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30,000 people will run the Boston Marathon. How many porta-potties will it take?

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

The Boston Marathon is tomorrow, and it requires some serious logistics - hundreds of volunteers, first responders and lots and lots of port-a-potties. How do organizers figure out their port-a-potty math? Hannah Loss with member station GBH explains.

HANNAH LOSS, BYLINE: Santo Stramacchia has been ready for weeks.

SANTO STRAMACCHIA: So these are all units that are going for the marathon. We're already prepping.

LOSS: By units, he means portable toilets, you know, the blue plastic port-a-potties that align the 26.2-mile course from the town of Hopkinton into downtown Boston.

STRAMACCHIA: And everybody's already talking about it. Everybody's excited.

LOSS: We met two weeks before the marathon and gazed out across a sea of about 1,000 toilets, lined up on a dirt lot and in a warehouse in Northborough, Mass., 35 miles west of the finish line. Stramacchia is the field office manager for United Site Services here. The company has been supplying toilets to the marathon for over three decades. There's a special equation to figure out how many port-a-potties to provide, and it involves the different needs at spots along the course.

MICHELLE STRATTON: Seven hundred and thirty restrooms in Hopkinton alone.

LOSS: Michelle Stratton also works at United Site Services.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Yeah, that's...

STRATTON: That's a lot of toilets.

LOSS: The starting line in Hopkinton gets the biggest batch. The toilets there are strategically placed for thousands of time-conscious runners, like near bus drop-offs.

STRATTON: 'Cause you don't want people having to wait in line because once they get off the bus, they got to get to the bathroom and then head - start heading to the start line.

LOSS: And at the starting line, Stramacchia says a bunch of port-a-potties will go right next to it for any last-minute nervous bathroom breaks.

STRAMACCHIA: There's 200 minimal at the CVS parking lot on Main Street.

LOSS: Along the course, he says runners can rely on 4 to 5 potties at each of the 24 hydration stations, plus more at each medical tent. They'll also set up about 50 accessible toilets for people with disabilities. And we haven't even talked about toilet paper math.

STRAMACCHIA: Each unit gets three rolls in it, so we order about 256 boxes.

LOSS: In grand total, there will be 1,400 port-a-potties at the marathon. The math to get to this number begins with a standard calculation for live events, one port-a-potty for every 100 people. Then that's adjusted based on other factors, like the number of hours and whether there's food or alcohol at the event.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOTSTEPS)

LOSS: The forklift was ready to load the port-a-potties onto flatbed trailers to take them to the famous marathon route. Once they're in place, there are some finishing touches.

STRAMACCHIA: Five or six gallons of water - you put it in there. Take your dye pack. You throw it in. It breaks. Boom, there you go. Your blue, scented, beautiful lavender water - whatever the flavor of the month is.

LOSS: And a handful of the newest toilets - Santo Stramacchia holds a special spot for those.

STRAMACCHIA: Those are the perfect unit. They're all good, but those would be the best of the best.

LOSS: Those, he said, go by the start and finish lines where there are the most cameras. For NPR News, I'm Hannah Loss in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Hannah Loss