6 race day hydration tips for runners

Staying hydrated is a vital piece of the jigsaw puzzle when it comes to running performance. Fluid intake is even more important on race day, so follow our six steps to nail your hydration levels and sprint across the finish line with a smile on your face

6 race day hydration tips for runners

The amount of water that you need to drink during a running race depends on your bodyweight, pace and what the elements throw your way. We’ve broken it down so you can get to grips with hydration before you hit the start line.

Sip before you start

On race morning drink enough to satisfy your thirst, but stop 30-45 minutes before the start gun goes off. Hydrating before the race is a definite must, but refrain from guzzling H20 like a fish and opt for a pint of water to maintain an optimum level (and save on early toilet stops!)

If you’re getting prepped for a marathon up your water intake a little more each day in the week leading up to the race. We may also be stating the obvious here, but ease off the alcoholic beverages and save these for your celebrations. Why, you ask? We delve deeper into this here: 7 reasons running and alcohol don't mix.

Stop at aid stations

During the race it pays to factor in a few seconds at hydration stations to stop and drink properly, especially if the liquids are served up in plastic cups.

Pinch the cup into a funnel for easier sipping and to stop yourself from getting soaked. This may add on a couple of minutes to your finishing time, but in a toss up between water breaks and not finishing at all because of dehydration, it's always best to err on the side of caution.

For hot race days, make sure you read our 6 hydration tips for hot weather running.

Little and often

Humans weren’t designed to gulp down water at a rate of 50 knots. If you drink to excess this fluid may well sit sloshing around in your bladder, causing strain on your internal organs and muscles. Depending on the weather, take sips at every other aid station and drink to your thirst.

The International Marathon Medical Directors Association suggest that marathon runners should drink about 400-800ml of fluid per hour during a race. This is down to the individual though, so it's worthwhile seeing what works best for you during your training runs.  

Don’t over drink

In opposition to dehydration there's also the risk of hyponatremia caused by over-hydration, leading to the level of sodium in your bloodstream being dangerously low. As you drink and exert yourself during a long race you dilute the level of sodium in your blood and sweat out key salts and electrolytes.

Symptoms of hyponatremia can be a decreased ability to think, nausea, poor balance and headaches, and in the worst cases it can even result in death, so it’s important to get the balance right. This isn’t to say you should avoid water, but it’s important to mix it with the salts that you sweat out.

Try sports drinks

One way to keep yourself going and prevent over-hydration is to pick up both water and electrolyte packed sports drinks and take sips of each. As well as electrolytes, sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium, sports drink also contain carbohydrates which, alongside your nutrition en route, will fuel you further.

If sports drinks aren’t available during your race, salt tablets, or gels that contain electrolytes are both safe bets.

Keep drinking after the finish line

Once you’ve finished your race you will be tempted to put your legs up and reach for a beer. A break is well deserved, but don't let the self-care stop there. Add a salt sachet into your post exercise drink to help with fluid retention and balance out your sodium levels.

A couple of tastier beverages also worth trying before hitting the beers are electrolyte-packed coconut water and good old milk.