Reader To Reader: Beer before a marathon?

How long should you leave between a booze-up and a marathon, and why? Here's what you thought


Posted: 1 April 2007
by Jane Hoskyn


This week's questioner loves his running and loves his beer. But do they mix?

"How much harm will a skinful of ale a week before a marathon do me? I'm running my first full marathon of the year on Sunday 29 April, six days after St George's Day. St George's Day means a pressing engagement with a succession of public houses, and drinking loads of beer is a really key part of it. I won't be training much in the week before a marathon anyway, and the alcohol should be gone from my system by mid-week, so will my skinful do my marathon prep serious harm?"
Martin Pace

Your best answers

  • Shouldn't be a problem, unless...
    The effects of a hefty binge-drinking session should be well out of your system a week later, and your marathon performance is only likely to suffer if you fall out of a window while you're drunk or if you're still trussed up and tied to a tree in the middle of nowhere when the race is due to start. – Velociraptor
  • Wear St George kneepads
    You might be risking a twisted ankle, or some other hurt, if you're staggering a long way in a drunken state. If I were six days from the FLM, I'd be coccooned in cotton wool and bubble wrap. – cloudburst
  • Go ahead – but fill up afterwards on water and sleep
    A week before my first ultra in January I got slaughtered on a work trip to Malaga (think one tequila, two tequila, floor and you get the picture) – but I think it actually helped my nerves. After that night out, I didn't touch another drop until the event was over and I made sure I drank loads of water. Go out and relax, but make sure you compensate for it with plenty of water and sleep afterwards. – UltraCas
  • It may have an indirect affect on race day
    Drinking alcohol brings other effects with it, like interrupted sleep patterns and consumption of junk food, which will affect your final conditioning runs, which in turn will have a knock-on effect on the big day. It’s difficult to quantify what effect it could have on your final performance, and in all likelihood you’ll never know, but if that extra minute or five is important to you and you want to make sure you're at your best on the day, then the advice is to go easy on the booze. – Greenone
  • Just don't do it the night before...
    I ran a marathon with a pretty bad hangover (Dublin). It added about 30 mins to my planned time, thanks to a couple of vomit stops. It was really unpleasant, so is best avoided. Moderate and you will be fine. For my last marathon I had my sensible head on and stopped at two pints the night before the race – the curry was a lot better at slowing me than a couple of beers! – Jason X
  • This is the real world
    A binge the week before isn't strictly in the elite marathon runners' preparation plan, but in the real world we have many different priorities. – Dad Of Two
  • You can recover whilst tapering
    I'm a medical type, but I'm not going to give you a responsible answer... a week before should be fine. You'll be tapering by then anyway. – Plodding Hippo
  • A week is a long time in hangover land
    A whole week to recover? Fill yer boots! – PhilPub
  • A word from the wise guy
    Just think of it as liquid carbo-loading! – Iccle Jim
  • A cautionary injury tale...
    I missed 3 months training with a cricket injury two years ago, after getting pished out of my head at the Edgbaston Ashes test and deciding that I could vault the toilet turnstile at New Street Station. I landed on the tiled floor on my left kneecap. That said, simply drinking beer in a sitting position has never affected my ability to run, even on the day of a race. – Marcus Crompton
  • Fine if your body's used to booze
    A lot of it depends on your age and drinking habits. The older you get, the longer it takes to recover. I tend to be a steady drinker these days, rather than having mega piss-ups – the body can't take it any more. If you're a regular drinker as well, then you'll probably recover quicker and with less damage to your system, as you'll be used to training and running and drinking. It's the less habitual drinkers who suffer more – a binge would blow them out for a few good days. – fat buddha
  • Six days before should be fine. Four days before, not so fine
    I ran my first London Marathon in 2004. My training had been somewhat sporadic and interspersed with the odd binge, not to mention a few fags. On the Wednesday before the marathon, having picked up my number, I downed a few pints at London Bridge on my way home. This soon developed into a humungous binge with friends. I woke the next day feeling like death and wondering how I could recover in time for the marathon. I slept and rehydrated but was feeling quite grim. The night before, I smoked 30 fags. The marathon was an ordeal. I ran about 18 miles but walked the rest. It took me 5 hours 47 minutes. I'd say that you can get drunk a week before and probably recover in time to do OK at the marathon. Get drunk 3 days before, as I did, and you are playing with fire. – Jonathan Burke
  • Binges are best kept for after the race
    At the 2005 Amsterdam Marathon I went to the forumite meet-up the night before the race. Ended up drinking pint for pint with another entrant, only he had decided not to run due to a bad back. I woke in the morning not knowing what planet I was on, let alone which country or what I was meant to be doing that day. Red Bull and coffee had only moderate effect and I finished in 3:52, 22 mins slower than normal and 29 mins slower than PB. It was gruelling running, with my tongue stuck to my cheek and wanting a water station every 100m instead of 5K. I would think you could recover form a mid-week blow-out – but if it the race is important to you, leave it until after marathon day. – Selfish Git
  • Nah, go ahead. Just keep up the training
    I regularly go out drinking on the Friday before a race on the Sunday. To compensate I go for a 10-mile easy run on Friday afternoon so I'm not missing an important training session. Your pub crawl will be a good chance to catch up with mates, chew the fat and try an recruit fellow runners to the cause. Just make sure you've trained as per plan up to the race, and you'll be fine. – Simon Lister


Any questions?
Got a new poser or problem that you want RW members to answer? Spotted a great question on the forum? Email us!

Click here to find out more about Reader to Reader.


Previous article
Enduring Questions - The Perfect Training Plan
Next article
Reader to Reader: Ch-ch-changes

training misc, nutrition
TwitterStumbleUponFacebookDiggRedditGoogle

Discuss this article

This week's question was emailed by Martin, who's just realised that his first marathon of the year is six days after St George's Day. Which involves loads of beer. Any thoughts?

Advice from coaches and medical types especially welcome...

"How much harm will a skinful of ale a week before a marathon do me? I'm running my first full marathon of the year on Sunday 29 April, six days after St George's Day. St George's Day means a pressing engagement with a succession of public houses, and drinking loads of beer is a really key part of it. I won't be training much in the week before a marathon anyway, and the alcohol should be gone from my system by mid-week, so will my skinful do my marathon prep serious harm?"
- Emailed by Martin Pac
Posted: 25/03/2007 at 18:05

Great question and very relevant, as my best mate is coming to stay the weekend before FLM and my liver normally takes a battering whenever I see her :-)

Will be very interested to read the replies!

Posted: 25/03/2007 at 18:07

I would have thought that as long as you have a couple of days afterwards to completely re-hydrate, you'll be ok.

I've run with mega hangovers in the past, but no more than 8 miles, so I really couldn't say much more.

I had a skinful last night (only my 2nd since the new year, aren't I good?!) and won't be having another until after the FLM.

Will be very interested to see the other replies though!
Posted: 25/03/2007 at 19:31

6 days before is fine. If it was 2 days before, that would be different.
Posted: 25/03/2007 at 20:36

You might be risking a twisted ankle, or some other hurt, if you're staggering a long way in a drunken state.

If I were 6 days from the FLM, I'd be cocooned in cotton wool and bubble wrap.
Posted: 25/03/2007 at 20:54

In the run up to my first marathon I was a saint but a week before my first ultra in January, was a little different - I got slaughtered on a work trip to Malaga (think one tequila, two tequila, floor and you get the picture) but I think it actually helped my nerves.

After that night out, I didn't touch another drop until the event was over and I made sure I drank loads of water though.

Martin - go out and relax but make sure you compensate for it with plenty of water and sleep afterwards.
Posted: 25/03/2007 at 21:35


Do2
Depends on how you normally react to a heavy session.

Expereince of last weekend taught me that as I've got older I need more hangover ecovery time - hence being p!$$ed up 12hrs before a long race did not have good effect.

A week though should be fine I'd have thought - not strictly in the "elite marathon runners preparation plan", but in the real world we have many different priorities...
Posted: 25/03/2007 at 21:42

I ran the London Marathon a couple of days after a mega binge and felt pretty bad.

When I was in my yoof, I ran a mara the morning after a student party the night before and felt fine.

I'm going Lochaber in 4 weeks, I think I might quit the beer after the London Social next Friday.


Posted: 26/03/2007 at 07:32

I think a lot will depend on his age and drinking habits..........

the older you get, the longer it takes to recover - I tend to be a steady drinker these days than having mega piss ups - the body can't take it any more

if he's a regular drinker as well, then he will probably recover quicker with less damage to his system as he will be used to training and running and drinking.....I think the less habitual drinkers wouyld suffer more and it would blow them out for a few good days..........

anyway - why celebrate St Georges Day?? modern day jingoism...........
Posted: 26/03/2007 at 09:39

Im a medical type but im not going to give you a responsible answer;)

a week before should be fine
you will be in taper anyway
Posted: 26/03/2007 at 09:42

Well if I have to walk into a pub in the middle of Yorkshire to find a Leprachaun behind the bar and bl@@dy Clanaad playing on the stereo, and on asking being told "It's St Patricks day" I don't see why we can't celebrate our own Patron Saint (albiet one who was a:North African, and b:Arguably never came to England - rather ironic really considering the English attitude to Johnny Foreigner)

But to answer the question - unless you intend drinking yourself into oblivion I would have thought you'll be OK. As Hipps says: you'll have done all the hard work by then.
Posted: 26/03/2007 at 10:27

I freely admit I just don't "get" binge drinking.

Is it really obligatory to drink yourself stupid?

Why not just have a few and enjoy both your night out and your marathon? Your liver will thank you for it :-)


Posted: 26/03/2007 at 10:54

fell running
ha ha ha!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted: 26/03/2007 at 10:55

Modern day St. Pat's is a marketing opportunity for Irish breweries.

Just accept it, then ignore it. works for me!
Posted: 26/03/2007 at 11:01

...The same thing will happen with St. Georges day in the fullness of time.
Posted: 26/03/2007 at 11:02

Ironically I'll accept any excuse for celebrating with a drink, but whether it's an Irish or a non-English saint, I'd be drinking Belgian. I worship at the altar of St. Leffe.


And to answer the question - a whole week to recover? Fill yer boots!
Posted: 26/03/2007 at 11:10

a St Patrick's Day piss up is a jolly good way to celebrate my birthday thanks...........


Posted: 26/03/2007 at 11:17

Well my Birthday's on St Crispins Day

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother, be he ne'er so vile
This day shall gentle his condition
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here
And hold their manhood cheap while any speaks
That fought with us upon St. Crispin's Day


(Henry V)

St Crispins Day is also the anniversery of the Charge Of The Light Brigade - a somewhat less glorious enterprise but no less lionised Into the valley of Death rode the 600

So as an excuse for a Jingoistic booze up - opportunities don't come much better....

Posted: 26/03/2007 at 12:35

what's wrong with Clannad??
Posted: 26/03/2007 at 12:38

what's right with Clannad??
Posted: 26/03/2007 at 13:17

Given that the long runs are finished 3 weeks or more prior to the big day, it must be tempting to head out on it, a week or two beforehand. I know it is for me!

I think the answer lies in the fact that with drinking alcohol comes other effects like interrupted sleep patterns, consumption of junk foods, which will affect final conditioning runs, etc, rather than the big day. It’s probably difficult to quantify what effect it could have on your final performance and in all likelihood you’d never know, but if that extra minute or five is important to you and you want to make sure you are at your best on the day, then the advice almost goes unstated.

Posted: 26/03/2007 at 13:18

I wouldnt put any weight on it at all if its a couple of days before I doubt it makes any quantifiable difference to all but the elite. Even if you drink yourself into oblivion.

As I have stated before I have ran a marathon with a pretty bad Hangover (dublin). It added about 30 mins to my planned time that was with a couple of vomit stops. But It was really unpleasant so is best avoided.

Moderate and you will be fine - the last marathon I did (a few weeks ago) I had my sensible head on and stopped at two pints the night before the race(went for an indian), the curry was a lot better at slowing me than a couple of beers thats for sure.
Posted: 26/03/2007 at 13:38

Well, I like the advice so far. Beer it is. And Screamapillar, I don't drink myself silly. I was born silly, I drink myself drunk. And fellrunner answers the "why celebrate St George's Day" question perfectly well. I don't think we celebrate being English often enough. All nationalities have a right to feel proud of who they are, and most have a national day. The English should have one too, and in my calendar we do. Its probably only because neo-nazis like the BNP embarass national pride that it becomes associated with racism in people's minds. That needs to stop, but we may be a little off topic here.

If anyone wants me, I'll be in the pub.....
Posted: 26/03/2007 at 13:53

I'm afraid I still don't understand why celebrating something (no matter what it is) should necessitate getting rat @rsed.

But good luck for your marathon anyway Martin.
Posted: 26/03/2007 at 15:37

It doesn't necessitate it. Its an informed choice. I enjoy getting rat @rsed every so often. Each to their own.
Posted: 26/03/2007 at 15:40

Martin has it spot on. Personally I rank Getting really pissed with your friends occasionally as far more important than, say, running.



Posted: 26/03/2007 at 16:05

I have decided (with some success) to cut out the boze before my first marathon - which is London. I feel fitter and at my age (45) just dont want to take chances. To be honest I do miss it but when i see the training times going down and i have an outside chance of 4 1/4 hours it will be worth it.

But ultimately the books all say everything in moderation.
Posted: 26/03/2007 at 17:58

The only way you'll affect your marathon is if you have an unfortunate accident whilst pi55ed. Which is exactly what someone I know did a few years back on the Friday before FLM (and she shouldn't have been drinking 2 nights before either).
Posted: 26/03/2007 at 18:56

Yes, I was really lucky last Christmas. I decided to have a good blow out at the Works bash, all well and good, FLM a good few months away.

However, when p***d, it seemed a good idea at the time to jump around the dancefloor to Guns & Roses doing air guitar/bit of headbanging in true Jack Black School of Rock style. This also involved jumping in the air and landing on my knees on countless occasions.

Luckily I only ended up with black and blue knees with no injuries, goodness only knows how. Just imagine if I'd injured myself and scuppered my marathon chances?!

Take heed of this story and beware..... ;-)

Good luck in the race anyway!
Posted: 26/03/2007 at 19:02

I missed 3 months training with a cricket injury two years ago.

I got pished out of my head at the Edgbaston Ashes test and thought I could vault the toilet turnstile at New Street Station. I couldn't, and landed on the tiled floor on my left kneecap.

Simply drinking beer in a sitting position has never affected my ability to run, even on the day of a race.
Posted: 26/03/2007 at 21:23

Its Mr AA's 40th the week before and I'll cetainly be having a few then. Mind you, I have a glass of wine or two every night snd enjoy it.
I also tend to have a bottle of beer (just the one) the night before a race too. And I will keep that way even through marathon week. I've tried the whole not drinking thing for a week before and it makes no difference on the day whatsoever anyway!! Might as well then...
Posted: 26/03/2007 at 22:07

I shall heed warnings of beer-related mishap (I did break a tooth on contact with a pavement in a beer-and-piggy-back incident on St George's Day a few years back) but remember, as Lt Frank Drebbin said, "you take a chance every time you cross the street, or stick your face in a fan."

*Memo to self: No air guitar in marathon week.*
Posted: 27/03/2007 at 08:55

"I did break a tooth on contact with a pavement in a beer-and-piggy-back incident"

I broke my front tooth on my stag night when I fell off a table I was standing on (slipped in the beer) and went head first onto the floor - don't even remember it!!! 2 days before my wedding.....all my photos are of me not smiling fully........and 28 years later I'm having the crown replaced at the mo as it's not stained in line with the rest of my teeth with age and stands out like a lighthouse beacin now!!
Posted: 27/03/2007 at 09:36

Beer 6 days before? thats almost a week!
Unless your 82 and starting your 1st every binge the liver should flush it all out.

Stag do? I went through a door but was aided by a mattress!
Posted: 27/03/2007 at 09:40

Martin, Only just found this thread and you sound like a bloke out of my own heart. I will be having a few on the Sunday before (FA Cup Semi's) and will also raise a glass to the old dragon slayer. I will be using these sessions as part training by calling it carbohydrate loading!!! ;O)
;o)
Posted: 27/03/2007 at 09:50

Buggar! Just spotted I was a bit premature with St Georges day but I'm sure you get the picture :o)
Posted: 27/03/2007 at 09:53

Their soundtrack to tghe old Robin Hood program was good wasn't it?!!! (Clannad's)
Posted: 27/03/2007 at 10:30

I don't "get" binge-drinking either, and from a po-faced health-professional point of view there's nothing good to be said about getting out of your head on booze, whatever the occasion.
Posted: 27/03/2007 at 12:32

binge drinking isn't for everyone - personally I can handle it and enjoy it
. But Iwhen I binge drink I do it in a slow "marathon, not a sprint" style and get nicely booze soaked over a day - mixing a bottle of wine with dinner with a few pints on a night out and maybe a few shorts or starting with beer as the thirst quencher and then a bottle or two of wine for enjoyment.. always end up remembering great music I had forgotten to listen to in ages or watch great comedies and feel thoroughly chilled out!...
Posted: 27/03/2007 at 12:37

"there's nothing good to be said about getting out of your head on booze"

very personal opinion there V'rap - many of those who do/have would not agree with you........

I used to - I no longer do - as the recovery takes far too long now


"eee - had a great night last night - got absoultely ratarsed, can't remember a frigging thing though, when are we doing it again???"
Posted: 27/03/2007 at 13:34

See more comments...
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.