"American ultra-marathon legend Dean Karnazes taught me many things … including how to take a leak on the run.
It was during the 4 Deserts Sahara Race in Egypt that I first noticed this particular skill of his – we were running and chatting along a fairly smooth gravel road, when I glanced sideways and noticed that he wasn’t just running and talking to me, but running and talking to me and peeing. And no spillage either. What a pro! I wanted to be pro too and clearly if you wanted to be a pro, you had to pee on the run.
It took two years of fairly messy trial and error … but I finally mastered the “Art of the Sneaky Pee”.
Here's how to do it
Needless to say, this applies to men only. Obviously the key objective here is not to pee on yourself, and that means two crucial external factors that come into play: 1) wind direction; and 2) the nature of the terrain. P*ssing into the wind, metaphorically or physically, is never a good idea. If the wind is blowing, you definitely want it at your back.
Secondly, this is not something you want to attempt on uneven, rocky terrain. I don’t even have to explain that one. Once you’ve ascertained the wind direction and terrain, what you want to do is slow down a little, run slightly sort of sideways and – while making sure there are no runners on the side you’ve chosen – aim a confident and strong stream into the nearby vegetation. It’s this last bit that’s the most difficult.
Stage fright aside, physically it’s quite hard to get whatever muscles control this body function to work while you are moving. Your body is so used to peeing when it’s motionless so to do it while running, or even walking, requires practice.
Why runners should master the skill
It does save you time. I probably need to pee three or four times during a 100-miler race and if a pee stop will take, say, 30 seconds, that’s about two minutes you’ve lost over the race distance.
Plus, if you stop, it also gives your competitors the opportunity to suddenly put down the hammer and open up a gap. That’s not something you want late in a race when catching up is always that much harder.’
What Ryan packs in his backpack when running a six-day race
The 4Deserts organisers provide you with water during the race and to cook with, but that’s about it. You have to carry some compulsory items: a sleeping bag, a hydration bladder, two headlamps, a multi-tool, whistle, survival bag, mirror, compass, sunscreen, cap, gloves, some medical items, a warm jacket and the kit you will run in.
The rest is optional, but I take the following:
FOOD Most of the stuff you need to pack is food. For these 4Desert races I would pack ProNutro and coffee powder for the morning, Perpetuem (by Hammer Nutrition) to run with, and then after the race some recovery powder like Recoverite (also by Hammer Nutrition) with maybe a bit of protein powder added in. For the evening I would carry freeze-dried meals. I’d also carry quite a lot of teabags and one or two sweets.
CLOTHING There’s no point in taking any other clothing than is mandatory. I would run in the same clothes the whole time.
NO SLEEPING MAT AND NO PILLOW It doesn’t exactly make for a comfortable night’s sleep, but you get used to it.
ONE PAIR OF RUNNING SHOES Yes, it’s a bit of a risk because if they break, your race is basically toast. In the Atacama race, one guy put his shoes next to the fire to dry, and when he woke up the next morning, one of them had melted.
For my first few races, my backpack weighed around 10 kilograms. By the time I did the Madagascar race in 2014, my backpack weighed six kilograms so I’ve streamlined it quite a bit."
- This is an edited extract from Trail Blazer, My Life As An Ultra-Distance Trail Runner by Ryan Sandes with Steve Smith, Zebra Press, R202 from takealot.com