Half-marathon and full-marathon runners' hydration practices and perceptions

J Athl Train. Nov-Dec 2011;46(6):581-91. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-46.6.581.


Context: The behaviors and beliefs of recreational runners with regard to hydration maintenance are not well elucidated.

Objective: To examine which beverages runners choose to drink and why, negative performance and health experiences related to dehydration, and methods used to assess hydration status.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: Marathon registration site.

Patients or other participants: Men (n = 146) and women (n = 130) (age = 38.3 ± 11.3 years) registered for the 2010 Little Rock Half-Marathon or Full Marathon.

Intervention(s): A 23-item questionnaire was administered to runners when they picked up their race timing chips.

Main outcome measure(s): Runners were separated into tertiles (Low, Mod, High) based on z scores derived from training volume, expected performance, and running experience. We used a 100-mm visual analog scale with anchors of 0 (never) and 100 (always). Total sample responses and comparisons between tertile groups for questionnaire items are presented.

Results: The High group (58±31) reported greater consumption of sport beverages in exercise environments than the Low (42 ± 35 mm) and Mod (39 ± 32 mm) groups (P < .05) and perceived sport beverages to be superior to water in meeting hydration needs (P < .05) and improving performance during runs greater than 1 hour (P < .05). Seventy percent of runners experienced 1 or more incidents in which they believed dehydration resulted in a major performance decrement, and 45% perceived dehydration to have resulted in adverse health effects. Twenty percent of runners reported monitoring their hydration status. Urine color was the method most often reported (7%), whereas only 2% reported measuring changes in body weight.

Conclusions: Greater attention should be paid to informing runners of valid techniques to monitor hydration status and developing an appropriate individualized hydration strategy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Beverages
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dehydration / psychology*
  • Drinking Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Perception
  • Running / physiology*
  • Running / psychology*