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Race tips from marathoners, bathroom edition

marathon porta potties

When you run 26.2 miles, you become hyper-aware of your body in some important (and perhaps unexpected) ways. You obsess over hydration, staying warm until you can run, preventing blisters and chaffed nipples, and, well, when you’re going to go Number Two.

Some runners have been training their bowels as much as their bodies for the mileage. And that makes sense, considering the break-of-dawn arrival time that can move up your daily ablutions by hours—not to mention the threat of cramping, every runner’s greatest fear.

Of course, there are Porta Potties everywhere at the starting line and throughout the course, but they’re not for everyone—like hygiene purists, or those who can’t, ahem, play “away games,” say some runners (who may or may not regularly attend Well+Good editorial meetings).

So what do marathoners do to make sure they’re all pooped out before the race? We tapped a few for their advice:

No House Guests

Tamara B, an advertising exec who lives on the Upper West Side and trained for the ING New York City Marathon last year, is psyched to get a chance to run this year, and already has her bathroom ritual down pat. She spent 2012 figuring out her digestion, experimenting with fiber and hydration to get her body in sync with the demands the miles make on her tummy. So when a good friend and runner from out of town asked if he could crash on her couch on the eve of the Marathon this year, she tried everything she could to weasel out of hosting him. “I finally had to come clean and tell him, ‘You can’t stay on my couch, because I really need to use the bathroom before the race and your presence is going to interfere with that,'” she explains. “We ended up agreeing that he would leave before I’m even awake!”

Beware the Starting Line

Kamen Yotov—a quantitative software developer who started off as a Slim & Strong client in 2008 and has since become an uber-athlete, competing in Ultra Marathons and Iron Man Triathlons— says, “Number Two has never been an issue for me. I just get up earlier and get the job done at home.”

Where things get a bit more interesting, according to Yotov, is when it comes to Number One, though races in this country tend to be a bit “more civilized,” he says. “My first marathon was in Rome, and let me just say there were a lot of women who did not hold anything back at the starting line, with just under two minutes to the gun. It was a sight to remember,” he recalls. “I saw one guy at Chicago Marathon doing the same couple of weeks ago, but he was much more reserved.”

Bring TP

Marisa Sako, a New York City yoga teacher who’s been packing in half marathons, says being a morning person really helps with poop-planning. “I’m a pretty early riser because of my private client schedule, so I’ve got my digestive system pretty well-trained to do what it needs to do before I’ve even pushed down the plunger on the French press,” she explains. “But for those who don’t usually get up at 5 a.m., I’d suggest going to bed really early and waking up really early during the week leading up to the race. And do like your Grandma in Florida—make sure to eat dinner super-early the night before a race.”

But because, you know, sh*t happens, Sako also advises stashing a couple tissues in your shorts pocket or race belt, just in case. “Porta Potties run out [of toilet paper] quickly,” she says. “And sometimes the line is just too long. A fellow racer and I were so busy pre-event that we found ourselves emptying our well-hydrated bladders in a flower bed before the gun went off at the last race. That work-around would’ve been so much more pleasant with a tissue.” —Melisse Gelula