Hydration Tips Before and During a Marathon

Why Hydrate?

Keeping yourself hydrated before any endurance activity is extremely important. It is very simple to adopt, yet if neglected can cause devastating affects!

Hydration is vitally important for optimal performance and health, particularly in hot and/or humid conditions. Your level of fluid intake is dependant on your specific sweat rate. However, for a guide, taking in about 200ml every 20 minutes is the current guidelines. This works out to be about 500-600ml per hour.

Drinks for sodium intake and replacement

Lack of sodium in the body can cause cramps. Gastrolyte is readily available in the US.
Lack of sodium in the body can cause cramps. Gastrolyte is readily available in the US.
Dioralyte is readily available in the UK.
Dioralyte is readily available in the UK.

Sodium Intake

Sodium replacement is essential for endurance events. Replacement of between 0.25g per hour for those athletes who are susceptible to cramps (like myself!), or 0.5g per liter of fluid for exercise activities lasting greater than one hour. Gastrolyte, Dioralyte or a similar electrolyte replacement product you can buy from most pharmacies (drug stores). I use Asda's own which is half the price and has exactly the same ingredients. When it is made up by following the packet directions (one sachet for 200ml of water), it will provide this amount of sodium for 100mls. Check the label for instructions.

I would strongly advise not to go straight into a race having not experimented with taking this drink on your long training runs first! Some people may find it superb, but others may get an upset stomach.

So When Do I Drink What??

The week leading up to the race.

The sodium drinks do not have to be consumed constantly the week prior to a Marathon. Taking water on board is the most important way of keeping the body hydrated the week before the big day. The recommended daily intake is around 2 litres. Sometimes if you are at work it is not always easy drink that amount of water, so I recommend that just keeping a drinks bottle with you helps to remind you to keep up the hydration process. Try to avoid drinks such as tea, coffee and fizzy beverages as they have a high caffeine content which is a diuretic (increases the rate of urination, thus making you more dehydrated).

A few days before the big day!

Again try to avoid diuretic drinks. Now it may be time to also have the odd bottle of sports drink, such as Powerade, Gatorade and Lucozade Sport which you would also experiment with during training. Do not get these confused with energy drinks as they can be completely different. Energy drinks can have a large content of caffeine and sugar.

Sports drinks are a form of taking on carbohydtrates and when fluid loss takes place in the body, it also tends to cause loss of electrolytes (minerals such as chloride, calcium, phosphate, magnesium, sodium and potassium), it leads to impaired performance and the capacity for performing muscular work also declines. Thus, these sports drinks definitely aid in improving the performance level of an athlete, by acting as energy booster.

Great form of keeping hydrated along with boosting energy without the need of caffeine or sugar.
Great form of keeping hydrated along with boosting energy without the need of caffeine or sugar.

Marathon Day!

On the day of the race you have prepared so well for, it is important to begin the day sipping water and have a sports drink to break up the boredom of water! Try not to over-do the drinking as this will cause lots of toilet stops that will lose those valuable electrolytes, so avoid gulping large quantities at a time.

One hour before the start a sports drink is a good is a good idea to consume over a ten minute period, then the odd sip of water. By now your body should be well hydrated ready for the off!

A friend of mine and very well experienced Great Britain International marathon runner, Dave Buzza (2 hrs 11 mins best) gave me a good piece of advice and that was whilst standing on the start line with a minutes to go, drink down most of a small bottle of water (250 ml) as this will provide that last minute reserve.

During The Race!

Regular drink stations are there for a reason...not just to have a drink at one once in a while, but to have a good few sips at every one! Most well established Marathons will have the first drinks stations at the 3 miles or 5km mark, then every couple of miles. Do NOT wait until you are thirsty...it will be too late, the damage will be done. I can't stress enough how vital it is to take as much water as you feel comfortable. You may think you have had quite a lot, when in fact most of it ended up on the road. Some Marathons (such as London Marathon) also have sports drinks and gels on offer in the second half of the race. Only have these if you are happy using them.

For those of you going for a full or half marathon, I hope you found this hub useful!

Good luck



Comments 3 comments

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Great tips for runners of any level, but particularly for those attempting a marathon. Dehydration can seriously impact your run and your recovery. Bookmarked for future reference too!

tiptonite profile image

tiptonite 6 years ago from Leicester, England, UK Author

Thanks for dropping by Steph. Good luck for your next race!

Doodlehead profile image

Doodlehead 4 years ago from Northern California

This is excellent information. In spite of all the news about hydrating 90% of Americans remain dehydrated. Weird, huh?

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