The first time I can remember running with diarrhoea was when I was about seven. The teacher wouldn’t let me go to the toilet that afternoon (there were some real sadists in the profession in the Sixties), so when school finished I did a buttocks-clenched, Penguin sprint all the way back to my grandma’s house, where we were living at the time. I’d got back so quickly that no one was in when I arrived, so I had to leg it over the wall into the backyard to get some desperate relief (having an outside toilet did have at least one advantage).
My great aunt Gertie (after whom my granddaughter is named –see here) lived a few houses up the terrace. She saw me, face contorted, running down the road and asked me ‘whatever is the matter?’ I was in far too much of a hurry – and far too embarrassed – to tell her, so I dashed on without answering. An awful act of rudeness for which I could offer no reasonable explanation later since it didn’t seem nice to talk to maiden aunts about shitting your pants.
In fact, it didn’t seem nice to talk to anyone about shitting your pants. So I stuffed them at the back of the hot water boiler, a big old copper thing, where as far as I know they remained until it was pulled out for renovation work many years later.
I was reminded of this the other day when I ran seven miles down the canal towpath to my sister’s in urgent need of a toilet stop. There is nothing better for ‘moving your bowels’, as my grandma used to put it, than bouncing them up and down running on an uneven surface.
Not that an even surface is much better. My hopes of getting a ‘good for age’ time in a track marathon a few years ago were dashed at the halfway mark when I had to take a detour to the toilet block, where the only functioning sit-down lavatory was already occupied.I just couldn't do a Paula Radcliffe.