A key to a great run is hydration. If we don’t have adequate liquid, our blood volume decreases, making our bodies work harder than they need to.
How runners hydrate varies from what we drink to how we keep hydration handy on long runs.
I’ve asked a few runner friends of mine – William, Johna, and Kelly – about their hydration habits while training and during races.
A Few Sips Every Lap or So: William likes to have a glass of water before he leaves on a training run. Since he typically trains on a track, he brings a water bottle (not a sports drink guy) with him and takes a drink every few laps as needed – that way he doesn’t have to worry about carrying water with him. “I’m thinking about trying a hydration pack,” he says, thinking this will enable to train off the track while letting him keep his hands free. During races, he opts to drink water provided at stations; slowing down to pick it up doesn’t affect his performance, he says.
Before, After, and When Needed to Keep the Pace: Johna, however, notes that she tends to cramp up if she takes in too much water during her runs, although she drinks a lot before and after her long runs. Like William, she’s not big on sports drinks – she sticks to good ol’ H2O. When race day comes, she only stops at one of the stations if she’s really thirsty. “I’m all about my pace.” I like that!
Stashed Along the Route: Kelly says she hydrates a lot so that she doesn’t have to carry water on her training runs. “I’m usually good for about seven miles without extra water,” she says. Otherwise she stashes water along her routes, stops at drinking fountains, or carries water with her. On race days, she likes to alternate water with sports drinks when she stops at stations. “Each person needs different amounts of electrolytes,” she says. “Practice hydration in the training, see what tastes good and how much you need to feel good for the distance.”
And Dianderthal?: As for me, there’s no one method when it comes to training – I’ve run around my neighborhood on long runs, stashing a bottle on my porch (this ended up hurting me as my muscles cooled down by completely stopping); I’ve toted a bottle with me on long runs, switching hands when one arm got tired (once, I just tossed a perfectly good reusable bottle when I ran out of water because I was so tired of holding it); I’ve run without water, and then gulped down a couple gallons the moment I finished (not the brightest thing Ive done). And with only two half marathons completed, I’ve tried running with a water bottle to keep me from slowing my pace, and I’ve slowed to sip at stations along the route (although not every station). Though better training was likely the reason, I did much better on the race where I didn’t carry my bottle, even though I slowed down a few times to get water or sports drink (I do both). But you gotta do what works for you, as Kelly mentioned. Figure it out in your trainings and your race day will go much more smoothly.
William Long is a Health Department employee, my work son, and my race ace/training pal. Having completed his first race in February, he is currently preparing for his third half marathon, which will be in San Francisco in July.
Johna Hernandez is my OG high school friend found anew via Facebook and Instagram. She encourages others with posts about her fitness journey while balancing work and family. She runs five to six times a week and has several races planned this year.
Kelly Colopy is my BIG (although she’s tiny) boss at the Long Beach Health Department. She’ll be running with the rest of the Health Department team in October’s Long Beach (Half) Marathon, though that should be a piece of cake for her – she’s a fit, focused triathlete with several races and challenges under her belt.