to go into business with me and start designing such signs hit me up (@iamconrad).  Being the Co-Race Director for a 5k, I think it’s about time I start placing flyers next to the porta potties at other races. At least we would have something to look at as we wait in line.

2. So how does a Race Director figure out how many to place for us? I always feel like we could use a little more porta potty love. Thanks to the Boston Marathon Race Director, Dave McGillivray, I have the answers....

Traditionally, we have always used a 1:100 ratio -- one porta potty for every 100 runners.  However, now that 50% or more of participants are female, that ratio needs to change... more like 1:75 or even 1:50.  Then the question becomes, Do you have enough space to place all these units and place them in the best possible location, that is, as close to the starting line as possible?”

3.  Why do spectators always have the urge to use them 4 mins before the race?  Listen lame spectator, we are about to run a 1/2 Marathon, I think you can wait the extra few mins.  How about you go over there and take another 12 photos of the starting line? Thanks, Ryan. There are just some things in life I will never understand.

4. Is it ok to strike up a conversation with others while we wait in the endless line?? I’ve always felt like it’s kind of weird, but I was so close to saying something to the cute girl at the Rock N Roll 1/2 Marathon last year in Virginia Beach.  Obviously, you guys don’t know me, but I’m a sucker for cute girls, especially runners. Hey, maybe it’s worth it?...Sure would make for an interesting story at the wedding.

5. I also want to start going to races and hustle hand sanitizer and TP near the bathrooms. I really feel like we could score a killer ROI...seems like a booming business.  Who’s in??

BIG shout out to Brooks...Check out this link about Brooks’ VIP Bathroom at the Marine Corp Marathon. Stellar idea.  


  1. Nice! Other etiquette questions: Is it okay to open the door of a porta potty if it wasn't locked by the occupant? Is that REALLY my fault? Is it okay for the occupant of a porta potty to wave his/her hand out the door in search of toilet paper? Ethically, should we help that person out? So many burning questions...loved your post! I just read a post about the various layouts of porta potties at different races, I never really thought it mattered but now...I do!

  2. #4 - Yes, I think it's great to strike up conversations in portapotty lines. I've traveled and managed to meet someone also traveling from my area in the portapotty line! Sociailizing is part of the race day experience.

    Good write-up. As a race director, I go with the 1:75 ratio most of the time. Realize that for a 4000 person half marathon, it's not unusual to have about 100 portapotties between those at the start/finish/race site and throughout the course. Yowza - that's a lot of portapotties!

  3. Meg- Love your questions...we think the same. I def think it's ok to give the wave...I saw it happen like crazy at the Richmond Marathon.

    Libby- Thanks for giving the confidence to chat it up in line :) Good to hear your ratio..which race are your director for? Maybe, I'll check it out one day!

    Btw, do you guys have twitter? Love to follow other runners. I might be following you already and just didnt realize (so please dont hate on me).