Getting your personal water bottles placed at aid stations in a road race is one of the perks offered to people fast enough for elite or sub-elite status at major marathons. It’s amazingly convenient to be able to place your own nutrition and hydration along the course, but since this perk is such a rarity among the broader running population, there’s very little information out there about how to change your nutrition strategy if this is an option for you.
The advantages of personal nutrition are manifold: you’re free to choose the form and flavor of the nutrition you consume, you don’t have to physically carry the gels and fluids with you, and you can drink out of an actual water bottle, which is much easier than drinking out of a paper cup.
Additionally, marathons sometimes make questionable decisions about the official hydration sponsor; I know of more than one major race that has historically offered a low-carb or calorie-free hydration mix as their official fluid at the general public aid stations! Using your own nutrition frees you from worrying about this problem.
A few of the athletes I’ve worked with over the years have been fast enough to get “bottle service” at major city races, and I’ve learned a few tricks from other coaches and athletes for how to optimize a nutrition plan for this scenario. Let’s say you’ve just qualified for the elite field at a big race, and you find out you get to supply your own nutrition–what do you do? In this post, I’ll walk you through how to design your fueling plan and how to prepare the bottles themselves, using an example from a real athlete and a real marathon.