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Reaching for a sponge at a drink station
in the inaugural Melbourne Marathon
 in 1978 (2nd, 2:23:06)
It warmed rapidly today, so the small group of us who set out for a long run on local roads at 6am (the first day of Daylight Saving), were glad of our early start by the time we finished.  It was to be my last long run before the Melbourne Marathon next week, and another good test of my fitness level.  The run went well and I felt like I could have kept running when I finished, giving me confidence that, if I run sensibly next week, I won't disgrace myself.  My right knee got quite painful at times, but this was expected.  I was the only one of the group not carrying any fluids for the run, though I did have $10 in my pocket in case emergency hydration needed to be purchased along the way.  As it turned out, I did not need a drink during the 2:56 the 32.5km took me, and wasn't even that thirsty when I finished.

I don't like carrying gear, including fluids, nor do I like stopping during long runs to drink.  Maybe I'm a prima donna, but I find even short stops can break my running rhythm, and there have been times when this has cost me in an event.  My own layman's theory of hydration for distance runners, based on an experiment of one, is that the more long running you do without frequently hydrating, the more your body adapts by "camelling up", i.e., storing fluids in the body in anticipation of the next long run.  It's the same theory that applies to the muscles storing glycogen in response to repeated training runs.  It seems to be common sense to me that the more you do something, and the more you press against the edge of your body's envelope, the more your body adapts to the increasing load.

This morning's long run took in a roller-coaster section
of the Ridgeway
Of course, the trick is not to "tear the envelope", by pushing too far.  I have definitely finished training runs and races seriously dehydrated and in difficulties, though have never ended up on a saline drip.  If conditions are warm to hot, or you are running for many hours, you have to drink or you will cause yourself harm.  I am not advocating a "no drinking" policy and recognise that every individual is different and needs to find their own balance.  However, I would argue that runners who drink frequently in benign conditions are missing an opportunity to train their body to "camel up" and are condemning themselves to carry and/or stop for more fluids in races.  A side effect is that your stomach then has to do some work processing the fluids into the blood stream.  It seems to me that if you can avoid the need for this function, you are likely to run better.

In my best running years, I drank very sparingly during marathon races unless it was hot.  Usually, I would put out plastic sauce bottles containing some flat Coca Cola at each 5km feeding station.  Then I would run through, grab the bottle, and take a couple of well-spaced mouthfuls before discarding it.  If I didn't feel thirsty, or it was nearer the end of the race (does the body really process fluids into the bloodstream in any meaningful way in the last 30 minutes of a race?), or I was in a pack of runners making it difficult to get the bottle, then I wouldn't take a drink.  On average, I would have been lucky to drink a total of more than 400ml during marathon races, and sometimes nothing at all in cool conditions.  I was much more inclined to pour water over myself from a sponge or cup to keep cool.

Of course, for your body to "camel up" between runs, you have to drink a lot of fluids, and I do.  In my case, and I take a lot of flak for this, it's mostly diet colas with some fruit juice and black coffee thrown in occasionally.  Almost no water!  In total, about three litres of fluid a day.