Q+A: Can I drink alcohol and still run well later?

Our experts answer real-life questions

Posted: 9 September 2000
by Rob Spedding

Q I’ve been invited to a party on a Friday night. The problem is that I’ve already entered a 10-miler on the following Sunday, and it’s one I’ve trained hard for so that I can get a personal best. Can I drink alcohol on Friday and still run well on Sunday?

A It’s a dilemma that many runners face – can we mix ‘business’ with pleasure? Of course, it is possible to down a few pints on a Friday night and run on the Sunday, but it probably isn’t the best way to prepare for a race – especially if it’s one you really want to do well in.

If you have planned the 10-miler as a PB race then go to the party, but stick to soft drinks. You risk being branded a party pooper, but it will guarantee that your run isn’t compromised. If you’re really committed to racing hard, then leave the party early as well. Do this to make sure you get a good night’s sleep on Friday – it’s not the rest you get on the night before a race that counts, but that on the night before the night before. Doing both of these things will remind yourself how committed you are to the race.

If the lure of a couple of drinks does prove difficult to resist, it won’t necessarily be a disaster. As long as you don’t overdo it, the alcohol should have worked its way out of your system after 36 hours. No matter how much you drink, though, it’s important that you rehydrate. You can do this at the party by following each alcoholic beverage with a non-alcoholic drink. Then, before you go to bed, drink at least half a litre of water. Better still, down a sports drink to replenish the electrolytes flushed out by the excess urine that drinking inevitably produces. On Saturday, continue to rehydrate with sports drinks and water. If you get carried away, these are also the best cures for hangovers. Coffee, the traditional favourite for beating booze- induced headaches, won’t help much as it will dehydrate you further. —Rob Spedding, RW Staff Writer

Previous article
Q+A: Can bike sessions seriously replace running?
Next article
Q+A: Am I training too hard for my age?


Discuss this article

Rob, it's been widely reported on these threads that most of my good uns have been done following a rather boozy night (I won a cup at the Bushey Quarter Marathon, after two massively boozy nights and no sleep)...I think alot of is psychological. But, having said that, I do wonder how much better I might have done if I hadn't boozed...
Posted: 18/09/2002 at 21:49

and i managed a PW at the B'pest half after 7 pints of strong beer and three herbal schnapps.....

Posted: 19/09/2002 at 08:10

My last two long runs on a Sunday have been after a Sat night on the lash, apart from the groggy head at the start I ran quite well and cleared my hangover by the end. It surely can't be good for you though & as snicks says, how much better could you be without the hops inside you
Posted: 19/09/2002 at 08:36

I and several of my friends have had similar experiences. Is it possible that the carbs have had a beneficial effect? When I have prepared "properly" for a race I have often felt heavy legged and run poorly; perhaps my "I'm going to be a good boy this week" diet is not conducive to fast running. As for you Snicks, I have read your posts with amusement over the past few weeks and can only say that whilst you may run faster by abstaining, would it really be you?
Posted: 19/09/2002 at 09:47

I went out last night and feel bloody terrible today. Can I go home yet please?

I know this has nothing to do with this thread but just wanted to share it with you all
Posted: 19/09/2002 at 10:02

I got home on Friday afternoon after several days working at the other end of the country and somehow managed to drink a bottle of wine as soon as I got in the door and was fast asleep in bed by 8 p.m.

I had a half marathon at 12 noon the next day and was rubbish.

I'm sure it wasn't the alcahol. I put it down to too much sleep.

BTW Most of my pbs were set not just with hangovers but also after smoking several fags. Now I lead a purer(ish) life I've slowed down. Am tempted to go back to dissolute lifestyle to ressurect my running career.

And yes Parky, you can go home now.
Posted: 19/09/2002 at 10:14


Please feel free to have the rest of the day off. I suggest you go home now and put your feet up.

Posted: 19/09/2002 at 10:15

Thank you - see you all tomorrow
Posted: 19/09/2002 at 10:15

I want to go home to, I want my duvet.
Posted: 19/09/2002 at 10:31

This is one of my biggets dilemma's... comforting to read messages since I have a big night out next Friday and half Marathon on Sunday... I might just be changing my strategy for the evening followng these words of wisdom from fellow 'Social Runners!!'
Posted: 19/09/2002 at 10:51

I'm going to have a couple of glasses of red the night before windsor (with pleanty of water inbetween) for these reasons:

a) Help nervous little Jon sleep
b) I always run better when I've had some booze down my neck
Posted: 19/09/2002 at 11:13

Hate to spoil the party but I can hardly get down the stairs let alone set PB's at races with a hangover; these days my alcohol tolerance level seems to heading downhill fast. Last time I ran with a hangover (red wine induced naturellement) I sweated like a pig and ran with all the grace and fluidity of a pregnant rhino.

Maybe I'm just not drinking in the right zones? I can see a new thread developing here:'In all my years of coaching red wine drinkers I never cease to be amazed at just how many drinkers insist on mixing wine with a few vodkas. Now this is never going to do anything for your stomach acid threshold level'. Etc.
Posted: 19/09/2002 at 11:46

I enjoyed the best training of the week sofar last night sitting watching ultimate Force with a glass of wine!

Laura... Have you forgiven me yet?!
Posted: 19/09/2002 at 11:58

I did a pb at London following 2 pints of Kronenburg on the Friday lunchtime, but compared to what everyone else seems to be drinking that's almost teetotal. Abstinence - can't even spell ti
Posted: 19/09/2002 at 12:19

You saying sorry to mummy then? :)
Posted: 19/09/2002 at 12:26

Sorry Mummy
Posted: 19/09/2002 at 13:05

I'd forgotten I'd posted this? Was I drunk? Actually, no I've been a very abseteenous (sp? not a word I'm familiar with) Snicks this week. Last booze up was Saturday night (post long run, stayed up till 430am etc)... Haven't touched a drop all week, and I'm very proud of myself! <<Oh, dear, what I've just said has a touch of the alcy about it. One day at a time, and all that.>>
Anyway, this weekend I'll have a half bottle or so on Saturday night, then long run Sunday, and I might try and lay off pre Windsor.
..Oh, but that means I will have to cancel meal out - because I know that once I'm sat in some nice restaurant, I'll say sod it, one glass (ie four) won't hurt!

<<Lizzie : I am an ex fagger too (there's a surprise!)... I did swimathons in reaonably good time etc... but glad I gave up>>
Posted: 19/09/2002 at 13:08

Writing another article by any chance Snicks. I wouldn't recommend drinking any more than a glass the night before a race but then you've proved that its possible to still do well after a lot more.
Posted: 19/09/2002 at 13:17

I've done PBs after a heavy night's drinking and little sleep - e.g. the Cabbage Patch last year.

Can it really be coincidence that "PB" is only one letter away from "PUB"??

Posted: 19/09/2002 at 13:21

I know people who have done really well after a night on the booze - and one guy who is really fast smokes and drinks - I usually have a glass of wine the night before a race just to calm me down and help me sleep - and then drink gallons of water when I go to bed.

Posted: 19/09/2002 at 13:41

BK, no I'm not writing an article, it's in response to RW's FAQ - mind you, now there's an idea!! <Currently writing about low carb diets - can of worms, Bk, can of bloomin worms!>
Posted: 19/09/2002 at 21:53

It might be purely psychological, but I find I run better, further and faster after a six-pack the night before. The key for me is to make sure I drink plenty of water last thing before falling over and first thing before pulling on the shoes; if this is covered, I'm hot to trot. Could I be the love child of Alf Tupper?
Posted: 19/02/2003 at 12:33

For some a evening of booze is a happy mood enhancing experiece now maybe it is this that makes us feel good about ourselves thus achieving a PB?

I've had a few good runs with a mega hangover.

However, as far as quality week in week out training goes I can tell you from experience that for me regular booze is a negative factor leaving me very dehydrated, bloated and tired....I don't sleep well after a sesh!
Posted: 19/02/2003 at 12:48

My 10 mile PB was set the day after the office party - I did come very close to chundering though as I crossed the finish line!
Posted: 19/02/2003 at 13:24

I seem to be rather unusual. I gave up the booze mid December and since then have broken my 10K, 10M and 1/2 Marathon PB's. I feel much more healthy now and my body is able to run at a faster (fast for me that is) pace for longer. For the record my 1/2M time went from 1:36 to 1:31. Next time I'll try and pop under 1:30. If you can drink a little and still run then why not (in moderation). Sadly for me though it is either good running or beers and running gets my vote for now!
Posted: 21/02/2003 at 16:13

Seems liek that idea for an article took shape - there's one along a very similar theme in Running Fitness this month by one Fiona Bugler!
Posted: 21/02/2003 at 18:33

My driver Dave sent me a copy of this article but, having managed a PB (personal boak)at the Uni race this weekend, I am convinced that my pals Stella, Bud & Mr Miller are excellent training partners.
Mind you, the amount of time Dave puts in with them he should be setting world records!!


Posted: 14/11/2003 at 21:48

We'd love you to add a comment! Please login or take half a minute to register as a free member

Smart Coach
Free, fully-personalized training plans, designed to suit your racing goals and your lifestyle.