The Gospel (of Running) According to John

Posted: March 29, 2014 in Lifestyle, Run
Tags: , , ,

The first time I met John Stanton it was in the bathroom at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario.  No, it was not one of “those” kinds of encounters.  We just happened to end up taking a leak beside one another at the urinals before the Around the Bay 30k event in 2011.  I didn’t know who he was at the time.  I mean, I’d heard about him before but I never paid much attention and I certainly didn’t recognize him at the time.

For those of you who don’t know, John Stanton is the founder and CEO of the ‘Running Room’ and author of several books on walking and running.  In other words, he’s a big shit in the running world. I have a love/hate relationship with the Running Room; I love what they’ve done to promote running in the communities which they operate, but I hate the marketing play of selling hundreds of dollars of crap to newbies who don’t need it, don’t know what it is, but want to fit in.  But that’s neither here nor there in this story.

John is also the guy who refers to running as ‘baking a cake’, an analogy that just about every runner has heard about a zillion times.  The premise being that in order to make a cake you need different ingredients such as flour, water, sugar, butter, vanilla, what have you, and when you mix them together you get the recipe for the perfect end result – a cake.  Running is similar in that it has its own unique ingredients, namely, long slow distance, drills, tempo work, speed, hills, etc., so that when you put them altogether you have the base for a successful runner where the race is simply the icing on that cake.  This speech has pretty much become the ‘Life is like a box of chocolates’  analogy for runners.

Anyway, back to the story.

So there we were, two strangers peeing beside one another, when suddenly there is this hushed buzz permeating the bathroom amongst the other runners in line behind us.  It was the kind of buzz that happens just moments before a band takes the stage.  I knew it probably wasn’t my wanger that everyone was oohing and awing over in hushed excitement, so what gives?  Eventually, I made the connection that the guy beside me was in fact John Stanton except I hadn’t noticed.  Okay, other runners began addressing him by name so that’s how I figured it out.  Anyway, afterwards we washed our hands and went our separate ways.  This was my first Around the Bay and I was nervous as hell, and while I had acquired all the necessary ingredients to be there, my icing on the cake was getting to take a whiz beside John Stanton.  That just had to be a good omen, right?

It was. I finished survived with a time of 2:39:04, not bad for a first outing.

The next year (2012) I returned to Copps Coliseum again and, yes, I bumped into John Stanton; in the bathroom; taking a piss. What were the odds?

This time, however, I recognized him immediately as one might recognize their own shadow, so I sidled on up next to him and jokingly inquired “come here often?”  Of course the humor was completely lost on him.  How could he have ever remembered?  But John is an affable guy and he agreed that he does come to Copps quite often and that the Around the Bay event was one of his favorites and that he always makes the effort to get down to the Expo and whatnot before he politely excused himself and returned from whence he came.

This year was my second attempt at the Bay and I had trained much better and I successfully completed it with a new personal best time of 2:34:13.  It seemed to me that peeing besides John Stanton was becoming a bit of a good luck tradition.  Some people might have their favorite running socks, or hat, or maybe carry a trinket of sorts in their pocket; my totem was having a pre-race pee beside John Stanton.  Weird, I know.  But who is going to argue the success it had brought me so far?

So, fast forward two years and its 2014 and I’m running the Bay yet again.  I sat last years event out while I taking a break from long distances, recovering from fatigue and injuries after Ironman Wales and, well, just enjoying being lazy.  In some regards, I’ve gone back to square run with my running; I’ve reassembled my cake and I’m trying to put it all back together again.  Fortunately, I’m finally running relatively comfortably after seven months of run-specific conditioning as part of my ‘We Can Rebuild Him’ plan.  This year’s Bay event then is the testing ground.  I’ve completed the training, I’ve restarted my speed work, I’m doing my clams, planks, squats, etc., I’m stretching, hydrating and doing everything I know how to do to keep the plan working, except there’s only one thing missing at this point…the icing on the cake.

So yesterday I drove up to Copps Coliseum to pick up my race packet – as you do.  Of course, I was also looking for my icing.  I browsed through the different booths at the Expo.  I didn’t really need anything but, hey, it never hurts to look (I did find a great deal on Emend formula).  Plus, I enjoy that anxious electricity that moves through the crowd as everyone has pretty much started mentally preparing themselves for Sunday’s event; everyone is all a-twitter.  Eventually, I came to the Runners Edge booth and, low and behold, there he was!  John Stanton.

Okay, now what?  It’s not like you go up to a celebrity and ask if you can take a piss with them can you?  All that’s going to get you is charges being laid along with a possible restraining order which certainly isn’t going to help my cause any.

So I waited.

Yes, I totally creeped John Stanton and waited for him to go to the bathroom.  It’s certainly not one of the prouder moments in my life, but a desperate runner’s gotta do what a desperate runner’s gotta do.  Alright, I didn’t really stand there spying at him from over racks of multi-colored runner jerseys, no, I’m not quite that weird…yet.  I went to the registration desk, claimed my packet and resumed my browsing while keeping an ever wary eye on my prey.  He was signing copies of his book and chit-chatting with passersby.  Again, John is a nice guy.

I was just making my last pass before making my way back to the car, when I happened to notice him excuse himself from his booth and start to make his way to the bathroom nearby.  Booyah!  It’s on.

I sneakily followed in after him looking all casual and uncontrived n’ shit. Fortunately, we were the only two in there.


Here’s where it really gets a bit embarrassing. There is an unwritten rule of the mens bathroom that when it’s not busy, you choose a urinal as far away from your neighbor as possible.  I broke this rule and totally sidled right up next to him with a huge shit eating grin on my face.  No words were ever exchanged, but he eyed me suspiciously as I flashed him my best ‘hey, how you doin’?’ look.

Kinda like this:

…but not as creepy.

I’m sure he gets it all the time.

So anyway, yeah, mission accomplished.  I’m registered, my cake is baked and the icing has been obtained.  I’m ready to go.  I’m not sure what my strategy is at this time or whether I’m going to go balls out for a PB, or simply run strong and comfortably and simply see what happens.  This is my year to rebuild after all.  Having said that, now that I’ve had my pre-race tinkle with Johnny S, who knows?  Shit, I might even qualify for Boston.

  1. P.S.> ran a Personal Best today of 2:31:19 (that’s an improvement of almost 3 minutes) under lots of duress, emotion and literally no sleep. Just more proof the John Stanton/pee good luck tradition. Who’s nuts NOW?!

  2. Lena says:

    lucky charms, rituals, I’m sure most athletes follow something to give themselves the edge….with or without your particular (lol) ritual you have done just a great as you did cuz you have something better, Mom cheering you on!

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