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How NOT to set a marathon PR: Tip 3

Runners drink and toss water cups at the 2013 New York City Marathon.
Runners drink and toss water cups at the 2013 New York City Marathon.
Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

You’ve done all of your long training runs with a Camelbak, a FuelBelt or a handheld water bottle carrier strapped to each hand. Should you try to carry your own water during a marathon? Here’s tip number 3 for how NOT to set a marathon PR: Don’t try to carry your own water supply.

Water is extremely heavy. Each liter weighs approximately 2.2 pounds. Carrying extra weight takes more energy, adding minutes (not seconds) to your race time. According to Matt Fitzgerald, author of Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance:

“One study on the effects of weight on running performance found that the addition of 5 pounds of weight to the body reduced running performance in a 12-minute time trial by 5 percent.”

Of course, becoming extremely dehydrated can cause you to completely implode too. What’s a runner to do?

Drinking water on the go can be challenging. A lot of times you spill more than you ingest. There are also risks to making your way to the side of the road to grab a cup of sports drink: tripping, slipping, missing the hand off. But if you’re trying to set a marathon PR, the benefits of using the water or sports drink supplied along the course outweigh the negatives.

If you really have a difficult time drinking and running, consider carrying a straw. All you need to do is cut a drinking straw so it’s seven to eight inches long. When you get to the water stop grab your drink, pinch the cup in the middle to make a spout and minimize spillage, put the straw into either end, and drink. Try it at home first to see if it works for you.

A straw weighs less than an ounce. It can easily be carried in your hand or waistband. Straws are cheap, and it’s simple to carry an extra in case you drop one.