Beer running: not just a beer run

So I’ve always been curious about whether having a beer (or two) the night before a run, would help or hinder performance. Back in my heyday, I remember having a few beer at the local Yacht Club when I agreed to run a 10K the next morning. Of course, I woke up feeling like crap and was hoping the other person was either just as hungover or worse-off but then my phone rang. Mentally I knew there was no possible way I could do a 10K on a hot July morning but incredibly, I did; quick to boot! We left shortly after lunch and finished in less than an hour to my amazement – I have no idea how I made it through. I definitely don’t attribute that success to having had beer the night before; coincidence and a lot of luck. But I do wonder: if you have a pre-run routine that includes beer, does it really have any effect on your run?

When I started researching it, I came across a few important facts. Some research shows that there may be some health benefits to drinking beer in moderation. Apparently, the B vitamins and chromium found in the malt and hops; others from the flavinoids that may actually reduce the risk of heart attack and cancer. Obviously there’s lots of controversy, but here are a few points:

(1) despite joking about drinking beer as carb-loading, due to the way alcohol is metabolized in the body most excess carbs are actually stored as fat; ironically you’re actually fat-loading (as if I need any more of that!)

(2) alcohol is a diuretic, so it can leave you dehydrated (no, drinking more won’t help!) so if you decide to have a beer, make sure you drink water before and after.

(3) alcohol slows the recovery rate, makes you less coordinated and reduces body heat

I think the list is pretty common-sense, but I do often forget how much booze causes you to become dehydrated. I also think everything is okay in moderation.

Along the same lines, I’ve always wanted to do one of these Beer Mile runs. Heard of them? The Hash House Harriers call themselves “a drinking club with a running problem.” (My kind of people) The group has spread all over the world – even here in Calgary! Hashing is a non-competitive cross-country run through varied terrain and every Monday the crew gets together and follows a trail set by the “Hare.” They claim that “Hashing is to competitive running what slo-pitch is to major league baseball.”  Some of the rules are pretty interesting, for example: if you mention the word “race” or “marathon” while among Hashers, and you have to chug a beer! Since I don’t consider myself competitive, I probably wouldn’t have a problem with the rules. However, I bet that lady from the reservoir today would roll home afterward.

If you want to read more about it, there’s a good article in the Globe and Mail. Very interesting as they talk to long-time runners about rigid training (like me) and I tend to agree with everything they say. I fully intend on trying this out, but not until I’ve managed to make it through my half-marathon training. I know, I know… the dude from G & M says to have fun first, but I’m sure he’s already run a half, so I’d like to attain that as well!

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