Drinking water doesn’t seem complicated, but when you’re trying to do it in the middle of a race, things can suddenly get tricky. These simple suggestions will help you get through aid stations quickly and effectively, even in your marathon-induced haze.
Check out the race maps beforehand to see where the aid stations are so you can plan your fueling strategy—specifically the types of fluids and fuel you take in at each aid station. As you approach an aid station, check to see which areas look crowded and which volunteers look ready.
“Practice as much as you can,” says Jeff Gaudette, head coach and founder of RunnersConnect. Gaudette often sets up a table at the track and practices grabbing water cups during a workout. You can also recruit fellow runners or kids to hand the cups to you, he says.
Grab the cup
When entering an aid station: “Pay attention to how the volunteers are holding the cups,” Gaudette explains. Ideally, take one from someone pinching the rim or letting the cup sit flat on their palm. If they’re holding the cup too tightly, it may be hard to grab as you run past.
The crowds at the start of the aid station can sometimes be daunting, Gaudette says, but if you aim to grab a cup early, you’ll have time to try again or grab a second one.
Once you have the cup in hand, don’t grip it in an open hand. Instead, pinch the rim together at the top to create a spout that will allow you to run and sip without splashing or getting water up your nose.
The biggest problem isn’t the drinking; it’s that everyone is trying to do the same thing as you. Don’t stop running once you get your cup—and watch out for people who do. Also, try to avoid zigzagging across the road or through crowds.
“You need to watch out for cups on the ground because they’re really slippery,” Gaudette says. If it’s cold, spilled water can freeze on the road too, adding an extra challenge.
RELATED: What Dehydration Does to Your Running Form