Marathoner Katie McGregor on Running, Pooping

by Emma Barker

This is Katie McGregor, 33. She’s been running professionally (i.e. running is her JOB and her whole day is spent training) since 2001. This Sunday will be her third time running the NYC Marathon; in 2008 she came in 10th and last year her times would have put her in the top five. Along with a lady named Shalane Flanagan, she has one of the best chances of winning the women’s title this weekend. She also has a six-pack, literally and figuratively in that she’s Irish and a beer fanatic and also has washboard abs. Our first question for Katie was “How do you have a life?”

Katie, how do you have a life?
You mean outside of running? Ummm I guess my life just revolves around sports and I met all my best friends through running, so everything else I do is kind of connected to my job? But I don’t mind it, it’s fun!

Are you pro- or anti- jogging in place at stoplights? I think it looks silly.
When I was younger I was always jogging in place, but now when there’s a light I just, uhhh, stop. I feel like it’s ok if I stop and take a break for 30 seconds or whatever.

OK, most embarrassing running moment.
Hmmm, I’ve never, like, missed a turn or anything, but the thing I always get scared about, especially in the marathon, my biggest fear even over running well or being able to finish is having umm…bathroom issues. But when you’re running for time you don’t want to have to stop. I have had a race where it was very competitive and I just…went. That was embarrassing because the whole time I’m thinking people can tell that, um, something happened.

If you do have to #1 or #2 would you:
A.) Wait until you see a port-a-potty and actually stop.
B.) Just go.
C.) Pull down your pants in the road.

[A few years ago Paula Radcliffe, who’s the women’s world record holder in the marathon, had the call of the wild while she was winning the London Marathon and there were like a billion people watching. Guess what she did? She dropped trou in the middle of the road and defecated! Running is crazy!]

A or B. I have stopped at a porta-john, but, I don’t know, that one time I just…didn’t. I mean, every marathoner experiences that. But when you’re running for time or money or a place it’s different. Most people say you should stop, though, otherwise it’s very uncomfortable. Ah, the life of a runner.

Any myths about female runners you’d like to put to rest?
Before if you had a job and a family you couldn’t run, and now women are kind of breaking that myth. Women are having babies and then coming back and running competitively. I think people have big expectations of what it takes, but really all it takes is a little commitment and sometimes a group to train with. It’s fun just to go out and chat with the girls for an hour on the weekend.

What do you think about all that time you’re running?
I basically try to zone out for the first half or so. Then I say, “Come on!” in my head. Or think of music. Or if I know there’s going to be someone I know cheering at a certain point, I’ll look forward to that. Or I’ll try to focus on the next person ahead of me’s back. Or I start thinking, “Oh, who’s behind me?” But you don’t want to start slowing down to see or they might pass you, so, maybe not. But I think there are more people this year so I’ll have more people to run with.

Yeah, there are a lot of elite women this year!
This race is doubling as the U.S. Marathon Championships for women, so there are a lot of people. It’s crazy because a couple seconds here or there ends up being minutes over the course of a marathon so if you can hang with a group that’s going a little bit faster that’s great. And if not then the other people start catching you. Marathons can feel great if you’re having a good day or they can turn disastrous pretty quickly. … But it’s fuuun!

And finally, can you weigh in on the Great Deodorant Debate? And also: Do those people who don’t shower every day exercise ever?
I know some female competitive runners who don’t shower all the time. But they actually look really great and don’t smell. I almost think it’s grosser that you can’t tell with them if they have or haven’t showered. And I know some runners who’ve just decided not to wear deodorant at all, and they don’t smell either. I think I would smell. I even wash my hair every day. I just feel like I smell otherwise, even though it probably doesn’t really. But like, who are these people?

Cheer for Katie this weekend! You’ll know her because she has very red hair and she’ll maybe be winning.

Update: Katie came in 11th!

Emma Barker is a writer living in Brooklyn. She gets really into the New York City Marathon, in a watching-it kind of way.

Photo by Team Minnesota