A Record to Be Reckoned With

By Fred Johnson, A.K.A. ‘The Crapmeister’

I first met Scott Ludwig at the Peachtree City 50K in November, 2002. Along with Kelly Murzynsky, the eventual women’s winner, the three of us ran the race together. Then again, at the ‘unofficial’ Tallahassee Marathon the following February (officially, it was postponed due to inclement weather. However, Scott and I and several others ran it…anyway. Unofficially, we tied for first.), he dragged me along in spite of my numerous pit stops, which clearly added minutes to our finishing time. However, I’m getting a little tired of all the fanfare one has to endure while running with an endurance icon like Scott. If I hear one more person ask about his 25 year running streak or his Master’s win at the 2002 24-Hour Championship, I may lose it. Some may say I’m jealous, but all I want is my just due. The bottom line is that I’ve taken more ‘number twos’ during runs–in more exotic places–than any runner alive. But no one cares about this accomplishment and that bothers me…a lot! Never has anyone said to me ‘My God, you’re Fred Johnson and you’ve crapped during runs all over the world!’ Clearly, Scott’s streak is an incredible feat, but taking a dump in a minefield in Bosnia must be equivalent to gutting out miles day in and day out for a quarter century. There’s a reason some mines are called ‘nut busters.’ I mean, you step on one and the device bounds three feet in the air (about waist-high on most males) and explodes.

I’ve been a soldier for 18 years and I have been afforded the opportunity to run in some pretty neat places. And because I’m more than a little ‘regular,’ I’ve been forced to ‘pit stop’ during most all of my runs. A sample of some of my more prominent ‘numbers twos’ follow: I’ll leave it up to you whether I deserve a place in the record books.

Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzagovina

This was the location of the aforementioned minefield incident. Needless to say, Bosnia is full of mines. During a run with a Croatian buddy of mine, I had to go. Well, if you’re like me, when the feeling comes you can’t think about anything else. I’m sorry, but you may be talking to me and I’ll nod my head as if I’m listening, but I’m actually looking for a place to go and won’t hear a word you say. That’s exactly what happened. I told my Croatian friend Pjec that I had to stop. I then made a bee-line straight into an open field. With Pjec yelling ‘no,’ I bypassed a sign I couldn’t read, and I went to squat. Pjec then came to the edge of the road and said ‘Fred, you’re in a world of sh#&.’ I answered ‘no kidding,’ digging toilet paper out of the key pocket in my running shorts. He said ‘no, I’m serious; that sign says we’re in a minefield.’ Talk about instant constipation. Fortunately, my footprints where I entered the minefield were visible and I retraced my steps out. If I weren’t so near retirement, I wouldn’t be telling this story because if one of my bosses gets wind of it, they’ll boot me out for sheer stupidity.

Quito, Ecuador

Of all the places I’ve ‘number two’d,’ Quito is where I felt most comfortable. The reason is that I could stop, drop trouser, and no one would pay me any attention. I stayed in downtown Quito and the only place I could run without risking my life was the park across from the hotel. Suffice to say, people in Quito are downright mean. However, in their meanness, they are very open in doing their ‘daily duty’ and I appreciated that. While running around the park, I got lured into running with a group of students from the university. This was after a night of eating fish head soup and drinking beer with a name I couldn’t pronounce, so I was primed for more than one ‘pit stop.’ As the urge came upon me and I debated ‘to go or not to go,’ the runner in front of me promptly stopped, dropping his skin tight running shorts and doing his business 10 strides in front of me. Dodging his droppings, I directed myself to the nearest tree and did the same. It was at this point I realized my runner’s plague was international.

Paris, France

It was really an uneventful ‘pit stop’ along the Seine, but it makes the list only because the French are crapping all over us now after we bailed them out of two wars.

Vicinity Tapline Road, Saudi Arabia

Tapline Road is near the Iraq boarder and it is where I spent a month or so before the Gulf War. Running in Saudi Arabia was tough for many reasons, but I was committed to run every day to stay fit. The most difficult part of running there was that I had to do it in my uniform and equipment. I could ditch my weapon with a guard, but the rest of my uniform had to remain intact. In addition to my uniform, I had to wear a flak vest, helmet, boots, and a belt with suspenders that carried canteens of water. I didn’t run far or very fast, but I ran every day. My runs in Saudi Arabia rank as my best in spite of the constraints. I started the runs right before daybreak and I would run toward a series of rocky hills in the distance. I timed the runs so I could watch the sun come up over the hills. Of all my morning runs spanning over 20 years of running, the sun was never more magnificent. I would run out for about 10 or 15 minutes and then turn around and run back to camp. The other good thing about running in Saudi is that you could pretty much ‘pit stop’ anywhere. In this particular instance, that became my problem. After several cups of good Army coffee, I started on my trek. Right at the moment the sun finished cresting the hills, and I had to go. Good timing, but the moment came over me fast. I quickly took off my suspenders and vest and in doing so my helmet came off. Since I was in the middle of the desert, all I had to do was squat. However, unbeknownst to me, my helmet had settled right underneath me. When I finished, I discovered I had unloaded inside of my helmet.

Garmisch, Germany

Honestly, I felt guilty ‘going’ in Garmisch. This city, near the Austrian border, ranks as the second most beautiful place I’ve ever run. Because I was so enthralled with Garmisch’s beauty, I actually ‘held it,’ while my better judgment told me to go. All of us have been there—tightened glute muscles; short, quick steps; forward lean; eyes darting, looking in every direction for a restroom. I ran like that for two hours which, in itself, has to be some sort of record. But because of my discomfort I wasn’t enjoying the splendor of the Bavarian landscape as much as I could, so I decided it was ‘time.’ However, there was a problem: I was running along a ‘fusweg’ (German for ‘foot path’—consider me cultured!) in an open field with absolutely no cover. Not to mention there were a bunch of folks on the path walking or running in both directions. Fortunately, in the distance, I spotted a barn that appeared abandoned, except for a couple grazing cows. I did my best version of a sprint, jumped the fence behind the barn, landing in what I thought was mud. I did what I had to do and went to kick off the ‘mud’ from my shoes when I noticed it wasn’t mud at all—I had landed in cow dung. To make matters worse, a farmer and his wife were watching me, laughing themselves to tears.

Peachtree City, Georgia

My ‘dump(s)’ in Peachtree City rank in the top ten because it was the venue of my first ultramarathon, as well as my introduction to Scott and his crew. I came to the Peachtree City 50K with no expectations other than finishing the race, hopefully in a reasonable time. That goal changed when I linked up with Scott and Kelly and got caught up in the moment. Unfortunately, I was plagued with an overactive bowel for most of the race. As a result, I had to make a ‘pit stop’ every (4.7 mile) lap and then sprint to catch back up with them so I could maintain their pace. I believe this fartlek effect contributed to my running a pretty good time and ousting Scott in the last two miles. I know it bothers the heck out of him that I won that Master’s title (and received a miniature golf cart for my efforts, which ranks as the nicest award I’ve ever won). I didn’t deserve it because Scott is a much better runner than me, but I attribute the victory to the five cups of coffee before the race and the Krystal burgers I ate the day before. Having said that, I believe this racing strategy is worthy of mention in a prominent running publication.