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How To Run And Drink At The Same Time

October 24, 2019

How To Run And Drink At The Same Time

Hydration is important. And, if you’re doing a long race, you’re going to need to drink at some point during it. You can carry that heavy water bottle with you or you can partake in the water aid stations along the route.

If you’re lucky, the drinks will come in bottles featuring those ever-so-useful sport caps. But, in all likelihood, your hydration will come in plastic or paper cups, which will be offered to you by volunteers who most likely don't know what it's like to be on the receiving end. 

The fact is plastic and paper cups really aren’t very well suited to being grabbed when you’re running. It’s easy to mess up the entire process – and given the consequences of doing so can mean a lack of hydration and/or getting soaked with water.

So, how do you grab and gulp? It's a matter of form.

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Spot, Grab, Drink

Most races 5K and above will provide a chance to hydrate. I remember running a 10K race in New York City's Central Park back in the day when Perrier used to sponsor races. Guess what they offered at each water station -- Perrier! Imagine swallowing that while trying to gasp for air.

These days, we like to think we are more sophisticated about proper hydration; however, the art of drinking during a race is still like balancing spinning plates on a pole while standing in a subway car. The key is to be prepared and to practice the grab and gulp.

One of the first things you need to do is spot a drink station and then plan your move over to the side of the road it’s on, which sounds easy until you try doing it when you’re in the middle of a pack of runners. For optimum drinks-grabbing possibilities, try to create a bit of space from any runners ahead of you. This makes it far less likely you’ll plough into the back of a runner whose drink-grabbing technique is to essentially stop. It also helps prevent the ‘swoop and snatch’, which is when another runner swerves in ahead of you at the last second and inadvertently grabs the exact cup you’d been aiming for.

Next comes the grab. Grabbing a cup without slowing down too much is an art form. And there are plenty of techniques that you can be employed. Here are a few:

  • The top-down snatch: When you raise your arm up high, then reach down and grab the cup around the top rim.
  • The up-and-under: Drop your arm down low, and grab the cup from the base while you’re swinging it up.

  • The mid-cup clasp: Hold out your hand, open it wide and aim for the middle of the cup, grasping it as soon as you make contact.

  • The stop-and-stip: Slow down, stop, pick up the up and drink it, while making small talk with the volunteer.

Now, for the hard part - drinking. Getting the water from the cup into your mouth, preferably without breaking stride is hard. And, frankly, there really isn't a decent technique for this. But, here are two techniques:

  • The big gulp: Open wide, aim for mouth, pour liquid in. Depending on how tired you are and how your breathing is going, you risk the potential of choking on the water or taking a small shower. 
  • Small sips: Take multiple small sips of water. Pretty straightforward, but you may have to carry the cup for a while.

I usually grab it, take a sip and pour the rest over my head. Perhaps, I hydrate through osmosis. 


As I mentioned, these cups are not really the best design for hydrating while running. And running a race is hard enough. During a race, you're engaged in an intense competition against yourself mostly. For some of us, grabbing the cup of water, splashing it not only on yourself but the volunteer who gave it to you and then smashing it to the ground can be a rebellious exhilaration. We may be feeling crabby and in pain and this exercise may provide some emotional and physical release.

You may have an entitled feeling that says, “I paid for this race, and until that brightly shirted volunteer comes over here and runs 20 miles like I just did, I will throw this cup, and ANY cup anywhere I please.” 

With these feelings, it’s difficult for the runner to think about anything other than the race, let alone where to throw a cup, and so, after the race it looks like a tornado has swept into town with all the cups strewn across the road. I guess we don't think about the environmental impact and waste this entails, but it is something to think about these days.

According to a Runner's World article, road races already contribute an obscene amount of trash to landfills—the New York Road Runners, for instance, report they use 4.1 million paper cups across a year of races, with 2.3 million coming from the New York City Marathon alone. That’s just one city, using no lids or straws. Multiply that by all the cities hosting races in the U.S. and, well, you’re confirming one thing: there is a cup problem.

The good news is that new concepts are coming into place. One race recently made news for replacing paper cups with biodegradable seaweed packets at one of the mile markers. It’s a revolutionary concept—biting into your “cup” so it dispenses hydration—that seems to have been successful. Check out the company doing it at

Another concept is just reducing the amount of water stations needed in a race. For example, in the marathon it may not necessary to handout water at every mile marker. Stay tuned as the running world recognizes the need to be more environmentally friendly. In the end, we all may become more efficient with our hydration.