Should Runners Carry Water During a Race?

A runner reaching for water

From an outside perspective, running 26.2 miles at once would seem like the hardest thing about a marathon. But, for those who’ve committed to the distance, running can often feel like the easy part. Training, deciding what to eat and drink during the race, the details, the nerves and the unknown are far more stressful than the thought of putting one foot in front of the other.

A frequent concern of marathoners is whether to carry a water container on race day. Ultimately, this particular decision comes down to personal preference, but here are a few things to consider.

Did you train with water? 

The “nothing new on race day” adage exists for a reason. Experiment during long training runs—not during the race. At marathon distance, there are a lot of uncontrollable variables, so you’ll want to take every opportunity to control what you can. If you didn't train to self-support, then rely on the course support.

Will there be water on course? 

Don't assume that every race is going to have course aid stations. Many trail marathons and even some smaller road marathons will require you to carry your own hydration. If water is provided and you plan to rely on that, make sure to do your research ahead of time to see where the aid stations will be located. If you plan to drink only the course water, it's a good idea to practice hydrating at around the same mile it will be provided during the race.

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