One of the main rules of marathon training (or training for any long-distance race) is that you should always practice your hydration strategy ahead of race day to avoid any digestive distress or other surprises. For this reason, many runners go into a race with a hydration plan mapped out ahead of time so they know exactly when and how much fluids they’ll be taking in. A recent study found, however, that most runners abandon their plans during the race and end up taking in more liquids than they originally intended, potentially leading to issues like hyponatremia.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Exercise Physiology, surveyed marathon runners to compare how their hydration practices differed between their training runs, their intended hydration strategy during their race and their actual hydration strategy during the race. The researchers found that the majority of runners deviated from their hydrations plans on race day, likely when they were confronted with water stations on the racecourse. They also determined that the majority of runners didn’t have a really well-defined hydration strategy heading into the race to begin with.
This study indicates that there needs to be better education among runners about how to develop an effective and safe hydration plan heading into a long race like a marathon. This is important because consuming more water than you originally intended puts you at risk for hyponatremia, which could be potentially dangerous.
“Overall, lack of consistent hydration practices, specifically hydration strategy and knowledge of [exercise-induced hyopnatremia], suggest that more education is essential to provide marathoners in order to optimize hydration, health, and performance,” the researchers concluded.
In other words, when you’re training for your next long race, talk to a coach or do your research to develop a hydration strategy ahead of time, and come race day, don’t deviate from that plan, no matter how tempting those aid stations might be.