Running Water: Are You Hydrated?

Marathon training is tough.  There’s the increase in mileage, the test of mental toughness, not to mention the dilemma of choosing your race fuel, so it can be easy to forget about hydration.  But after reading this post you’ll have no excuse!

No matter how much you try to keep an eye on what you’re drinking before, during, after and in between training there will always be times when you lose track and find yourself dehydrated.  In fact, by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

So why is being dehydrated such a big thing?

As you use and lose fluids your blood becomes thicker.  As your blood becomes thicker, your heart has to work harder to push it round the body.  As endurance runners we’re already pushing our heart so why make it harder?  Equally, as you get dehydrated your mental performance will drop too.

So how do I know if I’m dehydrated?

Well, I’ve already said that if you’re thirsty, you’re likely to be dehydrated but you can also keep an eye on it – literally.  It might sound vulgar but I’m sure I won’t be the first person to recommend looking at the colour of your wee, but I might be the first to show you through the medium of Dulux paint colours!

The easiest place to start is when to recognise you’re nicely hydrated:

Lunar Falls or Lemon Spirit? You're nicely hydrated.
Lunar Falls or Lemon Spirit? You’re nicely hydrated.

If you’re wee is subtly coloured like Lunar Falls or Lemon Spirit then keep up the good work.  The only thing to keep in mind is, if you’re having to go frequently, you may well want to ease back.

As you’re wee gets darker it’s a sign you’re more dehydrated.  Try to notice if it’s a “Sunny Day” and do something about it before it’s turns to “Lemon Drizzle” and you might be able to recover your hydration quickly.

Colour Chart 2Colour Chart 3By the time you’re at “Rich Havana 4” (oh yes, there’s Rich Havanna 1, 2 and 3!) you’re getting severely dehydrated.

Colour Chart 5Colour Chart 6If you have any fizz, let alone “Orange Fizz” then you might want to speak with your doctor.  Likewise, if you starting drifting into Caribbean Coral or Coral Flair:

Caribbean Coral or Coral Flair? Time to see a doctor unless you've been drinking beetroot juice!
Caribbean Coral or Coral Flair? Time to see a doctor unless you’ve been drinking beetroot juice!

Pink or red wee can be an indication of blood – unless you’ve been drinking beetroot juice of course.  That can be quite a surprise!  In all seriousness, we all go to the toilet so a quick glance can just nudge you in the right hydration direction.

Water is just half of the hydration story.  It’s just as important to have the right level of electrolytes in the blood.

Electrolytes regulate how much water is in the blood and control your muscle contractions as well as helping to prevent cramping.

You can get electrolytes through your normal nutrition, through the use of sports drinks but I prefer to top up through using nuun hydration tabs.

The active ingredients of nuun hydration tabs
The active ingredients of nuun hydration tabs

Added to a half litre of water, each tab provides an optimised combination of electrolytes with less than 6 calories, leaving you to use your favourite fuel, rather than a having to rely on a sports drink.  Personally, I’ve struggled to find a sports drink that doesn’t cause me grief, where as I’ve found using TORQ gels with water works great for me.

So when you’re training for a marathon, don’t let yourself forget about hydration and remember that it’s not just about the water – you need your electrolytes too!

I’m marathon training to take on my first ever marathon, the Virgin Money London Marathon, in April for African Children’s Fund.  You can’t help with my training but you can help with my fundraising.  Please donate to this fantastic cause here:


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