Q.

Hey Mario, 

I’m running the Philadelphia Marathon in a couple weeks and I was wondering if you recommend carrying my own water bottle during the race or relying on what’s available on the course?

Thanks for your help!

Matthew K.

A.

Matthew,

Good question. Staying on top of your nutrition and hydration during a longer race isn’t always easy, even if there’s a lot of aid available along the course. The advantage of carrying your own water bottle and fuel is that you know exactly what you’re taking and how much of it you have with you. The disadvantage is that you only have a finite amount of fluids and fuel, and considerations need to be made in case you run out during the later miles of a race.

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Before stepping to the starting line of any race, particularly distances longer than a half marathon, it’s important to do your homework regarding the course support available to you. A few key questions to have answered ahead of time include: How much fuel will I need? How many aid stations are there along the course? Where are they located? What do they serve?

And even if you find that there’s plenty of aid available along the course, you still may want to carry your own water bottle and nutrition supplies—especially if your stomach is particular about what you put into it. If you’ve had a chance to practice with the race’s sports drink of choice beforehand [check the race website to see what they’re offering] and find it agrees with your stomach, you may be able to get away with only having to carry a few of your own gels/blocks (or whatever your fuel of choice happens to be) and relying on the aid stations to satisfy your fluid needs. If you haven’t had a chance to practice with the race’s sports drink, or you just don’t trust the strength of the mix (sports drinks at race aid stations are typically made from a concentrate), it’s better to carry the fluids you’re confident work for you.

Knowing what’s going to be offered along the course on race day—and where—allows you the opportunity to practice with those same products ahead of time, as well as determine if you’ll need to carry your own supplies. Regardless of what you choose to do, have a plan ahead of time and avoid running out of gas on race day!

All the best,

Mario

Ask Mario appears monthly in Competitor magazine and weekly on Competitor.com. Have a question for Mario? Submit it here.