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It's simple - but how do you take on water?

by Robert Britton
Monday 18th January 2016
Tags  hydration   |   Robbie Britton   |   Hydrate Mate   |   Ultimate Direction

Run247 contributor looks at some options on how to carry your water supply in ultra-distance events

Hydration is one of the key components of running ultras marathons, as well as eating, smiling and running, which is pretty important, but not as important as hydration. If you don’t drink water then you’re going to grind to a halt, not just in running but in life in general so how do so many of us complicate this when we’re in a race?

For me there are three main ways to get water in during an event, with handheld or front bottles, hydration packs or relying on solely on checkpoints and little plastic cups, which is bad for the environment you know?

So how do you do it?

The Signature Series - hydration solutions to maximize performance

Photos: Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest & Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest (more here...)

We’ve seen them on the trail, the US runners topless with a small handheld bottle, aspirant MDS runners with those front bottles with the strange long straws and then a huge amount of people with their water hidden away in their backpack, sloshing around with every step. Which one are you?

Personally I enjoy a handheld bottle, having first used one on the 145 mile Grand Union Canal Race, purchasing it the day before and falling in love. Well, maybe not love, but deep admiration. These days I’m using Ultimate Direction bottles as with it constantly at hand I would drink little and often, keeping myself hydrated through an event and knowing when I’m running low because it is right in front of my eyes.

Many have said to me that they suffer from sore arms swinging water around and worry that they cannot do simple things, like eating or using trekking poles, with handhelds bottles so they use the hydration bladders in your back pack.

Photos: Andy Saville, the inventor of Hydrate Mate, running with a bladder and Robbie running with a handheld bottle

Here lies my main issue with a hydration pack, as useful as they are for millions of people out on the trail; you have no idea how much water you have left until you’re aggressively sucking air down a plastic tube miles from a checkpoint. It’s only a few minutes before you’re looking at a muddy puddle and wondering how long it takes a waterborne disease to affect your system and could you beat it to the finish line… just me that one?

Ultra Runner Andy Saville might actually have the solution for this, with his brilliant new idea Hydrate Mate (HERE), a device that monitors water levels in your bladder (the one in your backpack) and let’s you know how much you’ve got left. Worth checking out if you’re out for hours, on a long bike or hike and need to keep hydrated.

Next come bottles on the front of the pack, with or without the massive straws that bounce around in your face. It does look pretty strange, which puts me off a little bit, but when I’m in a race using trekking poles and have front pack bottles I often forget to drink regularly because the hands are full. This is where a bladder or front pack straws come in really handy because during a big event you need to make the simple things as easy as possible, otherwise the mind will be put off and you can endanger your race.

Some even just chance it running from checkpoint to checkpoint, filling up like a real life camel at each opportunity and then sloshing down the trail with a stomach full of water. Not always the best and can often lead to extended periods in the bushes clearing the gut out. It can work for a shorter event like a half or a marathon, if you’re finishing under three hours and can deal with a bit of dehydration, but otherwise it can start affecting your performance.

How ever you do it, you have to keep hydrated. There is plenty of information and differences of opinion out there on how and when you need to hydrate but with the body being 90% water…oh wait that’s a cucumber. Well there’s a lot of science involved, but even in Winter the body needs water to keep it moving. Water and Jelly Tots I find.


About The Author

Robert Britton

Robbie is a 100 mile runner who is a member of the Great Britain 24hr Running Squad and Team Centurion and likes to run ridiculous distances as quickly as possible.

To provide enough food to feed a monster running habit, Robbie coaches other ultra marathon runners through www.robbiebritton.co.uk and is also a member of the coaching team at Centurion Running. He likes to dabble with a bit of writing so that others can learn from his mistakes and enjoy the sport as much as he does.

Robbie is also a is a Profeet ambassador.


"Pain is inevitable, suffering is just part of the fun"


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