Runners blamed the lack of portable toilets. Photo: CFP
The Beijing Marathon, held on October 20, is over, but people are still buzzing about the number of runners who engaged in public urination along the route. As an endurance race, the marathon poses a unique challenge for its competitors. Elite runners can finish in just over two hours but the average first-timer requires four to five hours to complete it. So what are the runners supposed to do when nature calls?
"As a professional athlete, I seldom find myself in that embarrassing situation when I run," said Zhou Chunxiu, who has placed first in the London and Seoul marathons as well as at the Asian Games. According to her, professional runners cultivate strict habits to stay hydrated enough to function effectively but not so much that it inconveniences them while they run. Especially before the marathon starts, elite athletes are very careful about when and how often they drink water.
Even if they need to relieve themselves during the race, they can suppress their urge to urinate. "It's a special skill of professional marathoners, " said Zhou. "Of course, there are exceptions. I have heard that some professional runners simply urinate as they run, without breaking stride. But I have never done that before."
Zhu Xiaodong, an amateur runner who has frequently entered marathons in China said that the high incidence of public urination at the October 20th race should be forgiven because it was not unique to Beijing; he has seen the same thing happen at other long-distance races.
According to Zhu, runners must develop a certain kind of lifestyle to decrease the likelihood of having to pee during the race. On the morning of a marathon, he usually gets up early in the morning, often at 5 am, and urinates thoroughly. He chooses to breakfast on foods that are light in flavor. He cannot avoid drinking water because the human body requires a lot of water to maintain normal functioning during the exhausting 42.195-kilometer race. "You need to supply carbohydrates and pure water in the morning," said Zhu, "and you go to the toilet again before going out for the race." As for drinking water during the race, Zhu said that he sips very little; as a result, he rarely has to find a place to relieve himself halfway through the race.
Yun Yanqiao, a 26-year-old professional runner who has competed in ultramarathons, said that this year's Beijing Marathon featured undignified scenes of public urination because most runners were not professional athletes and were therefore unaware of how to calibrate their physical condition before and during the race. Amateur runners tend to gulp down a lot of liquid at every water station, which increases pressure on the bladder. On the other hand, he also thinks the facilities for the event were not adequate. "How were tens of thousands of people supposed to relieve themselves in such a short period of time with so few toilets?" asked Yun.
"It is experience that matters," said Shen Song, an official at the Chongqing Municipal Sport Science Institute. "My advice for amateur runners is to educate themselves about scientific ways of staying hydrated. Additionally, one should eat light during the week before the race, because that will create less need for water, and less stimulation to the intestines and stomach."
The Chongqing Morning Post - Global Times