Asking for free water

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Last weekend on our 1:45hr long run, we decided to ditch our trusty Nathan Fuel/Water belts and run a route that has water along the way (i.e. gas stations). As much as I really do like my nathan belt and it doesn’t bounce around all that much, I don’t love wearing it in the hotter months. It stays in place if I’m wearing a tshirt, but if I ditch the shirt to run in my sports bra instead, the belt starts to bounce.

Anyways, in all my years of running and stopping by gas stations, the attendants have always let me grab a tiny cup of water from the fountain. I know I can’t be the only one that has done that…

50 minutes until our run, Weez and I got to the first gas station (of two) along our preplanned route. We were hot, sweaty, and clearly thirsty-looking runners. No one else was in the station, and I asked the attendent if we could share one small cup to grab some water from the fountain. She looked really bothered by our request and hesitated to say yes.

I was about to say “that’s okay, thank you though..” and leave, when she grabbed a tiny cup (like, one of those litte 10oz. mouth-wash-type cups) and half-filled it for us from a sink near the register.

Weez and I shared the two-sip cup of water, and sincerely thanked her. As soon as we left, I couldn’t help but  feel a little dejected. I was really thirsty and wished we could have had another sip or two or ten. I wondered why she gave us so little, and why she looked so bothered by our request.

We decided to try again at the second gas station 10 minutes later. We ran in, I took my sunglasses off to ask the attendent kindly if we could please use a cup to have some water, and he flat out said “no”.

He told us we could buy a cup for $0.32, then get water but only if we pay. We didn’t have any money on us, but we really needed the water. It was 90 degrees that day. We were a hot mess. So I did what any desperate runner would do… I went to the restroom and drank water from the tap.

It sounds gross, but come on, we’re in America. Water is generally safe here (especially in green, straight-from-the-rockies-Boulder). And 50bucks says it comes from the same water source as the fountain or sink in the station.

We thanked the attendant on the way out and finished the rest of our run under the blazing sun.

The whole asking-for-water-at-gas-stations thing got me thinking… have times changed? Is it rude (in America) to ask for free water (and the cup, of course) now? It definitely didn’t use to be that way, at least in all the other states/cities I’ve run in before. Should we have just carried money instead? I don’t blame the attendants – they were just doing their jobs. There’s probably protocol now, telling the employees not to give out free water anymore or something. It’s not the water loss that costs the company, it’s the price for the cups. I get that.

Regardless, it’s changed my mentality about asking for water. From now on, we’ll be carrying cash on us if we don’t want to carry our water belts. Lesson learned, I guess!

Do you guys ever stop by gas stations for water during a run? Have you ever been charged for the cup/water? 

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. Mel says:

    Were they 7-11s? I asked for an empty cup there once and they told me they do inventory on the cups. That is, the way the accounting works, the soda/slurpee is free and it’s the cup that costs you $1 or whatever.

    I imagine it works that way at other chains. Gas stations specifically might be more strict since sales in the shop are how they make a lot of their profits. Gas stations make about 3 cents per gallon of gas, so I’ve heard them described as snack stores that happen to have a pump outside.

    You might be better off stopping at a fast food place and maybe carrying a buck. There’s a McDonalds by the Platte River that, depending on the day, will give you a big cup of water and ice for free or ten cents.

  2. Colorado Gal says:

    That’s absurd, but you know, I feel like it isn’t that uncommon!

    On that bike trip a few years ago, we used to take our Camelbaks into places and ask to use the sink to fill them up. We had the container, we just were asking for tap water, so we thought it would be no big deal. However, people told us no all the freaking time! One time, on a wicked humid and hot day, a lady at the grocery store told us no and Steve got pissed….kinda led to an altercation :) Regardless, it was stupid.

  3. That’s crazy!! If you go to a Starbucks they will give you free tap water! Times have definitely changed.

  4. you are the third person i know to mention this lately!

    i have heard about the cup inventory thing as well–evidently, the big bags of soda syrup used at most fountains only cost like 20 cents per cup, and the cup accounts for the other dollar or so in the price.

    i hate asking for free water. but i do it. because it’s hot and it’s water and THIS IS AMERICA.

  5. Jessica T says:

    HOW RUDE!!! I can’t believe they wouldn’t give you water!! OMG

  6. Heidi Nicole says:

    Find a Panera to stop by – I promise you they will not turn you away from free water. Heck, there are water cups hanging out by the soda/iced tea. We regularly have people walk in with cups to fill as well.

    And the cup inventory doesn’t really make sense considering the first girl you gave you the cup but barely any water. Thats kind of crazy. However, I’m not above bathroom tap water…I drink tap water at my house and I promise you its the same thing that comes out of my bathroom faucet…

  7. Oh wow! I’ve never been turned down for water before. I don’t even know how I would react if that happened. I do usually bring a couple of bucks with me though, just in case.

  8. kaitwatts says:

    I used to fill up my own water bottle with the “water” button on the soda fountain tap, but most gas stations/McDonald’s, ect, have gotten rid of those now too. I too have done the tap thing while out on long runs in FoCo and Longmont. In Laramie, I don’t even pass anywhere with that option.

  9. lizrunsdc says:

    I’ve always had success with Starbucks for free water!

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