I run a fair share of 5K and 10K races around town, and most of them are organized quite well.
Water stops are well-provisioned, there’s good food at the end (the one I did today had pizza and chocolate milk), the course is accurately measured, the event starts on time and the T-shirts are nice.
But there’s one constant that’s difficult to avoid. It’s the Port-A-John. That’s right, the blue box, the rank rectangle, the stink station.
Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for the fact that they are provided by race organizers. There was one race I did a few months back, where a mere four of them were offered for 400 runners. Four hundred female runners, that is. It was a women-only race. That kind of math did not go over well, and other means of relief were sought. By that I mean two gas stations near the starting line were overwhelmed and inundated by begging runners. Not complying with their pleas was pretty much out of the question.
But for the most part, there are enough provided. And if you avail yourself early, they are certainly clean and presentable. But it’s strange how the mob mentality takes over in a short period of time, and people treat them in no way resembling the way they would treat their bathroom at home. How bad does it get? Forget the idea of a nice little post-usage wipe-down. Let’s just say that the only thing these need when it’s all done is a serious blast hosing with detergent and disinfectant.
It’s always nice to find a race at a local park, with “real” restrooms. Not that these cannot go down the “Dang, that smell makes my eyes water” way in a hurry, especially in the warmer months, but at least most of these have sinks and soap and sometimes even hand dryers. Note to road race newbies: if your squeamish or scared of germs, brings wipes.
So in the end, all runners and cyclists hail the presence of the portable potty. We may say we hate to use them, we open the door to enter them as if we are entering the home of an aunt we hate, and the faces we make as we exit tell those in line, “It ain’t smellin’ like lilacs and roses in there.” But thanks to thoughtful race directors and technology we have them, for better, for worse and for that last-minute dash known as “racing stomach.”