Running & Water Bottles – It’s a Love / Hate Relationship

Staying hydrated when running is of utmost importance. So why is it that only the “newbies” carry water whilst pacing out the streets, and how do the “pro’s” get away with it?

I’m a firm believer in staying hydrated during exercise. After all, being just 1-2% dehydrated can see a detriment of 10-20% in your sports performance, turning your 40 minute 10k into 44-48 minutes. Yet, you won’t see me carrying a water bottle hardly ever, even during marathon training.

When I first started running, I’d carry an awkward 500ml bottle of water, you know the sort – the smallest size Evian container. It was frustrating as not only was it extra weight to carry, I rarely drank it & I felt it wasn’t really helping my overall balance. I ditched the Evian bottle, in favour of a handheld running water bottle. This was easier to carry – and I felt more professional, but still, I rarely drank & it was simply additional weight to carry.

As soon as I dropped the water bottle, I ran faster. It was more comfortable and more enjoyable to run. I felt as though I was free. so, what about when I got thirsty?

My route took me around 7 miles, I’d carry a couple of pounds in my shorts in case I needed to run into a newsagent and buy refreshments (which was extremely rare), and I’d always drink a pint of water an hour before I knew I’d be leaving for a run. This way, I’d have time to get rid of the extra H2O before I hit the streets & I always knew I was hydrated enough for regular running conditions.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my time as a runner, it that you need to listen to your body. Eat right and it’ll be easier and more enjoyable to run. Breathe however suits you, not how someone else tells you, and drink whenever you need to, not because you feel that you must.

Finally, I’d like to add that earlier I mentioned that during marathon training, I’d not carry water with me. This is true, though I will always take on additional fluids for a training run over 13 miles (or if it’s really hot around 10 miles). A great tip is to plan your route beforehand, then prior to your run, take a drive to a mid point and place an energy drink in the bushes – this never failed me and it saved me carrying a bottle of drink for 13 or so miles.

Do you carry a water bottle with you during a run? If not, how long does your run have to be for you to consider carrying liquid refreshment? 5 miles, 10 miles, 15 miles…?

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15 thoughts on “Running & Water Bottles – It’s a Love / Hate Relationship

  1. I don’t usually carry water for runs under 8-10 miles, unless it is really hot and I think not having water will significantly impact the quality of my run.

    • Good shout. It would seem that most people would consider carrying water at about 7 or so miles 🙂

      I agree, the temperature also has a part to play. When I was running in North QLD, it was crazy hot, like 35 degrees – it would have been foolish to run without a bottle.

  2. I carry water for everything over 7.2 Miles (9.2, 9.8 or 12.5). I have the bottle with the fabric handle. Because we lift weights stronger with our dominant hand (and are thereby more bulky on that side) I carry the water in my non-dominant hand, that keeps the balance right. Really, I’m not kidding.

    • Hey man,

      I’ve not heard of that one before, though it does make sense. I always carried mine in my “dominant” right hand as it always felt awkward when I switched to the left. Perhaps with a little training, I could have become accustomed to the other way around.

      It would seem that around 7-8 miles is the standard distance. I’d go with that – especially in warmer climes.

  3. I carry water for anything above 10k (~6mi) but that’s because I sweat a lot and have had far too many hospital trips from dehydration!

    I quite like carrying water though, I find once it’s slightly empty (maybe one or two sips) I use the sloshing of the water to help keep a consistent rhythm.

    • That’s a new one to me Luke. Quite a novel idea though, got a visual of you shaking your water bottle as you run.

      Do you struggle in the winter when the water freezes your fingers?

  4. We had a talk at our running club once from a sports nutritionist and he said there is no point in carrying water with you unless you are going to be running for longer than an hour (the exception being in hot weather) and I tend to stick by that.

    When I was doing my longer marathon training runs I’d work out a loop that would take about an hour. That way I could leave the water in the car and just grab it for the second lap. That worked really well. I could also keep other goodies in there and a towel, sun cream etc.

    I did suffer a bad dehydration moment one summer by pushing too hard on a 7 mile run on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year! I completely blacked out and luckily I was with my club so they did some first aid and stuffed my full of electrolytes and salted peanuts. I took me the rest of the day to fully recover, so it the sun is shining keeping yourself cool and hydrated is absolutely essential.

    • I think they’re some pretty wise words – an hour is typically 6,7 or 8 miles so that makes sense…

      Woah, sorry to hear about you blackout, sounds intense. I figure you leaned the hard way with that one & yes, being hydrated is super important!

      Which running club are you with? Maybe we could have a running meet up when / if I return to the UK?

      • I’m actually in Limbo at the moment. I left my last club (wdac.org.uk) as we are moving a bit further south soon and I never get time to go to training since I’ve been commuting back and forth to London 😦
        Still running though. In fact I am doing the Midlands ToughMudder this Saturday which is going to be a bit crazy but loads of fun

      • Ah cool! Well good luck on Saturday – I’ve seen some pictures of that course & it doesn’t look like my cup of tea 🙂 – not dry enough…

        Come to Southend, sunshine, sand and shrimps, oh plus it’s not far from the big smoke.

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