Dearly beloved runners,
Before I begin my usual sermon this week, does anyone need the loo? If you can find one, that is...
As runners, the subject of doing what is, in essence, a normal bodily function, is a big topic. When to go? Where?
I remember at the London Marathon, crossing the start line, turning sharp left after the gates, being buffeted by loads of runners sprinting off! Wow I thought, at this pace they are never going to complete!
Fifty yards later, the girls peeled right to the portable loos which stretched as far as the eyes could see, and the guys peeled off left into the bushes. A morning of over hydrating had come full circle.
And none of us can forget Paula Radcliffe’s squat on route to answer the call of nature!
Those of us who run ultras will forever remember to take some loo paper on long events, because on the one occasion we forgot, the experience was so awful I can’t even bring myself to write about it.
On long training runs and races, passing through a town is often a good time to ‘shed a couple of pounds’ or ‘drop the kids off at the pool’. However, this could soon become a knee crossing disappointment, and a big problem across the country.
Nationally, the UK has lost 40% of its public conveniences in the last ten years, according to the British Toilet Association.
In my local town of Tavistock, we have lost one of our public loos already, and at a cost in excess of £60k per year to the local town council, to run the remaining ones if they agree to take on the responsibility from the Borough Council, this appears unsustainable.
How is this cost to be covered? Through an increase in Council Tax if the local newspaper report is to be believed.
Obviously this will not go down well with the population, bearing in mind many of the local businesses already pay hefty business rates.
However, your forward thinking local running hub has what it thinks is a solution which could help local authorities save money, and increase footfall through businesses in the town centre.
We have a loo in store, which customers use after shopping/ drinking coffee/ catching up with friends anyway.
If a member of the public comes in and asks to spend a penny, without actually spending money in store, then I have no problem with that. In fact I would encourage it.
Yes they may use our electric, loo paper and hopefully water, but companies spend thousands of pounds on marketing in the virtual world of social media, on websites and adverts in the press, etc. Yet to have a potential customer actually come in store, walk through and physically see what we do is surely the best marketing result ever!
Getting customers in store is half the battle and then it’s up to us to make the sale and turn that footfall into £££. If they don’t even come in store, then how can they spend money in your business?
We have to clean the facilities anyway, and we can even ‘police’ who comes in if we thought the loo was being used as an illegal office.
So with this in mind, what we at Run Venture are launching this week is the “In for a penny, out for a pound” initiative.
We will open our loo to the public - paying customer or not - during our normal business hours, and we won’t charge.
What we will do, however, is politely encourage users to make a small donation to a worthy cause and/ or charity to show their appreciation. Hence the slogan: "In for a penny, out for a pound".
No one is obliged to make a donation of any amount, but I believe one good turn deserves another!
Going forward, I would encourage other local business to be part of this initiative, with the following incentives:
increased footfall through your businesses
less pressure on local authorities budget