Bringing Your Own Water vs. Using Water Stops When Running a Race

Woman running while drinking water
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There are pros and cons to both carrying your own fluids and relying on the water stops, and each runner has his own preferences and habits.

Benefits of Carrying Your Own Water When You Run a Race

Some benefits of carrying your own fluids include:

  • You can avoid crowds at water stops by running right through them (as long as you don't have to refill your bottle/pack).
  • You can carry the brand/flavor of sports drink that you prefer.
  • You can drink when you're thirsty and not have to time your hydration based on the water stops.
  • If you're eating on the run, you don't have to worry about coordinating your energy gels with the spacing of the water stops.
  • If you haven't quite mastered taking water from the hydration stops, you don't have to worry about spilling water all over yourself.

Benefits of Not Carrying Your Own Fluids

But there are also some benefits to not carrying a water bottle or wearing ​a hydration belt or pack:

  • You don't have to worry about your arms getting tired (from holding a bottle) or feeling weighed down (by wearing a belt or pack). The more you carry, the slower you will run.
  • You don't have to waste time stopping to refill your bottles.
  • You're more likely to get cold fluids during the race. Water in water bottles and hydration belts/packs tends to get warm quickly, due to body heat. Race directors usually try to make sure that the water and sports drinks at the hydration stops are generally cold, especially if the temperature is high.

It's really a matter of personal preference and comfort, so it's hard to make a recommendation to individual runners. 

But those runners who haven't been using a water bottle or belt during their training runs shouldn't try one for the first time during their marathon. The "nothing new on race day" motto applies here. You don't want to try a brand-new hydration belt on the day of your marathon only to discover that it bounces too much and feels very uncomfortable. Make sure you wear it for several long training runs — and keep it on for the duration of your run. Sometimes what feels OK at the beginning of a run may not feel so great 10 miles into it.

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