Dreaming up a DIY runner’s port-a-john

Some distance runners keep their minds busy by composing music or designing houses on long runs. During last week’s 20-miler, I was dreaming up a do-it-yourself runner’s port-a-john with components that could be stashed in your trunk and assembled at a discreet location on your favorite route.

If you’re a guy, you can simply step into the nearest corn field to relieve yourself. But it’s harder for women to pull off a potty break without making the rest of a multihour run highly unpleasant.

My idea revolved around using a toddler’s practice potty as a lightweight seat/receptacle that you could perch on a small stool to achieve the desired height. (As the miles pile up, even bending down to grab a drink from a cooler can be painful.) The problem, of course, was location. I suggested the sparsely populated gravel road my sister and I happened to be running down at the time. It only has two houses with extremely long driveways, and we’ve very rarely encountered a vehicle there.

“We could have a big beach towel or something to wrap around ourselves for cover if anybody came down the road,” I suggested.

Traci, who works in a hospital, thought a bedpan would be more practical. And she suggested the first leg of our route would be superior because even though there’s often a car or two, there are more places that could provide natural cover.

“What about the cemetery?” she suggested. “You could go a few feet into the woods and be completely out of view.”

We were pretty much just fantasizing. I mean, we probably already make ourselves way too much at home in this neighborhood we’ve been running in lately. In recent weeks we’ve taken to setting coolers at opposite ends of a road that connects one segment of scenic rolling hills with a  segment of dull but joint-cushioning dirt and gravel. We grab drinks, towels and the occasional snack from one cooler and drop them off at the other.

It’s a great arrangement during hot humid weather, on a 5-mile base route that can easily grow to 10, 15 and even 20 miles with repetition. Though I’m sure the local residents are sick of our presence, they’ve never come right and said so.

Last week’s 20-miler – my last mega-mileage run before the Oct. 1 Fort4Fitness Marathon – went surprisingly well, with the only real discomfort coming from the lack of public restrooms along these rural roads.

Maybe the next time I train for a marathon, I’ll search the attic to see if we still have my kids’ old training potty and toss it in the trunk – just in case.  

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