I once had a younger competitor ask me to watch his pre-race routine to see where he was going wrong. The young man told me that he would always get horrible side-aches that would destroy his races or even make him drop out. He hoped that simply rethinking his warm up could help. That afternoon I watched as he walked to the starting line with two cups of water. He quickly drank both before readying himself minutes before the gun sounded. After the race, I asked him if he did this before every race. His response was yes, and that he wanted to be hydrated so he would not cramp up mid-race.

While this amusing error in hydration seems obvious, many of us feel just as oblivious when it comes to properly hydrating before and during a race. We haphazardly grab water or sports drink from tables as we feel but really have no plan for our hydration during the race. Maybe you don’t feel like drinking water at the first table so you just pour a cup of water on your head. I know that was what I did in my first half.

Well, here are eight simple suggestions to help put a method to your hydration madness:

1) Drink on the run
Try to consume between 3 and 8 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes. I like to space these water breaks in terms of miles or kilometers run. For big races, hit the water stops about every other mile. For smaller events the 5k markers will be fine.

2) In you, not on you!
Fluids are going to do more for you if you drink them. Drink first, and pour over your head second and after you’ve got your 3-8 ounces.

3) Practice before race day
Practice drinking on the run and the type of fluids you will try to drink before race day. Try it out during your long runs leading up to the race.

4) Take your time to drink
Even if it means carrying your water cup or bottle for a quarter mile, get in your 3 to 8 ounces. As you are learning to drink on the run, it will take some time to consumer liquid while in motion, but don’t let that take away from your fluid intake.

5) Test the “waters”
If you want to try the new sports drink that your target race is handing out, do it ahead of time. The last thing you want to learn during a race is that a new sports drink makes your stomach upset or worse.

6) Don’t be afraid of stopping to drink
If you are having difficulty drinking on the run, don’t be afraid to stop to drink. It can serve a dual purpose of helping you refocus as well as keep you properly hydrated rehydrate.

7) Know the conditions
Check the weather reports before races and long runs and prepare your hydration accordingly Ideal racing conditions are in the mid to low 50s but often times our events have temperatures in the 80s. Be aware of the temperature and try to add drinks with electrolytes to your fluid mix on those days. Drinking sports drinks will help you replenish the electrolytes you have lost through sweating.

8) Pay attention to you urine
What?! Gross! But seriously, watching to be sure you maintain a consistent pale yellow to clear colored urine shows you that you are well hydrated. This can be a helpful reminder throughout the day, and a signal of under hydrating post-run or race.

David Jankowski
Current John’s Run/Walk Shop employee and Lexington Catholic Track & Field Coach, David was the USATF Club XC Champion in 2009, was a 2 time Olympic Trials Qualifier and has a PB of 2:16 in the marathon and 28:14 in the 10K

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