fitness · running · training

Don’t forget to hydrate properly on a long hot run (and some tips for how)

Image description: Head shot of Tracy, short blond hair, sunglasses, earbuds, sweating, leaning up against a white brick wall. Not smiling.
Image description: Head shot of Tracy, short blond hair, sunglasses, earbuds, sweating, leaning up against a white brick wall. Not smiling.

This is going to be a totally practical post where I talk about a badly planned very hot run and how I (and you!) can avoid doing that again.

I went for a really long hot and humid run on Sunday and it just about undid me. I came back feeling worse than I can ever remember feeling after a run. It’s a rare day that I feel worse for running. I had a splitting headache for the rest of the day and even had to nap, which I’ve not experienced from running since I first started to add distance six years ago. I can’t say I regret having gone out on Sunday, but I definitely could have done it better.

What went wrong? First, we had a heat warning that was well-publicized for days leading up to Sunday. Mid-30s (Celsius) with a humidex reading of 40C (that’s the “feels like” temperature). For those who work in F, that’s super hot–“feels like” 112F. My original plan had been to go out at 7 a.m.  because obviously it’s more bearable earlier when the sun isn’t high in the sky. But that didn’t materialize and I found myself heading out at 8:30 instead.

My second mistake was to bring only a small bottle of water, the kind that snaps into my fuel belt. It holds three, but I really don’t like when it’s full and I was only going out for 8K and I rarely need much water on 8K. One small bottle seemed like enough. And for ordinary conditions it may have been. But Sunday wasn’t ordinary.

Add to the late start and the inadequate water supply that I read my training plan wrong. After a 15 minute easy run I was supposed to 5x 1 minute intervals at my 10K pace with 1:30 easy in between. But instead I read it as 5x 1K intervals at my 10K pace with 1:30 minutes easy in between. That’s a big difference. By the third one they were kicking my butt.

I’ve been trying for continuous running and haven’t done too badly, but I absolutely had to take walk breaks on Sunday because I was DYING! I do an out and back into Springbank Park from where I live downtown. I don’t mind the out and back aspect of it because it’s a pleasant route along the river. And though there is one especially relentless bit with no shade (we like to call it Death Valley), there are lots of trees along most of the way.

Anyway, I decided to do a little bit extra before turning around because there is a misting thing on the path (they call it a “cooling station”). That was a bad decision because much to my dismay when I got there, it was all bolted up. No mist.  And now I had actually added some distance to my 8K, and it had become more like 9K. And my water was running low.

So as much for my own sake as anyone else’s, I’m going to crib from a great article I found that gives the pros and cons of various ways you can stay hydrated during a long run. 

The article promises five but actually only talks about four. You can click on the link to see their pros and cons. I’ve added my own two cents to the suggestions on their list:

  1. single handheld bottle–if you’re doing this go with one that is ergonomically designed to fit comfortably in your hand. I’ve got a couple of these and they’re okay for short runs but liquid weighs a lot, and it can feel heavy after awhile. A small bottle if you’re on a route where you can refill it might be fine if you don’t find it too hard on your body. Switching it between hands is a good idea.
  2. multiple bottle belt–I have two different belts. One holds three small bottles and the other holds two slightly larger bottles. They’re okay, but you do feel the weight of the bottles around your waist, and they bounce a bit (with the belt) when they’re full. That’s why even though my belt holds three bottles, I rarely ever take more than two, and on the fateful Sunday I’m talking about here, I took only one. I do like the belts though. And both of the ones I have also have a zippered section where you can stuff some nutrition.
  3. hydration pack or vest–I’ve seen people with these but never used one myself. The article speaks of them as a comfortable and effective no-bounce way to carry a lot of water with you when you won’t have a chance for refills. Weight can be an issue of course, because liquid weighs a lot. But if the water is on your back that’s not the worst place for it as long as the pack doesn’t bounce.
  4. DIY aid station–I’ve had something like this when I used to train with a run club. When we did our half marathon training one of the group leaders set up a van at the half way point of long runs filled with water, electrolyte drinks, fruit, gummies, and I can’t remember what all else (maybe band-aids and sunscreen). It was a great solution for the very long runs when it would have been a hassle to pack all that we needed.

I would add my own fifth, which is to choose a route that has water fountains along the way. Despite that the misting thing wasn’t working, if I had gone still further before turning around I would have hit an actual drinking fountain, and then another not too much further than that. And I could have grabbed more from each of these on my way back. Had a planned for 12K instead of 8K, that would have been ideal AND I could have filled up my one belt bottle before the last stretch that had so very little water.

It’s only June, which means there are a few more hot days ahead of me, where even if I get out at 7 a.m. it’ll be humid and I’ll need to do better than I did on Sunday if I want to feel good, not awful, when I get home.

What’s your go-to hydration system for hot summer training?

4 thoughts on “Don’t forget to hydrate properly on a long hot run (and some tips for how)

  1. Thanks for reminding us about hydration for all outdoor activities. my go-to method: I have two camelbak hydration backpacks– a 70 oz. (2 liters plus a bit), and a 100 oz (3 liters plus a bit) camelbak mule, which also has space for snacks, maps, phone, etc. I use the smaller one for hot road rides, and the bigger one for hot hiking and offroad rides. People really differ about tolerance for wearing a hydration backpack– I don’t notice it at all, but others really dislike them. Your mileage may vary…


  2. I’m sorry to hear about your hot and under-hydrated running experience, but appreciate the tips!

    When I was half marathon training (the longest distance I’ve run so far), it took a similarly unpleasant run for me to realize that I needed a better hydration strategy. I ended up doing something similar to the DIY aid station – since my longer runs often looped through the same location more than once, I would deposit water and gatorade just off the path early on in the run, and then pick the bottles up and drink them on my way back through. No coolers or van, though – just stuff I could easily carry in my hands for a short distance!


  3. Thanks for writing about this! I’m in Florida, and there’s basically no cool times to run right now! I miscalculated on my last run and didn’t have any water. :/ So I’ve been thinking about options–I’ve done a single hand-held before, but I’m strongly considering a belt. Hydration and fueling are some of the more complicated aspects of a run, for sure!


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