Friday, June 22, 2012

Down the toilet

Running has done a lot for me; it's taken me to the Gold Coast of Australia in the wintertime, it's made some of my toenails turn black and fall off, and it's given me a wardrobe that's almost exclusively sweat-wicking polyester with reflective logos. But terrible as those things might be, they are nothing compared to the abject fear of toilets that running has instilled in me.

Before a race, going to the toilet means joining a queue of people who stink of embrocation, all hopping from foot to foot and adjusting themselves, before sitting in the plastic imitation of an Iron Maiden that constitutes the modern portaloo, all smell of bleach and claustrophobia, and finding either that you're too nervous to do anything productive, or that you've achieved something so dreadful that no end of pumping the flush lever will dispose of it.

During a race, it's worse, because you have to stop and wait, sweat congealing on your body, before stepping into another portaloo. Then there's the going through the rigmarole of removing shorts or pulling down tights or finding you can't unravel your rain top from the rest of your clothes, and then having to put youself back together, to wobble back out onto the course, well behind everyone else. Five minutes later you realise that you didn't quite give your bladder enough opportunity, and there's that last few cubic centimetres of urine trying to seep out into your shorts. Lovely.

Actually, it's worse than that. Running bounces around the insides of your body and a long race is a very good stimulus for your bowels to get round to getting rid of stuff. And if you've got a portaloo, count yourself lucky; you might be in a race in Japan where there's a roadside toilet that's one of those squatter jobs, seemingly designed for the locals or for distracted runners who want to piss and crap in their pants at the same time.

I'm not saying I want to piss and crap in the pants of Japanese people. That's the last thing that was on my mind.

Finally, there's the end of the race, and that's the worst. You've been out there for god-knows how long, and after you've crossed the line you don't want an isotonic drink named after a body fluid and a mass-produced metal disc with the logo of the race stamped on it. You want to go drop off some of that excess weight and liquid you've been carting around. But now you're competing in a whole different event: coping with the carbohydrate-gel-enhanced stench of a thousand guts that have been there first, and there's only the one for everyone.

That's a reason for being first over the line and first to the bathroom, and no mistake. Although I'm sceptical that the fashion for Kenyan-style training will be replaced by your coach giving you four Extra-Lax and then telling you it's ten miles down the road to the first working lavatory.

Ah, but never mind, you're not always in a race, are you?

No, but longer lasting than a banana and a t-shirt with "Regional Town 2012" printed on it is the toll to your legs. All that running will eventually prey on all those little muscles, all those connective fibres, all the bits that hold you together, and you'll find this out when, after sitting on a toilet in abject, chafed misery for a few minutes, you try to stand up. And fail. And fall into the toilet, unless your reactions are fast enough and you sneaked into a disabled toilet, giving you a chance to grab at a handle before you plunge into the bowl that's full of your own ordure.

You don't need to race to put your legs into this state of rebellious treachery. A few over-ambitious miles at the weekend and before you know it, you've been soaked.

These days, I get round it with some bungee cords, a makeshift pulley system and an unbridled sense of optimism, along with some shouting. And at least thinking about that distracts me from my day of being ill that was today. Still, the fever seems broken now: two more days till I'm back in the office, hearty and hale, and still terrified of going to the gents'.


Post a Comment