Sodium and Dehydration

By James Raia

Advice based on experience by Karl King

Karl isn't a physician, registered nurse or emergency medical technician. But as a veteran long-distance runner and director of races five kilometers runners suffering and staggering along wilderness trails. As the president of a sports drink company, King also has a vested interest when it comes to matters of sodium and dehydration. And when spring turns to summer and runners' needs increase, the Wisconsin developmental engineer's concerns are particularly keen.

After a long cold spring and no chance to acclimate to heat, runners should push a lot of water and sodium from the very start of an ultra, King recently offered in the first of an ongoing series of opinions on an ultramarathon forum on the Internet. Drink water and take some salt before the race begins. And race directors, please provide water and cups at the start line.

King, the race director of the Ice Age 50 - the country's third-largest 50-mile race - and a finisher of the Vermont 100, warns entrants about the dangers of low sodium levels. But he also knows that even experienced runners sometimes don't practice common sense guidelines - even if they're aware of the potential dangers. Therefore, with the ultra-marathon season in full swing and temperatures rising as summer approaches, consider (with his permission) King's gospel of sodium and hydration:

James Raia is a syndicated journalist and long-distance runner in Sacramento. Comments, suggestions and race information are welcomed and should be sent to 2301 J St. #205, Sacramento, CA 95816. E-mail address: