The Marathon Diaries: The Hydration Situation

Annie started tracking her water intake this week and ran a little experiment to see how being well hydrated affects long runs.


It’s easy to remember to drink water when it’s 95 degrees, humid, and you’re sweating like … well, like you just ran a marathon. But what about when cooler weather rolls around? Unfortunately, pumpkin ale doesn’t count towards your daily hydration goal. I normally don’t have a problem getting plenty of fluids in my system (my friend Jess makes fun of me at happy hour because I drink water twice as fast as anything else), but even I’ve been noticing a downturn in my usual steady intake of water. How could I make sure I was drinking enough?

Like most problems, there’s an app for that. I checked out a few, but my favorite was iDrated. After telling it whether you’re a guy or girl, the app gives you a line drawing of a human body that gradually fills in when you input your glasses of water. One perk of this app is that you can put in any amount of water (in ounces) that you want. A lot of the other apps forced you to put in eight or ten ounces at a time, but for someone like me who uses a 26-ounce water bottle, the math was just too much. iDrated also offers you reminders when you haven’t added a drink in the last 30 minutes to hour. The reminders were a little unnecessary (and annoying), especially at work, but you can easily turn them off.

I used the app steadily this past week and discovered that I was drinking a good amount of water. Keep in mind these are just fluid guidelines (the amount recommended by the Mayo Clinic is roughly nine cups per day for women and 13 cups per day for men) and a “good amount” is different for everyone. I drink a glass or two in the morning, plus I fill up my water bottle at least twice during the workday and a few more glasses after work. I made some adjustments to the apps recommendations, such as not counting any fluid I took in during my actual workouts.

For a few of those days, I seemed to drink a lot more water than the app recommends. I know that overhydration can be an issue for runners and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t in danger of experiencing that. According to Shape.com, overhydration (the medical term for the condition is hyponatremia) isn’t a common problem but it is more common for those training for any endurance event (ding ding ding). It occurs when levels of certain nutrients in your body drop dangerously low after ingesting too much water. While symptoms range from headaches to nausea to even seizures, there are simple things you can do to avoid it. They recommend drinking smaller amounts of water at regular intervals and keeping your sodium and potassium levels up with sports drinks (especially if your workouts last longer than an hour) and bananas (half of a banana before a workout should do it). They also caution against taking any pain relievers during an event or long workout because it interferes with kidney function. For those of us who have been sore since we started training, it’s definitely something to remember!

I was happy to know I was adequately hydrating myself for the amount of activity I’ve been experiencing lately. I know that hydration is no quick fix, but I was interested to see if this little experiment positively impacted this week’s 17-mile long run.

I got an early start on my run on Saturday morning, so the weather wasn’t hot at all, but it must have been humid because I was definitely working up a sweat by the end of the first mile. Luckily, I had my buddy, a super-nerdy hydration belt, by my side. Since I have two bottles on the belt, one is normally filled with water and the other with Gatorade. The water is easy to fill up at one of the many fountains on Kelly Drive, but once the Gatorade is gone, I usually just fill that one up with water, too. Maybe I was hypersensitive after researching overhydration, but I wanted to make sure that my many bottles of water weren’t doing more harm than good. After the first 10 miles, I made a quick stop at the café at Lloyd Hall to grab a small Gatorade and I drank it during the last seven miles of my run.

Maybe it was mental (or maybe it was my awesome training!), but I felt stronger and less fatigued post-run than usual. I was also careful to not chug five glasses after running like I’m normally tempted to do. I paid attention to the experts, drank several small glasses of water over the course of the afternoon, and had a salty snack. No headaches, no nausea—just a positive end to another week of training.

How do you guys stay hydrated? Do you notice a change in your water drinking habits in the colder months?

Thirty-nine days until race day!

>> Related Post: Ask the Health Coach: How Much Water Should I Drink?

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Annie Acri is an administrative assistant at the Drexel University College of Medicine and is working toward her master’s of communication degree. The 2012 Philadelphia Marathon will be her second marathon. Follow along every Tuesday as Annie posts about the ups and downs of training as she prepares for the big race on November 18th. Catch up on the series here.

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  • Ken

    Great article. Unfortunately I read it after a 15 mile run today. And yes I had the super nerdy hydration belt on also. I felt like one of the ghost busters chasing after slimer! Philadelphia marathon is my first marathon. I’ll be there. Goal set for 3:59:59. My only problem is at mile 15 I die. So I’m going to focus on hydration.

    • Annie

      Now you know for your next one! And no, you won’t die at 15. Trust your training! Also, the Ghostbusters reference makes the hydration belts way cooler. Good job! :-)

      Happy running!

  • http://mcmforjustin.blogspot.com/ Carolyn

    Thanks for sharing the app! I never hydrate enough. With the app, I now have no excuse.

  • JessD

    The happy hour thing… 100% true.
    Annie’s awesomeeeeee!