I have carried my own water in almost all of my marathons.

When I first started running I wore a water belt, because I thought that is what you did in order to look like a real runner, not because it was comfortable. Once I felt like a so-called-real-runner – I ditched the belt and moved to a handheld water carrier. {oh the absurd things I thought when I started running}

I’ve tried wearing Camelbacks and while I loved having so much water with me, I still felt that it ultimately altered my gait and felt heavy. I know that when I move up to the ultra distance I will have to learn to embrace backpack style water carriers, but for now, I don’t think I need that much water over the 26.2 mile distance.

It took some time to get use to the handheld. My arm would feel tired on runs at first, but overtime my arm has gotten stronger, and I’ve simply gotten use to using it.

When racing a marathon I typically use the handheld for the first 20 miles of the race and then toss the entire thing at an aid station. There have been times when I realized that I either wanted the water bottle for the last 6 miles or that I was so far off my goal time, that ditching the water bottle was going to do nothing to help save energy in the last miles.


The reason I carry my own water rather than stopping at aid stations is because aid stations get backed up, especially in the beginning miles before the crowd of runners spreads out. I can stick to the center of the road and avoid people who stop to walk when they get their water. It may seem silly to worry about seconds at aid stations, but if you loose 20 seconds at an aid station and do this 10 times during a race, it can really add up and be the difference in a sub 4, or BQ, or PR. You get the idea.

I also believe that it’s nice to be able to drink water when you want to drink water rather than when an aid station is there.

The reason I usually ditch my bottle at the end is because my arm is tired and anything to save a little energy in the last miles helps, and because the crowd has usually thinned out enough that grabbing a water at an aid station doesn’t slow you down. I grab the water {pray it’s in a paper cup} pinch the cup so the water will be easier to drink and won’t splash all over my face, drink what I want and pour the rest on my hands or over my head to cool me down.

It’s a pain tossing a $20/$30 water bottle but at the same time it’s worth the cost to me to not feel dragged down or have my arm start cramping. I reason that I paid a good amount of money to run the race in the first place why would I worry about wasting $30.

I’ve been lucky enough to test out what feels like a zillion different types of water carriers through this blog. It turns out that my favorites are still the ones I bought myself. I’ve found the ones I like on clearance on The Clymb from time to time and that has helped cut down on how much $ I’m wasting when I toss is.

I have two options I usually go with.

Two smaller Nathan handhelds in each hand, if I want to bring two different types of drinks – or one larger Nathan handheld that has a large cell phone pocket that I stuff with fuel on race day. {or one larger and one smaller as pictured above}

The smaller Nathan handheld you squeeze to get the liquid out. Sometimes this annoys me, sometimes it doesn’t. I often take a pull top I like better from other Nathan bottles and use that. I don’t love the Nathan water bottles that come with the handheld so I switch it out for a nuun water bottle {though from looking at their website they have updated bottles that I haven’t tried – maybe they are better than the older versions}. The nuun bottles are made by Trek so it doesn’t necesarrily have to be a nuun logo bottle, it just happens to be that those are the ones I’ve liked and I haven’t had to go out and search for new ones to buy.

I’ve stopped at aid stations and re-filled my larger bottle when I felt extra dehydrated and didn’t want to toss it in the remaining miles. For a couple of my marathons my husband has met me at various locations on course and handed me a new carrier with a fresh bottle in it.

There isn’t one way I prefer doing it because all marathons are different. Water stations are at different locations, they are held at different times of year and the numbers of participants vary greatly. I take all of these factors in to account when deciding what I want to do.

Whether you should or shouldn’t carry water is a personal decision that no one can make for you. Make sure to practice during your long runs with the type of carrier you plan to use. Nothing new on race day!

Do you carry your own water? Comment below with which one you use and if you like it or not!


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  1. I’ve got an older Quick Draw Plus and love it. I think for me, water is more of a mental thing, because I bring water even on short 3-4 mile runs. It’s like a little boost of Nuun encouragement!

  2. I’m pregnant with our first and when I asked my doctor if I could keep running, she told me to make sure I stayed hydrated, so I decided not to run without water (no matter the distance) throughout this pregnancy. At this point, I really don’t mind carrying a water bottle!

  3. Mary-Ann Moerman says:

    After I ran my first marathon I said ‘ the next time I use a camelback’ . It was frustrating at the water stations! The second time I used water belt, and that was more relaxing, I just don’t want to stop. Last year I had my own liquid too and used water at some water stations. This year I’m training with both, camelback and water belt, it easy to fill the little bottles up at the H2O on the go stations here on base. Now I thought I’ve read somewhere that the MCM doesn’t allow camelback for safety reasons, so I’ll probably will use my belt again. It all comes down to bringing my own stuff hahaha. And try to avoid the first stations and then I’m good!

  4. A lot of trail marathons require you to carry your own hydration. Those races have helped me get used to it. This year I’ve started carrying a water bottle during my road races as well. It feels so good to breeze past the water stations and drink when you need it. I’ve tried a few different ones and I like the large amphipod.

  5. I have the Nathan quick shot and love how light it is and how comfortable it fits on my hand. I use it on runs longer than 8-10 mi. The only thing that annoys me is that every once in awhile my hand involuntarily clenches when I’m running which in turn ends in me being squirted in the face! The squeeze mechanism on my bottle must be super sensitive!

  6. Yes, I always carry water! I used an Amphipod 20oz for years (and still do on occasion, but mine have gotten a bit worn out!), and this year bought an UltrAspire handheld. It’s heavier and took a little getting used to, but I’ve grown to like it. Both have pockets where I can shove a few Gu packets and my key. I’ll bring my water for all races, whether it’s a 5K or a marathon!

  7. Oh! This is such an issue for me!!! This and fuel!!!! I have not found a good way to carry water…I for sure hate the belts…after running a certain amount of miles I hate anything touching my stomach, let alone squeezing my stomach and if the belt is not tight it will bounce(and sometimes they bounce anyways). I tried a handheld a few times and didn’t really like that either…in all fairness though I did not give it much of a chance. I have read a lot of things about how it can affect your stride ect and cause injury…I would love to know your thoughts on that. I would definitly carry water over a belt though! I have not tried a camelback. I really don’t need a ton of water…but for anything over 12 it is noce. I have been dropping a water bottle before I run at a spot. That works but today it was hard. I did 16 and passed my water at mile 8 and 12 but I was REALLY thirsty for mile 15 and 16 so it would have been nice to have some water.

  8. Since I moved to Florida, I always carry water (a Nathan carrier but I switched the bottle for a Camelbak water bottle that holds more), and just switch arms with each song. I was thinking of buying a disposable water bottle for my half and just stuffing the carrier thing in my fuel belt when I toss the bottle. Though I’m always looking for a newer and better water option 😉 I HATE the fuel belt, but it’s a necessary evil on long runs.

  9. I carry my own for many of the same reasons and also because I use Nuun and it is not always available on every course. I am stuck on the Amphipod hand held, it seems to bother me the least.

  10. I always carry my own but I also willl take from aid stations. I have a Nathan Speed 2 belt which I like (just enough liquid), but it always hurts my back. I had the Quick Draw but the older style bottle kept leaking so after a winter race where my hand was frozen and my gloves frosty from carry that thing, I chucked in the garbage. I now use the Amphipod 10oz handheld and have the Nathan women’s Intensity vest. I used the vest for my last marathon and loved having the extra hydration even though I didn’t use it all. I don’t drink nearly enough during longer races so it was good to have for the ride.

  11. Love this post! I have used the handheld during my longer runs, but never tried it for marathons! I think this is a great idea when I run my next marathon in May because every second can count when I am trying to Boston Qualify! Thanks for sharing :)

  12. I just got a nathan handheld this year and I love it! I haven’t run a marathon with it yet but it’s been with me for all my triathlons this year! At first it felt heavy but I just make sure to switch off hands each mile.

  13. This is a big issue for me since MCM is not allowing camelbacks this year and I only found out last week! I’ve been training with mine. I wear a Nathan hydration vest, which works much better for me than the Camelback brand ones – feels like it’s barely there and I can take small sips when I need it, not when the water stops dictate it. I also like to be able to cruise through the middle of the water stops and not get caught up in it.

    I’ve tried the belts and the handhelds and they all change my gait and make me uncomfortable – funny how it’s different for every person. I’ve run my three (of 9) fastest marathons by a big chunk of time with my Nathan pack on (one was more necessary b/c it was a smaller race w/ limited water stops), and while I understand the need for greater security, I’m seriously bummed about finding out this late in the game that I can’t wear it for MCM.

  14. Thanks for the recommendations. Personally I do not like to carry water during a marathon but I do in long runs sometimes (at least for a good chunk of the miles). Often I end up carrying a regular plastic water bottle that I end up just tossing in a garbage can I find along the route when I’m done. I find the water stations annoying in big races but I try to make my fuel/ drink transitions as quick as possible!

  15. Love the Nathan’s water bottles, always carry one in races! The little is good for short training runs but once you get used to the large one it’s easy as well.

    Dorothy: I got their newer one in hopes of the bottle being better but sadly it is not. Lid is easier to unscrew (improvement over previous version) but the spout is fat and doesn’t open/close easily. They also changed the holder so you can loop a thumb through it, undecided if I like this yet or not. Haven’t tried subbing a diff bottle yet but that’s a great idea!

  16. Ah, hydration, a popular topic right now! Since moving to TX I have begun drinking a lot more water, but I am still bad about hydration. Usually, I only carry water if I am running over 6 miles. Oddly enough, I find putting a water bottle in the back of my sports bra works well so my hands are free. I don’t like holding bottles nor wearing the belts. The camelbak has become my friend for long runs, but I don’t plan to wear it during my marathon since I am not going for a time or qualification goal. I also have had the great luxury of my husband following/meeting me on his bike during races, so he will usually carry alot of my water, gels, and other fuel, leaving me free to just run!

  17. I just started running with a Quick Draw Plus. I’m still trying to get used to it…but so far I like having water with me on my long runs. The only thing I don’t like is that it’s too cold on my hand when I start, but I don’t want it to warm up too much before I finish. I love being able to put some fuel in the pocket!

  18. I’ve been running with the Quick Shot for about 6 months now but I have yet to race with it. I’ve been thinking about carrying it in the BAA Half because I’m concerned about the crowds.

  19. I use to run with water, however I felt like it was more of a burden than a help. I learned that if I drank at least 1 cup of water and 1 cup of Gatorade at each station I wouldn’t cramp up; and I’m a guy who sweats a ton!

    If I’m training and don’t have the option of water stations I carry 1 or 2 water bottles with me.

  20. I bought a Nathan belt a couple of years ago with the two small bottles, but actually just carry one of them with me, if I am going longer than 5 miles. I don’t run long distances like you do, so typically on my shorter runs I don’t carry anything, but anything longer it is important to keep hydrated. :)

  21. I had a disastrous water experience during my spring half marathon. It was one of the first hot days we had and there was not enough water on the course. We would have to stop and wait anywhere from 2-5 minutes before we were able get water. I lost a ton of time and I was cursing myself for not carrying my own water.

  22. I’m actually wrestling with this idea right now and was thinking of ordering this bottle holder: http://www.raceready.com/running-accessories/9400.html

    I could use that with a plastic sport type water bottle and then just ditch the water bottle if it got too heavy. I could either roll up the holder and stuff it in my shorts or just keep it on my arm without the bottle. I need to buy this sooner rather than later so I can take it with me on a few runs.


  23. I carry 1 hand-held for 10-15k races, two hand-held’s for half marathons and a 2L Camelback for marathons (well, I’ve only done 1 so far :). I really don’t mind the Camelbak at all, the closer you get to the finish line, the lighter it gets :)

  24. I started with the waste belts from camelback to the ones where the water bottle slides in. I didn’t like either….they sloshed too much and moved too much. I hate things in my hands but have completely gotten used to the hand helds. Longer runs I carry the larger nathan, shorter runs I use the small one that fits in the palm of your hand almost.

    I really started this when I ran a half pregnant. My doctor recommended taking my own water to avoid any unnecessary germs (sounds silly but when you are pregnant you do it all) in water cups poured by others. Also on my first 30K trail run it was recommended to take your own and it made complete sense. I always want water when it isn’t a stop! Even in the little Nathan I can stuff a few belvita breakfast cookies for fuel since the GU is a little tough for a pregnant digestive system! Pregnant with number 2 I’m running a half in a couple weeks with my own water bottle and cookies!

  25. I don’t carry water or fuel with me on almost any run on the road long or short with the exception of over 80 degrees. I have a bottle of water with me for trails incase I get lost.

    I prefuel a few hours before my run and refuel after my run. I also probably hit 2-4 aid stations during a marathon at most and most are in the second half.

    I don’t think this works for everyone but it works for me. I just trained to not be dependent on fuel while running with the exception of hot weather.

  26. I always carry my water mainly because I train with different sports drinks than most races provide. I love my VegaSport hydrator. I have recently moved from my Nathan handheld bottle to my CamelBak primarily because I can carry more water with me and avoid the refills and adding more powder to my drink if necessary. Plus my hand would get tired at the end and I never thought of ditching my bottle. Not sure I could do that though…..

  27. I only carry a handheld when I’m on a short run and it’s hot out. For long runs I wear a fuel belt that holds my gels, 3 bottls and my iPhone. I, too, prefer to not stop at water stations, I’ve only even stopped once or twice, for the most part, I skip them and just fuel myself. I actually really dislike carrying anything when I run, which is why I go with the belt.

  28. I have both water bottles but for longer runs always use the larger of the two. I have gotten used to carrying it and sometimes just switch hands if I feel my arm tiring. I love having the option to drink when I want, plus I keep my gel in there and typically my car key. Handy all around.

  29. For a full marathon, I always carry a water bottle. (and train that way on long runs) Like you said, I also like to ditch it at the end… works perfectly if I can have family/friends around 23. I can’t stand the waist belts – maybe I just have big hips, but they bounce all over creation on me.

  30. I’m not speedy (yet) but since I’m trying to be, I hate having to stop for water, and I don’t like to be forced to take gel at water stops – I want to fuel and hydrate on my own schedule.

    I used to wear belts, can’t anymore (ulcer and other GI problems, plus they all bounce which hurts my back). I have wimpy arms though. For my last half and a spring 10miler, I used these great soft flasks w/glove holders from Salomon (SENSE HYDRO S-LAB SET) highly recommend! The glove means less effort to hold, I found they sloshed less (you can roll empty flask up, but it’s not easy) and the flasks are bite valve. I bought addl 8oz and 5oz soft flasks on Amazon (8 for water, 5 for First Endurance EFS Liquid Shot gel, only gel my tummy will accept). They worked great.

    In most recent marathon training (now questionable due to injury/rehab/timing) I had started training w/ UltrAspire Spry 1L pack, was going to carry flask for gel, use pockets on vest. (My DH thinks it might have affected my gait & contributed to injury, but I don’t think so – had only run w/ it maybe 4-5x, a couple loaded, hadn’t drunk from it yet). Now concerned about the banning of these types of packs, as I prefer being self-sufficient as I’m trying for big PRs and other marathon goals. (and what’s next, no gel flasks like what I use, only sealed commercial packs, which FRS doesn’t make?)

  31. I’m wondering if I’m the only one with this issue, but when I run with a handheld the corresponding hamstring always get tight! So much so that I tried to train through it when I ran my first 50k but now have lingering tightness on my right side, the preferred side to carry a handheld. Now I use a waist belt that I hate but it gets it done. I race with it as well in case of water stop back ups. I’m considering a move to a camelback or vest but worry about sloshing, bouncing and extra sweating. Has anyone else noticed gait changes with a handheld?

  32. taking water with is always a good idea during run…

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  34. I couldn’t imagine running a marathon without my own water supply. It just seems like a bad idea for so many reasons. Staying hydrated is (in my opinion) one of the most important parts of running and especially completing a marathon.

    Every marathon I’ve ran I’ve carried my own water. I used to use hydration belts but I eventually moved up to a hydration pack. If you don’t have your own water with you, be 100% sure you know there are plenty of places to get water along the route and that you’ll have enough water up ahead to see you through the marathon.

    I’ve compared a lot of different hydration packs and did a review on my blog about them, hope you don’t mind a bit of shameless self promotion: http://hydrationanywhere.com/best-hydration-pack-for-running/

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  36. I agree that finding the right way to carry water while running is difficult task. But I find best is to just carry in hand and switch between them. I would avoid aid stations for crowds and don’t like wearing the water belt.


  1. […] on long runs, but haven’t pulled the trigger on a handheld water bottle yet! After reading Dorothy’s reasoning on why SHE carries her own water, I’m even more […]

  2. […] blog, Mile Posts, is full of down-to-earth musings and thoughts on running (for example: “Should You Carry Your Own Water During a Marathon?”), race recaps, and snapshots of her life. Beal is also a certified running coach and brand […]

  3. […] blog, Mile Posts, is full of down-to-earth musings and thoughts on running (for example: “Should You Carry Your Own Water During a Marathon?”), race recaps, and snapshots of her life. Beal is also a certified running coach and brand […]

  4. […] weblog, Mile Posts, is filled with down-to-earth musings and ideas on working (for instance: “Should You Carry Your Own Water During a Marathon?”), race recaps, and snapshots of her life. Beal can be a licensed operating coach and model […]

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