How Can Races Ease Congestion at Water Stations?

Recently, I’ve been running a lot of road races. I haven’t participated in this many races in such a short period of time in 20 years. Back then, however, I was running fairly fast, in the 3.75 minutes per kilometre range. Now I’m closer to 5 minutes per kilometre range. It’s a different experience, running with the masses versus being up with the more competitive folks.

One thing I have really started noticing is the crowding around water stations. The thing that concerns me most is when runners come to a dead stop or slow walk to drink. Runners like me who are “in a rush” – it is a timed event! – grab the cup, squeeze it, drink from it, and toss it while continuing to run…until we slam into someone who has stopped. Who said running isn’t a contact sport?

As one who always wants to improve, I started thinking about creative ways to help those who run through water stations and those who don’t co-exist more peacefully.

See this illustration below:

If after every water table a rope and stanchion “drink zone” existed, a runner could grab a cup, enter the zone, stop or walk, drink from the cup, toss it and then run back onto the course. Anyone not wanting to stop or walk would simply continue running straight ahead – a similar concept to a “pit stop” in a NASCAR race.

One other idea we’ve used to minimise congestion at water stations that have tables on both sides of the street is to stagger the two tables.

If you are consistent from one station to another, then eventually the runners will figure out the routine. This definitely helps relieve congestion at water stations, especially those that are located on narrow roads. Another idea is to just put water on one side of the road and let runners run freely by it on the other side if they choose not to take any.

As we all know, one of the worst things that can happen in a race is to run out of water. However, almost as bad is for runners to be unable to easily access the water at a station, even if there is plenty to go around. Perhaps these set ups can help everyone drink (and run) happily.

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