I recently ran my first marathon and to my horror I had to stop three times in the first 1 1/2 hours to urinate. How much water should I drink before the race to stay hydrated without having to "run" to the bathroom?
This is not an unusual problem. Before a big race, runners are often so busy consuming fluids they forget the natural consequences. Believe me, no one likes to ruin a perfectly good PR with a bathroom break!
Timing your pre-race hydration can be tricky, but here are some time-tested suggestions: drink frequently to fully hydrate until two hours before the race--then stop until just before the starting gun to avoid the inconvenience of having to urinate midrace. In the last five minutes before the run, drink 8-12 ounces of water or electrolyte drink while standing on the starting line, knowing it will be absorbed by the body before it reaches the kidneys. Also drink at the water stations during the race: a reasonable amount of fluids consumed during the race will be absorbed by your body and is important to prevent dehydration.
Every runner has to experiment and come up with his or her own drinking routine before races. Use your training runs as practice sessions before your next marathon. Vary consumption before and during the run, comparing the effects. But REMEMBER: don't cut back your fluid intake to the point of dehydration -needing to urinate is healthier and will cost you less time than suffering with dehydration. During a run, never ignore thirstiness, your body's way of telling that it needs fluid refueling, and always drink until signs of thirst desist.
- Erin Kandel
Erin is a member of the MarathonGuide.com staff, writing articles, answering questions and generally helping to maintain this website.