Despite the fact that he was running his first marathon, Dathan Ritzenhein was considered a contender for a top-three finish at the 2006 New York City Marathon. After all, he has just run a 1:01:26 half marathon a few weeks earlier. Ritzenhein ran strong through 22 miles in the Big Apple, but then the wheels came off. He staggered through Central Park at 6:30 pace and finished a disappointing 11th in 2:14:01. The reason for his collapse was rather obvious: he had consumed no fluid or nutrition after the three-mile mark. A track and cross-country runner all his life, Ritz simply wasn't accustomed to drinking on the run (even in a half marathon there's no benefit to drinking for those who can cover the distance in less than 90 minutes).
When he ran his second marathon last weekendthe U.S. Olympic Trials Men's MarathonRitzenhein and his coach corrected the problem. They affixed carbohydrate gel packets to water bottles, which the young runner grabbed from several aid stations along the course. He patiently sucked down each gel and chased it with water, carrying the bottle as long as necessary to get the job done. The result? He finished second, running 2:11:07 on a very tough course and earning a slot on the U.S. Olympic Team.