If you’re going to do exercise, you need to drink. This is simple science stuff: exercise makes you hot, hot makes you sweat, sweat means lost water, lost water leads to dehydration and other bad things. Going running? Remember to drink.
Public Service Announcement over. So why is hydrating a random running annoyance? Well, there are a few reasons. For example, there’s the inelegant art of trying to drink in a race, which involves veering to the side of the road a wonky plastic cup from the hands of a helpful volunteer. Then, trying not to slow down, you have to try and get more of the contents of that cup into your mouth than all over your face.
But really, getting the fluid in isn’t the problem. It’s what happens when you drink a bit more water than you really need, and then need to get rid of the excess.
This can become a huge problem just before the start of a race. Again, it’s fairly simple science stuff: extra fluid consumption plus pre-race nerves plus jumping up and down during a warm-up plus early morning race start in cold weather equals… where’s the toilet?
The queue for the loo
And where is the toilet? Well, it’s almost certainly going to be at the end of that long queue. There’s usually a queue, because there are rarely enough toilets before the start of a race. Now, I’m British, so I’m always up for joining a good queue. But when you’re busting to go and the start time of the race is rapidly approaching, queues are not good. Not good at all. And I can’t really moan: I’m a man. The queue for toilets is always shorter for men.
If you’re lucky, the race will be based in a school or gym, or somewhere with permanent toilets. More likely, it’s going to be in a field, and your option will be limited to portable toilets (As a grammatically correct aside, I refer to them as portable toilets and not Portaloos, because I try not to spend enough time in them to spot which firm made them. And that’s important, because Portaloo is a registered trademark of Portakabin Limited, and must only be used when referring to Portaloo-brand portable toilets. You’re welcome).
Portable toilets perform an essential job, bringing the joy of being able to go to the toilet to places without toilets (because, they’re toilets that are portable, fairly obviously). So they have a vital place for races – running magazines have even written features about them.
But while they have their place, I think we can all agree portable toilets are not particularly nice things to use, because a temporary toilet in a plastic box is never going to be somewhere you want to spend a lot of time. It’s just not. So having to queue to use a portable toilet is just an extra insult, really. But hey, when you’ve got to go…
It’s not over…
The unintended consequences of hydration continue after a race as well. If you’re drank enough for the event, and then had a drink to recover and cool down afterwards, you’ve probably still got a lot of fluid sloshing about inside you after a race. And that’s going to come out eventually as well.
This could just be me – really, this whole needing to pee a lot before and after runs could well just be me – but I usually find that in the hours after a race, I’ll often need to make frequent trips to the toilet to dispose of some of the excess fluid I’ve drunk. Which can be annoying.
Although at least once you’re away from the race start, you can find somewhere better to go than a portable toilet.
Hydration, then. Essential, but with slightly annoying side effects. That said, and with Public Service Announcement hat back on, having to use the toilet a lot is a much better option than the consequences of not drinking enough before you go running.
Seriously, if you’re going running, drink. Take on fluids. Holding your breath and braving a portable toilet is a small price to pee, I mean, pay…