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Marathon Hydration: Fuel 26-Mile Runs With Our Top Three Tips - Box Appetit

| by Drew Middleton

With The London Marathon 2017 taking place on 23 April, we deemed it relevant to discuss marathon hydration tips for all those planning to participate in the 26-mile run for charities.

Whether f you complete yours in two hours or 12, it’s the taking part that counts. Sponsoring a charity and running the full distance in marathons across the world - from Boston to London to Paris - is a credit to all who partake.

Alongside rigorous aerobic training, nutrition and hydration are both equally key to a successful almost pain-free marathon. However, hydration is where we step in with a shoulder of solid support.

Later after a brief introduction to hydration principles and running, we fire off our top three tactics that will help you boss a long distance race. On your marks, get set...

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

london marathon 2017, virgin money london marathon, running

“Whether you’re a serious athlete or a recreational exerciser, it’s important to get the right amount of water before, during, and after exercise” - Family Doctor

It’s well-known that pushing yourself into lengthy physical workouts, without liquids to hydrate your body throughout, is a fool’s game.

Water is a life giver; it’s the most important nutrient to intake and makes up around 65% of the human body. Hydration at regular intervals - especially when exercising or ‘feeling thirsty’ - will bypass the harmful effects of dehydration.

marathon hydration, dehydration, hydrate, water

Dehydration causes fatigue, migraines, poor-functioning metabolism, lowers blood a blood volume and the body’s ability to transfer heat, higher risk of kidney stones… the list of potential damages to health continues.

If you experience any of these symptoms above, drinking H2O will help to regulate your body’s natural state and relieve you of

And it goes without saying that binging on alcohol not only makes your head feel like it’s imploding when you awake with a hangover the morning after but increases the onset of dehydration dramatically.

Getting The Marathon + Hydration Combo Right

marathon training tips, marathon running, long distance




  1. A long-distance running race, strictly one of 26 miles 385 yards (42.195 km)
  2. A long-lasting or difficult task or activity

Now both of the above definitions are grueling to read over, let alone put into action. Training, and inevitably running, a marathon race takes months and years of difficult dedicated training to achieve the level of fitness required to last its entirety.

But hydration is also a crucial element to easily maintain optimum energy - and keep you fit and healthy during the distance.

long distance running, sports, injury, marathons

Physical injuries - according to Very Well - during marathons include blisters, blackened toenails, chafing of the skin, bowel upsets and nausea, muscle cramps, sunburn and windburn in the hotter seasons, sprains, strains and stress factors.

The main two which stand out for water intake, however, are a. Dehydration, and b. Hyponatremia (or water intoxication) which occurs when you over consume fluids.


Hyponatremia is a big killer in the marathon world; it dilutes minerals such as sodium to dangerous levels leading to dizziness, headaches and fatal brain swelling.

In essence: don’t drink too much liquid before and during a long distance race. Consume regularly but in sensible quantities.

Anyhow, let’s hear those three hot tips for marathon hydration, shall we...

1. Never Underestimate Pre-Hydration


Picture it. You are eagerly warming up on the starting line, anticipating the sound of a blank handgun which signals GO. Uproarious cheers surround you and 38,000 fellow runners - most first-timers, many veterans of 26-milers - who have been practising for the best part of a year for the momentous occasion.

Alongside you’ll likely find 7 ft fluffy dinosaur suits, cavemen with inflatable clubs, face-paint laden ladies wearing tiaras, and your bog-standard athletic ‘ready to rumble’ runners. But this is not the start. Hell no. The start begins pre-marathon with pre-hydration.

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Hydrating throughout your race is crucial to keep sharp, healthy and remain focused on that end goal. Yet leading up to the big morning - in the preliminary 2-3 days especially - it’s important you develop a system of drinking additional amounts of water to reach an optimum body state for racing.

By optimum, we mean balancing electrolytes, sodium levels and fluid levels in preparation for a reduction of water intake. The best method of testing your marathon hydration status? Urine. If it’s clear and/or not too dark in colour, and low in volume, that’s a very good sign.

Thirst levels are also a given; if you “feel thirsty”, that’s your cue to reach for your water bottle no matter what mile you’re on. Just before you set off though, ensure you drink 8-16 ounces of water to keep your activity level high.

2. Adapt To The Location, Weather, Season - With Cold Water

london marathon hydration, london 2017

Falling around the beginning of spring every year since it was founded in 1981, the London Marathon itself is notorious for its unpredictable weather.

The hottest on record: 21.7°C in 2007

The coldest on record: 7.6°C in 1994

With these records for all to witness, you best brace yourself for rain, sun, hail, lightning, heatwaves or even snow blizzards on 23 April. However luckily those running in the UK’s capital city won’t experience the harshest of climates - or ultramarathons...

Siberian Ice, North Pole, and Everest marathons throw you deep into freezing cold arctic tundras. Whereas, The Great Wall and Marathon des Sable in the Sahara desert push you through scorching hot and humid terrain.

ultramarathon, marathon des sables, sahara, marathon

We repeat: you have it lucky, Londoners.

But the reality is - outside of sports energy drinks, caffeine-inducing gels and electrolyte tablets - cold water is the king of marathon hydration. In any running scenery, weather forecast or season.

For starters, chilled water quenches your thirst like no other liquid - despite what you may feel or perceive when drinking alternatives. It also absorbs faster into the bloodstream via your intestine and hydrates you back to a normal core temperature quicker than warm water will.

Cold water is perfect for hotter days, especially in spring or summer and when adding ice cubes. It hydrates you perfectly in winter and autumn too, though.

Keep a well insulated, ideally vacuum, water bottle with you throughout your training regime - and it is vital you have one handy on race day.

It may also help you partake in physical activity for longer, according to Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. In 2008, they found cyclists who drank a cold beverage before exercising added 12 minutes extra to their workout compared to those who drank warm options.

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Furthermore, recent studies into regular runners suggest ice slush or drinks that were part ice, part cold water helped them to run 10 minutes longer due to the super chilled drinks lowering body temperature and the mindset of continuous muscle excursion over lengthy periods of time.

So check the weather forecast on the week and night before of your marathon. Whether it’s boiling hot or chilly outside, cold water will give you the boost you need to cross that finish line.

3. Gulp Water On-The-Run At Planned Intervals

Train hard. Hydrate correctly. Our #EauGood filter water bottle ticks all the boxes for optimal hydration. Link in bio 👆

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As Boston.com reports, a sensible rule of thumb for marathon hydration - or any long distance runs, for that matter - is around 3-6 ounces (oz) every 15-20 minutes.

The trick again is to not over-drink. Keep track of your miles. Every two miles should be used as a guideline to take on some H2O, from your reusable bottle or one cup from a water stop.

Gulping, rather than sipping, is the preferred method of drinking at all stages of exercise: pre, during and post. It influences a faster rate of gastric emptying whilst running, so you’re not carrying a stomach full of fluid during your marathon.

Throwback to my first marathon last year in a little place called London. I'll be back

A post shared by Matt Ford-Thomas (@matt_and_the_marathon) on


So that’s it. In summary...

Step 1: Pre-hydrate before race day

Step 2: Adapt to weather and ‘drink cold’

Step 3: Plan your water breaks and ‘gulp’

Good luck to all runners in marathons across the globe this year. Train hard, race harder and recover well.

Interested in educating yourself on and participating in a future Virgin Money London Marathon? LEARN MORE HERE

For an interesting infographic of ‘12 Facts About The London Marathon’, CLICK HERE

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