This Sunday I am doing my second half marathon in the lead up to London. It is at Leith Hill near Dorking, Surrey and it is the highest point in the south of England. The race goes up the hill…and then back down again. I am not expecting a particularly stellar time.
Nevertheless, I guarantee the usual problem is going to hit. If you have run a race, sat an exam, delivered a speech or done anything which makes you nervous, you may be nodding when I describe my affliction. No matter how many times I go, the minute I line up at the start…I suddenly need to go again.
Granted, I always do as I should and make sure to get plenty of fluid into me at the beginning of the race. I usually down a 500ml bottle of Lucozade or some such over a 2 hour period leading up to the race. But while I drink, I play the toilet queue game. Line up, go, come out of the cubicle, get back at the end of the line…repeat…I have yet to figure out just how many times I should go in order to avoid the start line discomfort. I haven’t managed to achieve it yet, so clearly it’s more than I have been.
When I ran the Barns Green Half-Marathon in 2006 I remember trying to ignore it hoping it might go away. I think I got to about mile 9 and I wasn’t having fun at all. In desperation, I pulled off the course behind a bush that couldn’t have been more than a twig an…oh…the relief. It happened again at Tunbridge Wells several weeks back, although this time I gave in at mile 1.5. Amusingly, I found the same bush as another lady who wryly commented that she was glad she wasn’t the only one.
It may sound disgusting to non-runners, but as evidenced by Mike Antonucci, it is a problem that even the best of runners suffer from. In fact ‘doing a Paula’ has become commonly used and understood lingo in the running community as we comfort ourselves with the fact that even the greatest have the same foibles as the rest of us. I can assure you, I would avoid ever having to do it anywhere other than woodland, park or uninhabited land, and my preference would be to duck into a cubicle, but sadly, the latter tend to be non-existent in the smaller events leaving a hedge as the only option. On my training runs, I know precisely where every public convenience is within a 10 mile radius of my house, just in case. But a race doesn’t give you that kind of familiarity. Unfortunately, when the nerves cause nature to call, nature is about the only place you can turn to.
Sunday’s race is a small one – the field is only 300 of which only about 90 are women so perhaps the loo queues might not be so daunting. But I bet, no matter how many times I queue up, soon after the starting gun goes off I’ll be scampering for the shrubbery…along with a fair number of my fellow competitors.
Frank-Bunny, I borrowed your picture. Thank you! It’s great…