Starting well hydrated really helps - but that doesn’t mean drink tons of H20!
It's important that you set off properly hydrated. This can reduce the need to drink during the run itself and it gives you a reservoir of fluids and electrolytes to draw upon when you start sweating.
But starting “well hydrated" definitely doesn't just mean you should drink loads of water before a race.
Over-drinking can actually cause you to start with your blood electrolyte levels diluted and with a lot of fluid sloshing around in your stomach/bladder. All of which are unlikely to help you race well!
Drink to thirst and try to take in some electrolytes along the way
Our bodies are generally very good at telling us when we need to drink, so you should largely drink to thirst during a marathon. But, as a general rule of thumb, you might expect to be drinking between 500 and 750ml per hour during a race like London, maybe up to 1l per hour if it's hotter than usual (as unlikely as that seems!).
At least some of the fluids you take in should contain electrolytes (especially sodium, which helps you maintain your blood plasma volume which helps reduce cardiovascular strain and fatigue). As you're unlikely to be carrying your own drinks at the London Marathon, blister-packed electrolyte capsules like these are a great option for staying on top of your sweat losses.
Master drinking at the aid stations
Most marathons have regular aid stations on the course, enabling you to run without carrying your own drinks. In major marathons these tend to be at least every 3 miles (5km), sometimes more frequently in very hot conditions. These stations tend to offer both sports drinks and water.
Here’s how to nail drinking on the move…
1) Line up on the correct side of the road
No-one benefits from a last minute sideways surge across the path of other athletes, so move across with a couple of hundred metres to spare and try to establish yourself in a gap in the traffic if you can.
2) Slow down for the grab, and make eye contact
Whether volunteers are handing out the drinks, or you're taking them from a table, it's a good idea to slow down a bit as you approach 'the grab'. The loss of time is insignificant but it massively reduces the risk of simply spilling the drink all over the aid station workers, yourself and the pavement!
If you're being handed a drink by another person, it's a good idea to make eye contact with them on the approach, maybe even pointing to them to signal your intent so they know they should give the drink to you. A breathless ‘thank you’ as you run off is an optional but often appreciated gesture if you can muster the energy!
3) Squeeze the top of the cup to stop liquid escaping and create a funnel
More and more major events use bottled water and sports drinks on course, which makes the job of drinking on the move much simpler. But, many smaller events will still use paper cups and, if you’re not careful, taking half a dozen steps with an open cup in hand will just result in you throwing the contents all over the place.
Instead of leaving the cup open, an old pro trick is to crush the lid of the cup together to make a very narrow "funnel" opening, from which little liquid can escape, but which allows you to carefully pour some of the fluid into your mouth in a more controlled manor.
4) Don’t rush
Many athletes feel the need to drink the contents of whatever they pick up from an aid station within about 10 metres of collecting it.
TAKE YOUR TIME!
Once you have the drink in hand, gather yourself, calm your breathing and take in small sips of fluid over a few hundred meters until you feel you have had what you need.
Do be mindful of where you end up dumping the cup or bottle (different races have different rules and clean up processes) so you're not littering.
Make sure you rehydrate properly once you've finished your race.
You should be able to top up on the fluids and electrolytes lost in your sweat through the food and drink you normally eat in the hours after the race.
If you struggle with cramp, think you're a particularly salty sweater, or feel especially dehydrated after you finish, some more deliberate fluid intake and sodium supplementation might be necessary. Here’s some advice on how to speed up your recovery by rehydrating more effectively.
Good luck for your marathon!!
If you would like to learn more about the Precision Hydration products and get more advice on training and racing hydration then click here