Business Owner Laces Up to Service Marathons

Here are some tips to hit the pavement and sell your services to running-event organizers.
Business Owner Laces Up to Service Marathons
Ron Crosier, of Crosier’s Sanitary Service Inc.

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The next time a running-event customer balks at renting enough restrooms to serve the crush of humanity looking for a prerace bathroom break, Ron Crosier has a good argument for you to use.

“When someone misses the start gun because they’re in the toilet, they’re going to be looking for another race next year,’’ says Crosier, a runner himself and a fitness enthusiast, as well as a portable restroom operator in West Virginia.

“It’s huge the way they’re taking off,’’ he says of running events. “All of a sudden it seems like there’s a run every weekend within driving distance of your house.’’

Crosier’s comment says two things to portable restroom contractors going after race event business. First, you should start looking around now to find the new events to pitch for your business. And secondly, when you gain a new race customer, you need to drive home the point that portable sanitation is a critical part of the event’s ongoing success.

It’s clear that if event organizers don’t provide adequate facilities, runners will lace up their shoes and jog elsewhere.

I know Crosier and his company, Crosier’s Sanitary Service Inc., of Lansing, W. Va., from previous feature stories on his company. But I had no idea about his passion for running … until I saw his name turn up in a recent issue of Runners World, the Portable Restroom Operator of the road racing set. Crosier was interviewed for a story about race event portable sanitation, and the magazine reached him through the Portable Sanitation Association International, where he serves as president.

It just so happens that the PSAI is currently reviewing its standards for numbers of restrooms provided at special events, and Crosier is keenly interested in developing more realistic numbers to promote to event organizers to address their specialized needs. And who better to speak on the subject than Crosier – who runs 15 to 25 miles per week and has taken part in a marathon and several half-marathons, as well as duathlons (running and bicycling) and triathlons (running, bicycling and swimming), and is a traffic engineer by education?

The traffic engineering background came into play when Crosier attended a race and started putting a stopwatch to restroom users. He scoped out banks of 10 restrooms at the race and started to count how long users were spending in the units. He quickly identified a pattern that the average restroom use took 1 minute and 15 seconds, and he didn’t observe a time difference between male and female users. He also determined that most of the runners wanted to visit a restroom at some point 45 minutes before the start of the race.

The observations confirmed what he thought all along: races require an inordinately high number of restrooms, and they would seldom, if ever, be filled to capacity. And because of the heavy use over a short peiod, there is no way around the need for a lot of units.

His studies and years of running led to Crosier scratching out a basic formula for determining the right number of restrooms for a race. Mind you, he and the PSAI are still studying the topic, and I’m sure they’d welcome your input as well. I’m not a mathematician, but the explanation goes something like this:

Figure that 80 percent of runners want to use the restroom in the 45 minutes leading up to the start of the race. Based on Crosier’s average user time of 1 minute, 15 seconds, it looks like each restroom will serve roughly 35 runners in the 45 minutes leading up to the start time. So if 500 runners show up, and 80 percent, or 400 of the runners, need to use the facilities, you’ll need about a dozen restrooms to get them in and out on time. Now extrapolate that for a much larger event and you soon need three figures of restrooms lined up.

With long lines at some races, runners find it much easier to go behind the bushes to relieve themselves. Crosier saw it while running the Chicago Marathon.

“In Lincoln Park, everybody is shooting over into the trees, the guys and the girls,’’ he says. “It’s a constant stream and nobody pays attention to it.’’

You can imagine that most race directors would prefer that doesn’t happen. So they need to be convinced that it’s good for public relations – and public health concerns – if they order more and better restroom facilities. I discussed some ideas with Crosier on how to improve your pitch to race clients for the coming year. Here are a few things to consider:

Start the race and hold the finish party at the same spot

If the customer orders enough restrooms at the starting line, they likely won’t be filled up after the runners take off. So why not use them for an after event? Crosier said he was at a race where the finish was five blocks from the starting line, and consequently the restrooms at the start were underused and the public bathrooms at the finish were overused. It seems common sense to prod the race team to choose a layout that promotes optimal restroom usage.

Think about user queuing when you set up units

Crosier observes that a single line of users waiting for a bank of restrooms promotes better traffic flow. When a line forms for each unit, slower users cause longer waits for some of the lines. A single line moves faster and more efficiently. Promote ways to have users naturally queue in a single line.

Add hand sanitizers in the units

Crosier believes hand sanitizers in all units should be a minimum requirement in the first place. You want to promote cleanliness at special events, and an in-unit hand sanitizer seems like the quickest way to accomplish that goal. Impatient runners are already waiting in one line to use the restroom. Don’t make them come out of the unit and wait in another line to use a freestanding sink. Time is of the essence as they try to get to the starting line or stop along the route.

Can you promote urinal unit usage?

Crosier bought a Kros Event Urinal when they were introduced to the U.S. market at the Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo International several years ago. He liked the concept of a four-sided urinal the size of a typical restroom. There are similar trough products available that can serve multiples of men quickly, freeing up other units to be used by women. But the urinal products haven’t caught on in the U.S., Crosier says, even though he believes they would be a good fit for running races. Maybe offering screening or tents to obscure the view of urinal units would make them more appealing to race organizers. They would certainly speed up the lines.

Staying in shape

Apart from his research to better serve race customers, kudos go to Crosier for his personal fitness efforts. He says he recognized a need in his 40s to get in shape after following a more sedentary lifestyle, and now at 50, it sounds like he’s in the best shape of his life. His change is a good reminder that we should all eat better and exercise regularly for a longer, healthier life with our families. Good job, Ron!


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