Running with a backpack

I ran 10 miles today with a Cameltoe. Sorry Camelbak. 2 quite different things, only 1 is easy to drink out of. Of course, as a man, I can’t get a cameltoe, the male equivalent is called a “moose hoof!” Running in Lycra leggings today that was quite a possibility. Although it was cold out. “Mouse foot” might have been more accurate.

My 10 miles were good. I managed to keep the speed down to around 8 minute miles – I’m learning again how to run at different speeds. Despite running 3 miles further than Tuesday (when my knee tightened enough for me to have to stop) my knee was fine today. What a difference a change in speed makes. They often talk about not increasing distance by more than 10% per week, there doesn’t seem to be a similar guide for speed.

Anyhow, I thought it might be a good day to talk about running with a backpack. I ran both the Brighton Half Marathon and Brighton Marathon with a Camelbak on. A few seasoned runners gave me the odd look. One guy at the end said, “you could have gone a lot faster without all that on…” nodding at my bag. If I run 10 miles or more I always use a pack and I find I perform quicker with it. The first time I did 10 miles with my pack on I shaved nearly 4 minutes off my best time. I was amazed at how much energy I had. Why? You might ask. Well I’m a thirsty runner. I love my fluids when I run. 3 or 4 miles in I’m dry in the mouth and needing a drink. While I can happily cope with this up to 8 or 9 miles, if I run further I really feel the benefit of the fluid.

I fill my pack with a hydration fluid – a mixture of water, carbs and electrolytes. I use roughly 1 litre of fluids per 10 miles, meaning the bag weighs around 1.5 kg for a 10 mile run, 2.5 – 3kg for my marathon. That of course, is at the start. As the race progresses it obviously gets lighter and lighter. For me, the benefits of the fluid seem to far outweigh the negatives of carrying the weight.

The other advantage of running a race with a bag is avoiding stopping for fluids. I just whizz by on the outside while others struggle with water bags or drink some bright blue liquid. Nothing edible should be that colour, just not natural! I don’t have the worry of missing a drink station or discovering that the selected sports drink irritates my stomach (as drinks do to many runners).

The thing is though I am adding about 4% to my body weight by having an extra half a stone on my back. Every stride I take my legs have to deal with the impact and effect of that extra weight. Is it worth it? Would I be better off grabbing drinks at the stations like everyone else? It’s hard to know whether my backpack has become a crutch. And it’s very hard to run with a crutch!

So I’m opening up the floor to the very nice people that follow this blog. What do you think? Should I man up and ditch the bag or stick with it and not change a working formula?

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6 thoughts on “Running with a backpack

  1. Dont want to rude… But according to my experience for such time/distances possibly you speed gain is more placeebo related.
    Pls checkout what supercoach Tim Noakes has to say about liquids and fueling (latest ben greenfield podcast has a good summary)
    Cheers
    Horacio

    • Thanks, that’s a fair point. I wonder how much of it is psychological. I’ve got used to using it for all my long runs and have learned to rely on it too much. I’ll check that podcast out too.
      What do you use for longer runs??

  2. I tend to use a small bottle with energy drink for my 13+ miles, but I always find it is still fairly full when I get back home…A backpack sounds too uncomfortable and I have back pain, so I would be frightened to use one…

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