Either you’re just starting out in your half marathon training or you’ve reached a long run exceeding the needed amount of water one bottle will carry. Eventually, you’ll need to answer the question, “should I carry water for a half marathon?”
Should I carry water for a half marathon?
Carrying your own water during a race provides many benefits over the alternatives of not carrying your own water. During your training, you should know which method to carry the water by, how much water you’ll need, and approximately how much water you’ll sweat out during the race. If you don’t carry your own water you’re stuck with the water aid stations or if you’re lucky enough, friends that you’ve staged along the racecourse with water waiting for you.
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It’s hard to know how much water you’re actually drinking at a given time. You can regulate this a little if you determine how much water one of your gulps is either from a hydration pack and/or a water bottle. This really overdoing, but hey, if you sleep better at night because one of your gulps is exactly one fluid ounce of water – go for it!
So if you decide to roll the dice and use the on-course water you won’t have to worry about these issues:
You typically don’t need more than 30 ounces of water per hour unless you’re running in ultra races or ultra hot or humid weather conditions. If you drink too much water you can induce hypernatremia. Hyponatremia is when you’re body absorbs so much water that your body eventually dilutes all of the sodium in your blood. Hyponatremia is rare but it can be fatal. Signs of Hyponatremia are vomiting, disorientation, headache, confusion, and muscle weakness and cramps.1
Your body needs between 13 and 27 fluid ounces (0.4 and 0.8 liters) of water per hour of exercise2. The values could vary between individuals due to the amount of sweat lost and how the temperature during the race.
Hydration pack / water bottle 1 gulp = about 1 fluid ounce
1 cup = 8 fluid ounces
8 fluid ounces = 0.24 liters
0.5 Liters = 17 fluid ounces of water
1 Liter = 34 fluid ounces of water
1.5 Liters (34 + 17 fluid ounces = 51 fluid ounces which are nearly right in the middle of 20-30 fluid ounces per water)
1 Liter = 2.2 pounds of weight
1 Liter is magically 1 Kilogram
I’ve tried multiple ways to carry water during the race and I always fall back on carrying a lightweight hydration vest. Hydration packs can carry between 1 and 4 liters of water. For a half marathon race, you’ll probably need somewhere between 1 and 2 liters of water. This is dependent upon how long you’ll be on the racecourse.
My preferred method is to carry the water on my back in a hydration pack that can carry up to 2 liters of water. I’ve owned four to five CamelBaks and my favorite version of the CamelBak is the Ultralight CamelBak. It’s expensive, but it really is ultralight. There are several other hydration packs out there that I’ve tested, but the Camel Bak is made of high-quality material. Also, I’m a larger framed guy (broad shoulders) so it wasn’t easy finding a hydration pack that fit my frame well.
I try to drink at least one 12 oz bottle leading up to the half marathon race. This doesn’t mean that I get to the starting line and chug it down in 5 seconds. I sip on the 12 oz bottle until it’s finished prior to the race.
Since I drank 12 fluid ounces of water I don’t start drinking until mile 3 (about the 5K mark on the racecourse). At mile one I will drink between 3 and 4 gulps of water (1 gulp of water is approximately 1 fluid ounce). I will do this every mile up until mile 12. At mile 12 I might take a couple of extra sips for a total of 5 to 6 gulps then no more drinking until I finish the race. If I continued this pattern through the entire race I would end up drinking a total between 36 and 48 fluid ounces (1 and 1.5 liters) of water.
When I ran my first couple of half marathons I ran with my CamelBak Circuit (affiliate link to Amazon). This pack holds 1.5 liters of water which is exactly perfect for my hydration needs on the half marathon racecourse. I didn’t use the strategy above, where I take 3-4 gulps every 1 mile. Instead, I simply drank to thirst. When you drink to thirst, your mind is a little bit more free from worrying about when to drink next. This can be a good thing and a bad thing, especially if it’s a hot race.
I’m going to leave this up to the individual runner and their preferences. Both methods will hydrate you so when you’re training simply experiment with these methods to find out which one works best for you.
I wear a hydration pack for half marathons under these conditions:
Check out this post where I give a detailed analysis of the best of the best hydration gear for running half and full marathons.
If you’re wondering what you should do with your smartphone when you run, check out this post I wrote that gives you lots of tips on how to carry your smartphone.
|Scott is a published author and RRCA certified running coach. He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 11th half marathon race.|
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