Staying Hydrated During A Race (And The Trick To Drinking Water From Those Little Cups)

It only took about 10 races (a combination of half and full marathons and a few 5k’s and a 10k thrown in for good measure) for me to figure out how to stay hydrated during a race without having to carry a camelback or a belt full of mini bottles.

I am notorious never drinking enough water – race day or otherwise – but the importance of staying hydrated during a race should be pretty obvious. Camelbaks are a good option for those who don’t mind hauling an additional weight on their backs, but the bouncing around and chaffing frustrated me. I’ve also tried the sports bottles with a hand strap and I wasn’t a fan of carrying the bottle through the race and not being able to dispose of it mid race.

The little cups of water they offer at the aid stations would be great but I’m quite uncoordinated, so running, grabbing a little cup full of water and getting the actual water in my mouth is asking a lot from me. But I think I’ve finally figured it all out. This ah-ha moment took two marathons to get right and both were quite by accident.

Staying Hydrated From The Start

During the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC last fall (a full review will be forthcoming. Stay tuned), I started the race carrying a bag of water. A few days before the race, I was picking up a case of water on my way to the hotel. I noticed there was a brand of bottled water not in a bottle, but in a bag that had a sports top on it. Oooh! This would be perfect for my race, I thought and it was! The bag conformed to my hand as I sipped on it, making it easy to carry and the sport’s top made it easy to drink from without spilling. This water bag kept me going for 8+ miles.

I tried to find something similar for my last race, Surf City Marathon, but I wasn’t able to. I ended up carrying a regular water bottle (which was terrible especially because about a tenth of a mile in, I dropped the lid and so for the next 7 miles or so, I kept splashing water on myself. Ideally, when I find those bags of water again, I’m buying a few and will have someone resupply me at certain points along the route.

No lid, no problem…

The Trick To Drinking Water From The Little Race Cups

I’m a pretty competitive person so stopping and enjoying a little cup of water during a race is not something I want to do. I want to run, grab and go. But I typically would end up with about 10% of the water actually in my mouth and about 90% over the rest of my body. While that’s great for cooling down during a hot race, the dehydration is something you’ll pay for at the end of the race and after.

For this last race, I really wanted to run a sub-4:00-hour marathon and I knew that every second counted. When I ditched my cap-less water bottle around mile 6, I vowed to stay hydrated by drinking water at every aid station as I had no one on the course to resupply me (unless you count the guys who were offering bacon and beer on the side of the road). At the first aid station, I did what I always do – grabbed a water, slowed my pace and attempted to pour as much water from it as possible in the vicinity of my mouth. I was successful in pouring most of the water down my chest, but at the second aid station, that’s when the game changed.

In my haste to grab a cup of water from the volunteer, I narrowly missed but was able to pinch the top without dropping it. With the top pinched like a canoe, I was able to pour 100% water out of the make-shift funnel and into my mouth! Victory!

You might be thinking, “Well duh! I do that all the time,” but it’s one of those simple things you never think about until you accidentally stumble upon it or someone tells you. Either way, I am now an aid station water drinking PRO. I managed 22-minute and 13-minute PR’s (respectively) at my last two marathons, so I’ll give some credit to staying hydrated and not having to slow down for more water.

What is your next race and do you have any hydration tips to share? Comment below.

Hanssie is the Communications Director for fitted. In her free time, she runs marathons to get medals, counts the days until her next cheat meal (as well as her macros), rescues big dogs and blogs about the divorced life when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at and follow her on her various social media sites (below).

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