Reader To Reader: Beer before a marathon?


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


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