The 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials were held over the weekend in Atlanta, Georgia, and it was a big deal for a whole lot of people. For example, over on the women's side, runner Molly Seidel qualified with a wholly inspiring story -- between working in a coffee shop and babysitting, she trained a ton to get into shape for her first-ever marathon (the Olympic Trials, as it were), and actually made it with a second-place finish. It's the stuff inspirational Disney sports movies are made of. What they're not gonna make a movie about is Marty Hehir, who just missed out on qualifying by about an 86-second gap, but is in the headlines anyway.
For the small subgroup of our readership that aren't finely-tuned fitness machines who eat marathons for breakfast, the way a lot of these races work is that there are some runners who break out early, and a pack of runners will run behind and try (usually successfully) to catch up later. There are also some little stations set up along the course where runners can grab a small water cup, or a little energy goo thingy, and also sometimes porta-potties. In an interview with LetsRun.com, Hehir explains how all of these things sorta conspired against him. He'd been feeling his tummy rumbling around mile 11, and had a quick drink around mile 14. It became very clear in his brain that no matter what, if he didn't find a place to go, he was gonna shit his pants.
Luckily for Hehir, there was a porta-potty at the 18-mile marker, and he went in for an estimated 15-20 second dump -- it's kind of amazing how short your poop breaks can be when you don't have a phone to distract you. But 15-20 seconds, in terms of running, is kind of a lot of ground. That's probably a good 100 meters of space you'd give up to the other runners. What it did for Hehir, however, was make him feel light as a feather. He had already been running at a personal-best pace, and taking this poo mid-race more or less turned him into a rocket. He'd been hovering with a group of guys that would be working together to overtake the top group, but just started passing them left and right throughout the final 8 miles. He finished in 6th place, with a two-minute personal record in the marathon.
Apparently this poop-to-win strategy is quite normal, as Hehir was able to rattle off the names of other runners who'd done something similar. He even joked, "You see it all the time -- runners will cite, 'I had stomach issues, I had GI issues.' I feel like nine times out of 10, that just means you had to poo. It's just no one likes to admit it."
LetsRun had the journalistic integrity to ask the question we were all wondering -- did he wipe? Answer: no. We've got a follow-up that we don't necessarily actually want an answer to -- didn't he chafe? Owch.