You may not see one on the runways of Paris anytime soon, but a hydration belt can be a must-have accessory when it comes to a half marathon. When you carry your own, you can hydrate whenever the need arises -- no need to slog out a few more miles to drink at the next aid station. Hydration belts worn during races can be an impediment, however, especially if you fail to test-drive the model first. Your belt should help you achieve race-day success, not drama.
Train With It
When training for your half marathon, wear the hydration belt not only for your long runs but also for particularly hot, shorter runs. You need to become accustomed to how it feels to run with the belt before race day. The belt can chafe and bounce around in an annoyingly distracting manner, so devise strategies to alleviate these problems, for example, wearing different clothing, fastening it tighter or arranging the bottles in a different way. You may find wearing the belt higher or lower can also make it more comfortable, but you don't want to wait until race day to find this out.
Drink When Thirsty
Previous recommendations called for drinking copiously during training and races to offset dehydration. The International Marathon Medical Directors Association’s 2002 guidelines, however, encourages runners to drink as they feel thirsty, without exceeding 13 to 26 ounces per hour. When running with your hydration belt, follow this protocol to avoid becoming dehydrated, or over-hydrated, both of which can spell disaster on race day.
Bring Only the Essentials
Your hydration belt may feature multiple pockets and pouches, but you don't have to fill them all. Put in just the basics, including the water bottles, energy food, identification and your car keys, if you must carry them. Skip the extras, such as lip gloss and your cell phone, which will only weigh you down. Make a plan to meet your family and friends after the race in a pre-designated location so you don't have to call them.
Opting to not wear a hydration belt may speed you up on race day. Check with the race director or race website to see how many aid stations will be placed along the route. Some races have them as close together as every two miles, which means you may not have to lug your belt after all. If you find out what type of sports drinks will be available to runners on race day, you can train using that brand.
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.