Restroom Horrors and a Drug Free Marathon

SF Marathon Redux

Stuart, Katarina and I ran the SF Marathon last weekend.  Stuart, God bless him, ran the full marathon.  Kat and I, on the other hand, did not.  We did half – the front half – undoubtedly the most beautiful 13 miles of any marathon I can think of.

The Starting Line is at the Embarcadero.  You run along the piers, past Fishermans Wharf, Fort Mason and the Marina (some nice homes!), past Crissy Field and up into the Presidio (past the abandon and notoriously haunted Officers Club), over the Golden Gate Bridge (which arcs, so you are running up hill for half of it).  Once over the bridge, you turn around at the Scenic Lookout and head back over the Bridge, down thru Baker Beach, then up thru the Richmond, finishing up in Golden Gate Park.


This is also my first marathon with two glaring changes in strategy:

1.  No walking

T2 with AIDS Project LA, kindly, taught us to run distance through the run/walk method, 5 min run/1 min walk.  Which generally turned to the walk/run method about mile 14, (5 min walk/1 min run) but it got us through relatively unscathed.

This time, I ran the entire time – with the exception of two potty stops, one taking so long I thought I would burst.


2.  No drugs

I confess that a key factor to my surviving two marathons was drugs.  I hold no shame (and no memories, alas) of the experiences.  To qualify – when I ran SF in 2006, my take-it-to-the-bank, pre-race strategy was to take a half of a Vicodin as I ran my first steps out the gate.  Just in case.  Then, half way through, I popped the other half.  In the grand scheme of things, I think it did bupkis, but it gave me confidence.

In the Florence marathon, no Vicodin (though, how I wish I had – a hateful course and even worse day), but ibuprofen a-plenty.  By mile 17, I think I’d popped 8.  Probably another 8 more before the finish.  I am amazed I didn’t sustain internal bleeding.

So – this time, no drugs.  Not one.  No Vicodin.  No ibuprofen.  Just good old fashioned multi-vitamin followed with a generous helping of Glucosamine.  Like pushing a baby out without drugs, this purist strategy would never have been an option in the past.  No way.

Restroom Horrors (warning: not for the weak of stomach)

1.7 miles each way

I would like to lodge a formal complaint against the county of Marin for closing one of their two Ladies restrooms, located at the Scenic Lookout just as you’ve crossed the bridge, during the marathon.  I mean, didn’t they understand that 50,000 runners might – just might – require them to keep both Ladies rooms open? As every runner knows (graphic alert), sometimes things, um, brew with the intake of all that oxygen pumping through your, um, intestines.  I had felt this burst of activity for about 2 miles when I turned into the lookout to use the restroom, (not given to port-a-potties).  This was a grave mistake.  Apparently every other female runner had gotten the same idea, so that the wait was akin to the lines in the ladies room at a concert.  Combined with the fact that one of the restrooms was closed and this one only had about 8 working stalls. Katarina waited outside as I ran in, expecting to run out (no pun, given my colonic state of affairs) in short order.

Post restroom stop

After a 10 minute wait, which is seriously taxing my ability to remain dignified, I rushed the next open stall, closed the door, lifted up the running belt and down the trou.  But wait…the door doesn’t close.  Fabulous!  I am way too far committed at this point.  So, as I am sitting there, one hand holding the door, the other my running belt, getting my business done.  (Is this too graphic?  Sorry!)  Upon completion, I determine I have to now grow another arm in order to grab toilet paper.  Not seeing this happen anytime soon, I decide to bend as far forward as I can to replace the arm that was holding the door shut (against the angry poop-filled mob of women runners) with my head.  The angle is like a swimmer on the block, about to jump into the pool.  I then reach over with my free arm to grab the toilet paper, while trying to keep the door shut and hold my running belt.  This leads to the final insult.  While there are two brand new rolls of toilet paper in the holder, they are in so tightly that I defy anyone to be able to get any sheets off the roll.

So, to recap, I am hunched over like an Olympic swimmer on the blocks, trying to hold the door closed with my head, and getting more frantic as I am losing valuable time.  I start to claw at the toilet rolls out of desperation.  Shreds are coming off onto the floor – it looks like a hamster has made its bed from my roll.  I have now been in the restroom so long, I assume Kat has thought somehow that she missed me and has continued with the run.  Which causes me to claw more desperately at the paper.  And then, it happens.  My phone rings.  Loudly.  Echoing through the restroom.

Mom’s CD

And the very best part – the piece de resistance?  The ringtone is my Mom belting out one of her songs (off her CD Footprints in the Sand, available at  All of a sudden, blasting through the restroom at uncomfortably high volume (yet perfect pitch), and to the delight of every woman in that room,

“Holding hands at midnight, ‘neath the Starry Sky.  Nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you try.”

Of course, I have no more arms to reach into my running bag and grab the phone.  I can only let the lyrics cycle and cycle for what feels like an eternity. I like to think that I can laugh in these situations.  Not the case here.  It was just a horrible, horrible experience. Not such nice work, for sure.

Thankfully, after God knows how long, I finally made it out of the restroom and found Kat, who was entranced listening to the Led Zeppelin cover band’s cover band playing at the lookout.  (This is the SF Marathon, after all!) We took off back over the bridge, now amongst all the chubbies, oldies and otherwise – gasp – slower runners – we had some catching up to do.  And as we made it over and headed into the tunnel taking us into Baker Beach, I heard just the slightest, most faint toot emitting from Katarina, suggesting that it might now be time for her restroom stop.  What can we say?  We’re runners.


3 comments for “Restroom Horrors and a Drug Free Marathon

  1. August 5, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    You are THEE most talented writer – especially comedy. I have laughed so hard at your description of reaching for the T paper. And then on the diving board “you get the idea”. To say nothing of your comment “too graphic”. AND then to help you get through this hilarious, albeit very trying, situation, is your Mom singing Nice Work !!!!!!!!! I tell you – timing is EVERYTHING. What a kick.

  2. August 6, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    What a great time you had, potty stop and all. and so impressed with Stuart that he did the whole thing. How long will the one in Malibu be and where is it going to be?

  3. James
    August 29, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Laughing from start to finish – Again!!! You are so talented….
    Congratulations to you all…

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