What Goes Into a Race Water Stop?

There’s more to a water stop then filling up cups. Learn about what it takes to keep thousands hydrated.

Hours before the first runners take off at the starting line or the Kentucky Derby Marathon and mini-Marathon this Saturday, Louisville Water employees and volunteers will be hard at work readying the roads for their arrival. Actually, they have been preparing for this day for weeks.

“There’s a lot that goes into any race,” explains Paul Brannon, Distributions and Operations Supervisor.

Approximately 10 days before any race, Brannon and his team take a look at the race route to determine whether any Louisville Water maintenance or repair work is taking place along it. If so, they ensure the work is completed prior to the event.

Then, the week of the event, water samples are taken at the site of the water stops and taken to the water quality lab for thorough testing. The KDF marathon and mini will have 15 water stops. One of the water stops—the last one before the finish line—will be located directly in front of Louisville Water’s corporate office on Third Street and manned by 35 of our employees and their families.

On the day of the race, McBride and five union employees will start setting up the water stops at 2 a.m. They start that early because they must be completed by 6 a.m. when downtown road closures begin. These crews setup according to strict safety procedures that ensure quality.

On the front end of water stops, Christy Ray, Community Relations Specialist, has already trained all the water stop leaders in how to operate a water stop. It might seem self-explanatory but best practices do exist.

For example, whenever possible, water stop volunteers should fill up the cups directly from a hose rather than filling up pitchers and using those to fill the cups. Also, cups should not be filled completely, as most runners are looking for a quick splash or sip of water, not a full cup. The manual Louisville Water provides water stop operators even includes directions on how to hold the water cup so that runners can grab while on the go.

All of the precautions and policies ensure the 17,000 to 18,000 runners stay safe, hydrated and focused on completing the race. For a little extra encouragement before the finish line, Tapper will be on hand to cheer them on.

So, if you find yourself reaching out for a refreshing cup of pure tap at one of the 15 water stops during Saturday’s race or any upcoming races we are sponsoring, be sure to take a moment to appreciate everything it takes to make these stops possible.