A runners’ magazine delves into the world of portable sanitation


Talk to a handful of runners about training for a race and you’ll get different answers. Stretch before, stretch after; run six days a week, run every other day; and don’t even think of asking about lactate threshold or VO2 max training unless you have all day.

But one thing runners will agree on is this: There better be an adequate number of portable restrooms on race day because the pre-race bathroom visit is extremely important. Runners are creatures of habit and a race-day routine is not something to mess around with.

Runner’s World magazine decided to take a closer look at the “complicated relationship” runners have with portable restrooms. In a feature in the September issue, writer Rachel Swaby talked to operators and put together a few pages to explain that “everything from the mysterious blue liquid to the height of the drop to the placement of the urinal has been studied and calibrated to make the best of a crappy situation,” and admits, “there’s a lot more to these things than we thought.”

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The compilation included Q&As with manufacturers and PROs, facts ranging from restroom size to what’s in “the blue stuff,” and data on restroom use at races (80 percent of racers will use a restroom in the hour leading up to the start). It even featured a timeline of the evolution of the portable restroom.

There were the usual complaints submitted by readers and staff. Races seem to often not have extra amenities like handwash stations and restroom trailers, but that’s no surprise considering most race directors are probably working with a small budget. One woman’s plea to fellow runners to “Lock the damn door!” is perfectly reasonable, and one runner’s idea to have a big digital timer on the door to encourage speedy restroom visits seems a little invasive of one’s privacy.

While the article mentioned providing information “you probably didn’t want to know,” any runner or race director who reads this will come away with a better understanding of the work portable restroom providers put into each race they service. It may still be difficult to convince some race organizers to increase the number of restrooms they provide, that the U-shaped arrangement is really the way to go, or to add handwashing stations, but at least the readers of Runner’s World will show restroom operators a little more appreciation at their next race.

Related: Guest Blog: Five Questions to Ask an Event Planner

You can see a shorter version of the Runner’s World story online here


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