Reader to Reader: Drinking on the Run


Knowing when and how much to drink while on a run is one thing - actually taking on water is quite another. Can you help this week’s questioner master the art and science of hydration?

"During training I haven't been taking water with me, as I've not been going that far and I don't want to carry anything whilst running. Instead I've been making sure I'm topped up and then downing a couple of pints on my return. In my first 10K at the weekend, I went for water at the water stations, and I just couldn't seem to drink it. I slowed to a walk and still coudn't seem to find the co-ordination to get the water from the cup into my mouth and then to swallow. I don't suppose I'm the first person to have come acoss this, but seeing as I intend to keep running, it's something I think I ought to work out how to do! Any words of wisdom?"Helenliz


Your best answers

Taking on water

  • Slow right down
    If I need to take some water and it’s in cups, I walk through the aid station and drink calmly. I've learned it’s quicker to do that than choke myself on the water and lose more time that way. – cougie
  • Master the make-a-spout technique
    If I get a cup of water in a race, I generally tip out half of it, squeeze the cup in the middle to make a spout, sip a couple of mouthfuls, then pour the rest down my back if it’s very hot. For marathons I would generally slow to a walk (you only lose a few seconds) and make sure I drink more. – Happycat
  • Practice drinking while breathing
    If you can manage to pour a little water under your tongue, you can then release it into your mouth when you are ready to swallow (i.e. in between breaths). Otherwise, learning to absorb water through your nose would be a good trick! – Nessie

  • Carry a bottle ...
    Take your own bottle of water if you are likely to need it. You can then drink when you want, you won’t have to slow down to get a cup which you inevitably spill over yourself, and you can always refill it at the stations should you need to. One other thing I do to stop the choke/splutter thing is take a deep breath, hold it briefly, and then take a mouthful of water - this reduces the chances of it going down the wrong way! – NickL
  • ... or invest in a camelbak
    I just bought a two-litre water bag which is worn either around the waist or across the back, and comes with a drinking tube. The concept seems sound - carry the water with you and drink as necessary using a handy straw, no fear of water shortages or need to wait for water stations. – Petedaddy
  • A simple bottle lid can go a long way
    One trick that served me well at London this year - I took the squirty nozzle off the top of a Lucozade bottle and carried it with me. I screwed it onto the water bottle at the drink station and hey presto, I had a bottle I could easily drink from, carry and squirt over myself!. – Edward Collier
  • Experiment on training runs to see what suits you
    I don’t like carrying water, so on a long run I will set out plastic cups of water just outside the house front door and then do laps. It must look odd to see me running up to the house, drinking some water and then running away, but I don't care, it’s better than carrying water. – Wallsend Wanderer

Knowing when to drink

  • Top up your tank before you start
    You should not be taking on water during a 10K, unless it is a searing hot day and you need to splash it on your head. I seem to remember it takes 90 minutes for water you have drunk to actually be available as sweat so you need to drink *before* the race. – B(Ewok’s Mate)
  • Be careful not to drink for the sake of it
    I think you can get too much into a routine of drinking while running even shorter runs. I think the body is more than capable of coping with a little less water. As long as you keep yourself well hydrated in normal day-to-day life a long run should be easy. – Tenderheart Bear
  • Adapt your strategy to suit the conditions
    Drinking during the race will depend on how hot it is. I did one race at 30C and stopped to drink every mile and still lost 2 litres of fluid. I did another in winter, didn't drink anything during the race and was fine. – SleepyLion
  • Everything in moderation
    Moderation and specificity is the key. Drink too much when you're not used to it, and you risk hyponatraemia or at the very least having to stop to pee. Drink too little and you run the risk of dehydration and all that entails - muscle cramp, disorientation... – 99%Chimp
  • Understand what your body needs
    You need to know how fast you lose fluid, which will vary according to conditions. Weigh yourself (naked) before a run, then straight after - the loss of weight will be fluid loss. Do this on a couple of runs, in different conditions/distances and you will know your maximum and minimum requirements. Make sure you drink enough to pee about 300ml pale, straw coloured urine six to eight times during a normal day, and possibly once at night if you are really well-hydrated. It can take up to 24 hours or more to rehydrate if you are not. Your diet (if you eat lots of fruit and veg etc.) will also comprise about 20% of your fluid intake. – TootieA
  • Excess fluid will go straight to your bladder
    I'm not a fan of drinking while racing or when doing a hard fast run. I tend to hydrate well beforehand and stop a couple of hours before. The experts would probably say to take on more, but I find it does me sod all good as I end up having more pee stops, which begs the question how much of it I actually use or need en route. – Little Lizard
  • Trust your instinct
    I work on the principle that if I'm running so hard that I can't grab a cup of water and take a good gulp without spilling it all or choking, I probably don't need the water. For longer races I usually stop drinking a couple of hours before the race, then have a bottle of isotonic drink within 10-15 minutes of the start. This means it doesn't have time to end up in my bladder before the start of the race, and will often be sufficient to see me through a half-marathon. For longer distances, I'll be going more slowly and won't mind slowing down to take a drink. – Velociraptor

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