An excellent question that’s been put to me a few times recently by Dublin Marathon first-timers – what happens if you need to use a toilet during the race?
Last year’s marathon had portaloos at the start and finish, and along the route beside the water stations every 3 miles (or 5 kilometres). So, the facilities are there – but you’ll have to expect a queue. In extreme circumstances, perhaps some kindly pub or restaurant owner won’t mind if runners dash in to the premises for a quick powder of the nose.
Of course, for many men the whole world is their toilet, be it bush or doorway or simply the side of the road. This blog does not condone or encourage such al fresco activities. But please be civic-minded and be discreet with your excretions – and that goes for whatever vomit or spittle or mucus you wish to expel.
One way of addressing your marathon toilet concerns is to reduce the need to go while you’re on the go. Like charity, this begins at home.
Have your breakfast three hours before the race start – and yes, that means 6:00 in the morning – so that it’s digested before you run. If you eat before your long runs then you should have a fair idea what works for you or what sends you scurrying to the bushes. On marathon mornings I avoid high-fibre foods such as brown bread and bran, and I also skip caffeine. My breakfast will be porridge with honey, a banana and perhaps a bagel. If you’ve had a good, hearty carb-loading meal the night before, then a small breakfast should do you.
Importantly, and as delicately as I can put it, try to empty the bowels before the marathon – preferably before you leave the house rather than queuing in panic for a portaloo five minutes before the race. During your carb-loading on Friday to Sunday try to include some fibre, fruit and vegetables so that you’re not feeling constipated and bloated on the morning of the race.
You don’t need to drink excessive amounts of water before the race – just a little to make sure that you’re not thirsty. Similarly, one bottle from each water station should be plenty, as Dublin in October won’t be swelteringly hot. The water you’ve drunk during your carb-loading will have kept you hydrated, and the water you take on along the marathon route will see you through the race.
If you have an accident while running, you can take some consolation in the fact that you’re not the first or only one. Indeed, one famous Irish athlete of recent times had a quick dose of the runs while running in for a famous victory – and hid any post-race embarrassment by using a sponsor’s banner to cover the lower body.
So, we can take all necessary precautions but the call of nature rules: when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go – even when you’re on the go!