Should Runners be Forced to Carry Water at Races?

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The question that organisers and runners keep asking… How do we stop the use of bottles at races? A ½ marathon with 2000 runners could easily get through 8000+ bottles in one morning! Lots of companies out there are coming up with ideas that for me, don’t seem to work just yet… such as…


  1. Folding rubber cup you keep with you to be topped up at a station? This might work for a runner who is not a “race runner”. Someone who is happy to plod around, having a good old chinwag and is happy to stop at a water station, unfold the cup from their pocket, have topped up, drink then re-fold and place back in pocket. This will not be a good option for a busy water station and for someone chasing that PB. You’re relying on lots of people with jugs or a hose which will limit how quick they can refill
  2. Cardboard cups filled ready to grab? How big will the table have to be to hold 300+ cups full of water and then how will they have replenished for the next group of runners? How big can the cups be to ensure 250ml a water minimum? Again, you’re relying on super-fast refills with jugs or a guy with a hose… can this really work?
  3. Remove single use and replace with washable sports bottles? This is ridiculous and the cost will be horrendous. Imagine 8000+ bottles that require filling, cleaning, disinfecting and then storing again for the next event. Not to mention the ones that are damaged and trampled which then need to be disposed of which in turn, defeats the entire point.

There are lots of ideas out there already, but my favourite is probably the most hated idea. Carry your own water! Now, don’t get me wrong, one of the reasons I run races is the freedom to run uninterrupted. Running with no additional weight of bottles. No need to look for traffic or stopping to pause the watch while waiting at a crossing. The only time you get to feel like an athlete is to grab that water, drink 50ml and then pour the rest over your head. This is the mindset of around 90% of runners I would guess, and I would put good money on it that most runners have never ran a PB when carrying a bottle. However, I think the sport needs to change. I think we should carry enough water to get around the entire race. Whether it be bottles or Camelback style water carriers, we should adapt to carry this. Remember when Formula 1 stopped pitting for fuel, and everyone thought it would ruin racing? This environmentally thought out change has changed racing forever. Cars were changed and things are still exciting in the pit lanes.


Many ultra-races already have rules in place that runners must carry X amount of water for the event, why can’t we do this at smaller races. Surely big organisers with buying power could provide water carrying solutions that runners can re-use at better prices and it change running forever. I understand there will still be a need for bottles for emergencies and etc but if marshals check runners as they make their way to the start like they do numbers on chests, this will be reduced again.


I carry water when on training runs for longer than 1 hour 15 mins. If I was told there was no longer any water stations and we had to run the race and carry, I’d still enter races. I’d still earn that medal and if this would deter runners from entering, then are they real runners? Would people use this as an excuse to hang up running shoes? I don’t think so… It’s just a case of which organiser will be brave enough to enforce it…and how will they enforce it? Perhaps they could offer a discount to runners who bring their own or increase prices for those that don’t? Our numbers are marked for size of race T-why not mark with “Water provided”….??