-- Marathon Running Information, Coaching and Advice from Coach Joe English

Training: Should I run with a hang-over?

One of my runners sent me the following question the other day:

“I have a question about running when hung over. I have not been much of a drinker for several years. But Friday night I indulged quite a bit. Then didn’t sleep much at all. So I debated whether to run Saturday morning. Nope, didn’t happen…. After the fact, someone who ran track said that I should NOT run when hung over really bad. He said my various organs are already working overtime to clear the alcohol. So it would be especially taxing on the body to go for a long run. Agree?”

Leave the drinking for after your run
Photograph: still photo from the movie Beerfest. Visit the official web-site.

Let me start by telling you a little story. Once upon a time, I was living and training in Phoenix. I was near my peak for a marathon, so I needed to get in my long run of 18 or 20 miles. On Friday night, I tied one on something serious. I was pretty trashed, enough so that I didn’t get up until about 10:00AM. It was May, I believe, so by 10:00AM, the desert sun was beaming down in full force, with the temperature nearing 100 degrees or more.

The run started out pretty uneventfully, for about the first mile that is. Now I was used to running in the heat, but about six minutes into the run, I started shivering and having difficulty controlling my temperature. Forty-five minutes later, I was walking along in the desert, just hoping to find something to crawl under. I did finally find a little tree and managed to crawl into the shade for awhile to cool off. Thankfully I cooled myself enough to be able to walk back home.

What’s the moral of this story? The bottom line is that you should never run when you’re hung-over.

I have often spoken of my “Four Hs of Hurt,” which are Heat, Humidity, Hills and Head-winds. There is actually a fifth member of this terrible group: Hangovers. The problem with drinking alcohol, is that your body has to get rid of it. In the process of metabolizing the alcohol, you lose a whole lot of fluid. When you’re hung-over, you are in essence, quite dehydrated. That’s why you’re peeing all night long when drinking beer. And that’s why you feel so bad when you wake up in the morning.

So if you’ve got a hang-over, you’re going to start your run dehydrated. And as I said in my column “10 things you need to know about hydration”, if you start out dehydrated, it just gets worse from there.

My advice: leave the drinking for the night after your run. Of course, I would advise against running with a hang-over, but more than that it just doesn’t feel good anyway.

Coach Joe

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Filed under: Running,Training

No responses so far, want to say something?

  1. 1. Coach Dean August 4th, 2007 at 10:53 am

    This is a great topic. I don’t know too many college runners who haven’t experimented purposely or otherwise with running while hung over. I have to say that I agree with some of the comments made re: body working a bit harder to clear alcohol and getting re-hydrated. But, alcohol actually leaves your system fairly readily compared to many other drugs. Unless you are talking about being almost comatose from drinking so much, the small bit of alcohol left in your system will not tremendously affect your running. I know of a couple runners who have a few beers the night before they race… enough to get a good buzz. They happen to race better. Don’t ask me why, it might be mental, but, I have witnessed it. They do.

    Hydration is very important and is more a limiter than any tiny bit of alcohol in your body.

    Also lack of sleep is actually a red herring. There is no evidence that lack of sleep the night before racing (or working out of course) has an adverse affect on performance. However, lack os sleep TWO nights before a race has been shown to have adverse affects.

    That all being said, I would never advise someone NOT to run with a hangover. I do advise an easier day of running… Joe – no 20 milers!!!!! The physiology doesn’t warrant canceling a workout. The psychology (having to do a workotu while feeling like crap) may be the bigger issue to overcome.

    If you end up drinking until you are blotto on any regular basis or each time you do drink you end up blotto… there is a different problem to deal with.
    Coach Dean

  2. 2. Mark E August 2nd, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Was hungover today and opted to make it a weight lifting day and took the day off running. I think that was better than nothing and might even help me with my long run tomorrow.

    Great blog by the way coach.

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