Betty Says: There Are Worse Things Than Porta Potties

This may not look promising, but it came with running water!

This was inspired by the ongoing, “is there anything worse than a porta potty?” rhetorical question that everyone asks. My answer is yes, there’s something worse.

You disagree. I know you do. You read this headline and thought, “she’s out of her freakin’ mind.” Alas, I am not.

This is a Betty public service announcement.

People complain about race day potties. Kids, these are the least of your problems. Running with Team in Training, we travel to trails and parks all over the Bay Area and I’ve experienced every kind of awful facility known to mankind. Behold: the list of bathroom horrors and indignities.

Real Bathrooms

They’re rare. So very rare. Flush toilets, a supply of toilet paper (sometimes) and a sink with running water and actual soap? Never mind that they probably haven’t been cleaned this year. It’s like starting your run in the spa at the Ritz. Now that I know which courses have them (Heather Farm Park or Arbolado Park in Walnut Creek, for example; thank you Walnut Creek taxpayers),  I will not miss that week’s run. Seriously.

To the casual observer they’re far from perfect. The rest of us know better.

Race Day Porta Potties

If you read race recaps, people will grumble and groan about the horrors of race day potties.

Pffft. Amateurs.

Sure, the lines are long, but that’s nothing; women are used to waiting in line for the ladies’ room anyway. As long as you come stocked with your own paper, these are no big deal. Some wonderful races (like San Ramon) also provide porta sinks with running water, or even dispensers of hand sanitizer.

Race day potties are not the worst thing in the world. That doesn’t mean that I don’t prefer to use the real bathroom at the local coffee shop, but worse things do exist.

Which brings us to our final category:

Perma Potties

You know the ones I’m talking about. They’re either a pit toilet — a slightly glorified hole in the ground — or a porta potty that’s been parked there for weeks, months or maybe even years. They’re the sort of thing that makes me wish that I was a guy so that I could minimize my contact with anything within those walls.

So how do these differ from the race day potties? Without fail, race day potties were cleaned — or at the very least, emptied — before they were dropped off at the scene of the race. Judging by the scene in most perma potties, they haven’t been cleaned out since sometime in the Carter administration.

There’s no hand sanitizer. There’s no water. There’s only the deep, deep regret that you didn’t stop at the dumpy gas station along the way. This is why I always carry paper products and sanitizing wipes in my race bag. Sanitizing wipes do not, however, help with the fact that I want to dunk myself in a tub of bleach afterward.

Now you know not to complain about the race day potties.

Want to know what facilities you’re up against before you go? Do a Google search for the name of the park or trail that you’ll be starting from. Many parks have key info, including restrooms, on their websites. For those that don’t, check out Yelp reviews. Mommies with potty training toddlers need to know this information, and trust me, someone has posted about it.

What’s the biggest indignity you face when running?

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