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Are water stations useless for 5Ks and 10Ks?

Studies suggest water intake isn't necessary for races lasting under an hour, so you may want to skip the water station at your next race

Runners are always being reminded of the importance of hydration in warm weather, but how important is it during a five or 10K race?

After participating in Toronto’s Sporting Life 10K a couple of weeks ago, I was curious to know how many of the top 50 runners grabbed water at 8 km. My friend who was working the water station told me zero–no takers. Obviously, races are required to have water stations, but if the faster runners are not stopping to grab water in a short race, is there any benefit?

Many runners do use water or sports drinks during their workout or race, but it’s only really necessary if you go into it completely dehydrated, or if your race lasts more than an hour.

If you are hydrating on the day before and the morning of your race, you likely won’t need any water to get you through your 30 to 45-minute run or race. According to a study in the Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, runners on average will sweat out 46 per cent of their total fluid intake during a 10K; this means they’re still benefiting from 54 per cent of their fluid intake. Experienced runners keep themselves hydrated heading into the race, and most will skip the water station to save time. 

Back-of-the-pack runners, who are out there longer, are more likely to need to drink during the race. They may also be less experienced at taking in fluid before and during a race.

Water stations are obviously more popular (and more necessary) when it’s very hot, since they are sweating more. 

It is possible to drink too much water; this is called hyponatremia, and it results in your blood becoming diluted from too much water and a lack of sodium, and it can be very serious and even fatal. So by all means drink during a race if you feel thirsty, and hydrate when you’re done, but don’t feel you must drink at every water station.