Oh SH!T: A Runner’s Guide To ‘Going’ In Urban Landscapes

It’s just before sunrise. Crisp morning air greets your fresh stride as you slip silently through the sleeping city, smiling at the anticipation of a great day.

running and going to the bathroom

It happens suddenly; a churn in the gut is your first sign that something is about to go very wrong. At first you brush it off. But within a dozen strides you accept your fate. This is not a false alarm.

Shit! Quite literally, and it’s going to happen whether you like it or not.

If you’re a runner and it hasn’t yet happened to you yet, well, you’re either really lucky or, more likely, have something to look forward to.

And while we all wish there was a restroom handy at every corner, that is just not the case. Trail runners, be quiet now, this is not your problem! City folks, this one’s for you.

The below bathroom havens (listed in order from best to worst) exist in most every urban environment. Schedule your morning run to pass as many as possible! Did we miss any? Add them to the comments section below and help a fellow runner out.

Starbucks — The cause of and solution to many an epic bowel movement worldwide. The ubiquitous chain is a perfect solution to your emergency pit-stop, but be warned: With all those early morning coffee drinkers filling the restaurant, the line to the potty can be pretty long! Similar solutions include McDonalds, Taco Bell (Run For The Border!) and, for those Minnesotans, Caribou Coffee.

Gas Stations — An oasis in the concrete desert, gas stations and convenience stores almost always have a public restroom. Warning though: It could be locked! Get the key straight away.

Universities — These sprawling institutions are often open early (or late) and have plenty of unlocked toilets — if you know how to find them. Bathrooms are regularly tucked away in basements of classroom buildings or off in the corners of wings, so it’s a good idea to get to know the lay of the land before an emergency situation. Similar edifices include public buildings like courthouses and city offices, although some might require a quick trip though a metal detector.

Big Box Stores — If you’re running past a Best Buy, you are, quite figuratively, in business, so snap to it! Time is of the essence and you will likely have to scour the outer walls of the store hunting for a baño or ask a manager for directions. Expect some weird looks from tie-wearing office folks as you sprint through in your shorty-shorts. Some common options are Target, Barnes & Nobel, and Walmart.

Malls and Clothiers — Malls and places like Macy’s, while doable, are pretty risky. But when you’re in a pinch, well, you take what you can get. Expect a serious hunt for a toilet, a lot of disapproving looks and a lot of ground to cover. Hurry up, clock’s a ticking!

Small Businesses — Oh man, things are getting desperate. Yeah, they might have a bathroom — or not. They may share one with the building. They also may just say “sorry.” Be ready to plead your case (urgently).

City Parks — Bathrooms in parks can be the perfect solution and would rank right at the top of this list except for one not-so-small truth: They tend to be closed at weird times and it is incredibly disheartening to run a few blocks to a known toilet only to find the doors inexplicably locked.

Construction Sites — Most every construction site, from commercial to highway, has at least one portable toilet for workers. A quick visit to the “honey bucket,” will usually be tolerated if not in a restricted area.

Bushes — You will be ashamed. You will probably not tell anyone, and if you do, you’ll blush. There will be no toilet paper. You will be breaking the law. But the deed will be done.

Bridges and Highway Overpasses — Well, isn’t this just lovely. Shoo away the pigeons and find that secluded corner and start praying for forgiveness now. This is not good, not good at all, but, yep, it has happened.

Your Pants — You’ve lost the battle. Oh the shame! Plan to tell everyone, because it’s hilarious. Call your significant other and start your waddle home and warn him or her, “I’m on my way, get the hose ready!”

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Managing Editor Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in Denver, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.

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