Navigating the Water (Stops)
If you’re new to racing, then you’re new to water stations. It’s easy to spot the newbies at a neighborhood 5K, so if you want to hydrate like a pro, then follow these tips.
- Know when they’re coming. You don’t need to memorize the course, but having a vague idea of where the water stops are going to be will help you prepare physically and mentally.
- Lefty or righty? Do you prefer to take your water with your left hand or your right? Sometimes, you don’t have the option of which side of the street to go to, but in bigger races, you usually do. I’m right-handed and thus more comfortable grabbing a cup on the right, but sometimes if the left side is less busy, I’ll make like a southpaw.
- Decipher which is water and which is Gatorade. (Hint: The water is almost always after the Gatorade, so cool yer heels.) It’s a real bummer when you grab Gatorade thinking it’s water — especially when you want to dump some on your head.
- Wait until the last half of the stop to grab a cup. Everyone and their dog makes a beeline for the water stop at first sight, so you can wind up in a log-jam with volunteers scrambling to pass cups to everyone. Bypass that traffic hazard and make your way toward the back.
- Make eye contact with the volunteer. It’ll make the handoff sooooo much smoother. And don’t forget to say thank you!
- On a hot day, double fist. One cup’s for drinking, and the other’s for dousing — on your head, down your shirt, whatever needs it.
- Fold your cup into a triangle. Two things will happen if you try to drink without folding your cup first: 1) Most of the water will spill down the front of your shirt and 2) half of whatever water did not spill out will go straight up your nose. So smash that cup into a nice little pour spout and you’ll be good to go.
- Slow down. I’ve nearly perfected the water stop shuffle, but during a marathon, I will slow to a walk. The key is that you actually want to DRINK the water. Moving too fast while you guzzle can result in spillage and choking. Also, if you do decide to walk, be aware of your surroundings. You don’t want to stop suddenly in front of pack of runners. It’s both dangerous and annoying.
- Watch where you throw your cup. If possible, try to get it at least near a trash can. And if you’re tossing it while there is still liquid inside, again, be aware of your surroundings. No one wants to have soaking wet shoes courtesy of a discourteous runner.
Whew! Who knew there could be so much to think about when you’re drinking water? — Mags