They certainly don’t show it on TV but sometimes marathon runners have to stop for the call of nature. Harry Mottram was taken short in one
I was once last in the marathon. It was held in Taunton in Somerset and to the sounds of the theme music to The Chariots of Fire we set off in a mass start outside the local technical college. I quickly found myself near the back as most competitors were very keen and apart from a man dressed as a parrot I appeared to be the only person in fancy dress. Dressed as Tarzan I had covered myself in brown make-up, slicked back my hair and sported a makeshift loincloth. Unfortunately I couldn’t do much to pump up my biceps, rustle up a vine, recruit a troop of apes or speed date a Jane in time for the race.
It was a hot day and soon my make-up began to run down my legs turning my socks and trainers a dark brown colour. I jogged along watching the other runners disappear into the distance although I was still ahead of the parrot. After a few miles I was bursting to go to the loo. With no toilets in sight desperate action was required. I stopped by a house where a family were cheering the runners on from the garden gate.
“Excuse me but could I use your toilet,” I said to a middle-aged man who I judged to be the owner.
“Of course,” he replied, “follow me.”
Along with the rest of the family I followed him up the garden path to his 1930s semi, and in through the front door. He stopped with me close behind him in the hallway and the various family members forming a semi-circle behind me. Brown make-up was oozing down my legs, through my socks and down my trainers onto the carpet.
“Now this isn’t ours,” he said gesturing at the wallpaper in the hall. “We’ve started on the upstairs – you can see if you look up the stairs, but we’ve only been here a few weeks and the wood chip will go.”
“Oh,” I said, now feeling that agony that happens when you really are bursting.
“We’ve done the downstairs loo,” he continued, seemingly oblivious to my I’m-about-to-piss-myself expression, “so you can see that. White and green, very calming.”
“We’ve still got the skirting boards to do,” chipped in one of the children behind me, “Dad, you’ve still not finished the…”
He was cut off. “Yes, yes,” said Dad, “but just look at the downstairs loo.” And to illustrate, he opened the door.
“Lovely,” I gasped and entered.
The family stood and watched me as though expecting me to drop my loincloth and have a pee in front of them whilst continuing to admire the décor. It was like a scene from one of those toilet dreams where you want to go but you are sitting on a toilet – but it’s in the middle of Wimbledon’s Centre Court – and you can’t go.
My mind became blocked. The marathon, the Tarzan costume, the brown make-up, the family and proud DIY dad. The door closed, and I looked at the newly decorated loo. Outside I could hear the family seemingly waiting in triumph to hear the sound of pee splashing into the toilet bowl. But, they didn’t. I couldn’t go. I flushed the toilet, made my excuses and sprinted down the garden to join the rest of the runners in a steady squishing of brown make-up in my trainers. Except they’d all gone. I ran on for several hundred yards but there was no one in sight – even the parrot had disappeared. I slowed and realised I was still bursting to go for a pee but saw in the distance a group of friends outside the World’s End pub. Phew. A visit to the gents and relief. Then a double whisky and onto the finish and… last place with a time of five hours and fifty five seconds. I can account for the five hours. But the fifty five seconds must have been the excruciating time spent in the newly decorated toilet.
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