How to Hydrate the Right Way for an Ultra

Whether you're thinking of doing your first ultra or have completed numerous events in the past, this is what you need to know to finish strong

by Kent Keeler

As an ultra distance runner, I carry hydration with me during my races and training runs.  Over the years I have tried different options ranging from hydration packs to handheld bottles.  Hydration packs that use an internal bladder and drinking hose are a great way to bring a large volume of liquid with you on the run. 

There are many options out there with different storage sizes to suit your needs.  The key benefits are that you can carry a large amount of hydration and keep your hands free.  Waist belts with bottles or flasks are another option to carry your hydration.  These provide versatility in how much you want to carry based on the number and size of bottles you want to use.  Again, these leave your hands free and the removable bottles or flasks are easy to quickly refill during a race when you arrive at an aid station. 

A third option is to use handheld bottles.  Just as with the waist belt/bottle combination you can control the volume based on number and size of bottles you carry, and you can easily refill them on the go.  Another benefit to handhelds is that you always have your drink right in front of you.  This can be a good visual reminder to keep drinking and stay hydrated.  One key consideration with handhelds is that you need to use them regularly to adapt your upper body muscles to the strain of carrying and swinging extra weight while you run.  It might not seem like much, but over long distances and time you will start to feel it!

Personally, I have settled on handheld bottles for most of my running.  For shorter runs I will use one bottle, and on longer runs I carry two.  When I am racing ultras I always carry two handhelds – one for water, and the other for mixing HoneyMaxx in.  I will leave single servings of HoneyMaxx in my personal on course drop bags where possible, or carry them with me to mix with on-course water during the race. 

The key is to stay hydrated.  Each of these options has pros and cons so try them out and see what will work for you.

Kent Keeler is an ultrarunner and HoneyMaxx ambassador from Niagara Falls, Ontario. Along with running, he loves raising his 2 kids, riding bikes, taking photos, and writing articles like this one. For more check out his website