Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Who's Packin'? :: The Old Carry-Water-or-Rely-on-Aid-Stations Debate

One might think that running a first marathon would result in having all those newbie-type questions answered:

to carry or not to carry
To carry sustenance and hydration during the marathon or not? That is the question.

That last one, the question about hydration toting, shows up frequently in running forums, on blogs, etc. This is mostly because novice marathoners, like me, actually think that the few seconds that are either added or subtracted from their otherwise perfect finishing time depend entirely on whether they're holding a 22 oz bottle the whole time.

(It does, by the way. It matters a great deal. But, then, so does the weather)

Anyway, I'm revisiting this question, I guess, because I have marathon number two scheduled for early March. And, while browsing a couple of other people's photo sets from a training run at Uwharrie, I noticed that some carried stuff and others did not. So, I got to thinkin'...

Also, I must admit that I'm not much of a long-run runner. So, I don't really know what works for me.

I know that the last long run was successful without a handheld or a hydration pack. But, how's this run going to go? Are the extra two miles going to break me if I don't have my bottle? Is a bottle going to cause handheld-dependency if I break it out for this run?

Yes, yes. The answer is as unique as the person asking. And, only I can determine whether I should carry fluids with me or stop at the aid stations. I know.

(Both options are unappealing, really. Stopping sucks. Carrying stuff for three-plus hours sucks. Too bad we have to drink during the race at all)

So, really, I'm posting this to see if anyone answers the question in the headline:

Do you carry a handheld or other hydration source during marathon racing and/or training?

Do tell in the comments below.


  1. "Extra two miles"?
    You ran a 24 mile training run without water or food? Wow that is amazing. My limit is about 12 miles.
    For marathons I have been carrying 2 bottles of gel in a fuel belt and drinking at the aid stations. But I am starting to like my handheld

    1. Wait! What? 24 miles? No, no, no. I was writing hypothetically in that paragraph. I've never run 24 miles in training!
      Thanks for your response, Anthony!

  2. I carried my handheld at Medoc, but only because it had my super-duper, anti-cramping, secret, magical electrolyte solution. Otherwise I drank water at the aid stations. It's nice to have something to drink right when you want/need it, but I really do hate carrying anything on the run. I'm going to try Umstead without the handheld and just take a pocketful of electrolyte tablets instead. But don't take my advice about liquids. The one true running talent I have is the ability to run long distances without drinking (at least in the Winter) or eating. Ryan McCarty (my Uwharrie running partner) calls me "The Camel".

    1. Just because you're part camel doesn't mean I should ignore your advice, Scott. A good scientist considers data from all variables.
      <----Not a scientist

      Thanks for the response!

  3. Yes, I always carry a 24oz bottle (or two), in winter I can get about 90 minutes per 24 oz. In the summer months, I've easily consumed twice that much during the same period. I've also worn the CamelBak on occasion, but I always feel a lot slow with it on. Have you seen the new CamelBak Ultra LR? It looks like it could be the perfect ultra vest. If I could find one before Uwharrie, I'd probably wear it!

    1. Whoa, Andrew, that CamelBak Ultra LR vest is impressive. If I were to plunk down the cash for that, I'd wear it, too!
      Have fun at Uhwarrie!

  4. I've trained with a CamelBak which is fine although I agree it slows you down. In races I like to carry a small lightweight handheld which I can top up at water stations if I need to. It allows me to sip rather than gulp big quantities (so I get less of that sloshing sensation) and also allows me to wash down my GUs when I want to rather than having to time it around water stations. I use something like the Runaid Runners water bottle (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Runaid-Runners-Water-Bottle-Medium/dp/B000WE7F5M/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1327575339&sr=8-2) which is easy to open up and top up.

    1. That smaller handheld is a nifty consideration, Petra. I might give one of those a try. Thanks!

  5. For all my long runs (and races) past 10 miles, I carry my own hydration. It is NOT in my hands, but clipped onto the belt around my waist that holds my waist pack in place. Each bottle is 10 ounces, and I can clip three on the belt, with another in the pouch (along with my phone, ID, keys, GU, and electrolyte tablets) if need be.

    These are what I'm talking about...


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