Drinking during marathon running in extreme heat: A video analysis study of the top finishers in the 2004 Athens Olympic marathons

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South African Journal of Sport Medicine

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University of Cape Town

Objective. To assess the drinking behaviours of top competitors during an Olympic marathon. Methods. Retrospective video analysis of the top four finishers in both the male and female 2004 Athens Olympic marathons plus the pre-race favourite in the female race in order to assess total time spent drinking. One male and female runner involved in a laboratory drinking simulation trial. Results. For the five female athletes, 37 of a possible 73 drinking episodes were captured. The female race winner was filmed at 11 of 15 drinking stations. Her total drinking time was 23.6 seconds; extrapolated over 15 seconds this would have increased to 32.2 seconds for a total of 27 sips of fluid during the race. Eighteen of a possible 60 drinking episodes for the top four male marathon finishers were filmed. The total drinking time for those 18 episodes was 11.4 seconds. A laboratory simulation found that a female athlete of approximately the same weight as the female Olympic winner might have been able to ingest a maximum of 810 ml (350 ml.h-1) from 27 sips whilst running at her best marathon pace whereas a male might have drunk a maximum of 720 ml (330 ml.h-1) from 9 sips under the same conditions. Conclusions. These data suggest that both the female and male 2004 Olympic Marathon winners drank minimal total amounts of fluid (<1 litre) in hot (>30ºC) temperatures while completing the marathon with race times within 2.5% of the Olympic record.