Who Pooped on the Track in Sedona? The Running World Needs to Know.
A very niche scandal at an Arizona high school takes the debate about running etiquette to another level
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Like many people, my most amazing business ideas tend to come to me when I’m in no state to realize that they are not actually that amazing after all. Often these false epiphanies involve a half-baked “idea for an app,” which, on further reflection, would only be useful to about .0001 percent of the population. For instance: a travel app for runners that provides up-to-date information on local tracks that are open to the public, with intel on things like surface, hours, and, crucially, restroom access. I’m not holding my breath for any angel investors on this one, but it’s certainly something that I would pay for. I’ve had too many altercations with minatory groundskeepers who, in fairness, were not thrilled about the fact that I’d interpreted the “No Trespassing” sign as more of a recommendation.
I was reminded of my brilliant conceit earlier this week when a micro-scandal emerged on social media involving an alleged incident where an unidentified pro runner defecated on (or near) the track at Sedona Red Rock High School in Arizona. The news was brought to the world’s attention when Sam Parsons, himself a pro runner for the Tinman Elite team, posted a cryptic tweet expressing his disbelief at the reason pro runners were currently banned from using the facilities at Sedona High. This prompted a thread from the Flagstaff-based McKirdy Trained coaching group, that seemed to confirm the worst:
Given its relative proximity to the distance running mecca of Flagstaff, the facilities at Sedona Red Rock High have long been a training grounds for world-class athletes looking to take advantage of the track’s lower altitude and, presumably, idyllic setting. In other words, there were a number of potential suspects. There were times this week where running Twitter felt like a game of scatlogical Clue, with a bunch of internet sleuths feverishly speculating about the identity of the anonymous crapper. Was it Bowerman Track Club under the bleachers? Or Northern Arizona Elite in lane 8? Was it a man or a woman? Was there—gasp—more than one culprit? There was a rumor that the deed could have been committed by French Canadians, giving the whole episode a touch of international flair.
Even some pro athletes got in on the fun:
When I contacted him for comment, James McKirdy, head coach at McKirdy Trained, confirmed what he had posted on Twitter, but felt it would be inappropriate to reveal the identity of the perpetrator. “Some assholes definitely did some disgusting things on school property. And those assholes were professional athletes,” McKirdy informed me via text, presumably with no pun intended. I reached out to Red Rock’s athletic director and promptly received an email from Jennifer Chilton, the school district’s communications director who understandably demurred by merely noting that: “Public use of school facilities, including the track, is permitted when school is not in session and when students are not using the athletic facilities for practice or competitions. Commercial organizations need to follow rental procedures (forms, insurance, scheduling).”
The controversy seemed custom-made for the LetsRun message boards, and, indeed, the principal thread on the matter did not disappoint. Of course there was speculation about who the guilty party was, but also some debate about broader questions like whether public high school tracks should really be available to all, or why we don’t have more public restrooms in this country. The message boards are not generally known for heartfelt expressions of empathy, but with this particular matter there was the occasional post effectively asking: Who among us is without sin?
Who among us, indeed? It’s no secret that runners are generally more prone to gastrointestinal emergencies since it’s a hobby that tends to get things moving on that front and where you often find yourself miles from home. There is a lot of poop-themed running content. In the same way that I am intimately familiar with the various distance markers and undulations of my go-to routes, I’m always subconsciously aware of how far I am from the nearest bathroom. But even on my home turf, there have been moments where I’ve had to improvise.
No need to elaborate. But there’s a difference between making an unplanned pit stop in the bushes and defiling a public running track. I have no idea what transpired at Red Rock High School and am increasingly wary of columnists who make grand moralizing statements—especially when that columnist is me. Nonetheless, it doesn’t seem too crazy to suggest that, while a sudden episode of incontinence can happen to the best of us, there’s no excuse for not cleaning up after yourself. After all, there are millions of dog owners in this country who somehow manage to remove feces from public spaces every day.
In fairness, non dog-owners are less likely to have disposable poop baggies on hand at all times in case of emergency. Still, that stuff can be fairly easily obtained. Sounds like a great idea for an app.