Drinks On Race Day

Got a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


I am following your Intermediate 2 program to train for my first marathon. I have many 5-Ks, 10- Ks and half marathons under my belt. I’m shooting for 3:20 to 3:30. When I train and do my long runs, I carry sports drinks in a belt or camel back. So my question is this: Should I carry the same sports drinks in a belt on race day? I hate the idea of the extra weight, but I like the idea of being able to drink my own sports drink when I want it. Having to depend on how much I can sip from the little Dixie cups offered at aid stations scares me. Help me Obi Wan Kenobi: You’re my only hope!


Cups offered at aid stations are usually bigger than “little.” And there are aid stations every mile or two in most major marathons, particularly in the closing miles. Race directors offer that many aid stations to prevent traffic jams at the tables, but that doesn’t mean you need to pause at each opportunity to refuel. Two out of three used to work well for me. Each runner needs to determine his or her own routine during long runs in training, but also in actual marathons: past, present and future. We are all different, and at 3:20, you probably don’t need as much water as someone doing 6:40. You’re off the course and out of the hot sun sooner. To maximize fluid intake, walk through the aid stations. You will lose less time than you think. I’ve never understood why runners need to carry their own drinks with all the aid stations available in major marathons. Ultras with less support on mountain trails, that’s another matter, but I suspect you can quite safely leave your belt at home.

Hal Higdon

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for'Runner's World'and author of 34 books, including the best-selling'Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. Higdon estimates that more than a quarter million runners have finished marathons using his training programs, and he also offers additional interactive programs at all distances through TrainingPeaks.Hal uses'TrainingPeaks'to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans.'Check out more of Hal Higdon's training plans here'or on'his website.