2 Apr

Going Forward Not Round And Round

pint of beer

In tandem with our April poll, staffer Tom Breslin considers runners and their attitudes to alcohol and looks at how running has changed his own drinking habits ...

We all love a drink. Well, the vast majority of us do. Only a small percentage of adults in the UK don't drink alcohol. It's a national characteristic, one we revel in, enjoying the relaxation and fun that comes with a cheery pint or a sociable glass of wine.  Of course, it's a double-edged sword - drunkenness, violence and alcoholism, the consequences of excess.

But what of us fitness-minded runners? Targeting races, planning training programmes, preparing for hard sessions and long runs means eating properly and sleeping well plus rest and recovery.  So not a lot of room in the schedule for party-time.

In past years, I would make merry two or three times a week but as a 50 something who wanted to complete a half marathon or run a fast time in a 10k, those Friday nights with the gang had to go. The right fuel for a Saturday morning 10 miler is a big bowl of porridge not a half gallon of Guinness the night before.

And then there's the lead-up to race day.  Two or three weeks on the wagon is now as much a part of the schedule as big carbs pre-effort and protein-packed recovery meals.  Key weekend sessions missed and extended periods of inactivity mean that when you eventually make it to the bar, you're badly out of form.  Friends now contemptuously mock my 'lightweight' half-pints and shandies.  And sneer when after two or three drinks I'm raising the white flag!

Sure, a big part of this is an age thing.  But my younger running buddies report a similar change of emphasis - an alcohol-fuelled social life in retreat and fun gleaned at club nights, parkrun, big race occasions, and coffee and cake sprees after a longer session.

Clearly as you look at the more elite areas where people are chasing club championships, winning races, gaining representative honours and working towards major personal challenges, things are different.  The runner's life is one where training, nutrition, sports massage, psychology, strength and conditioning dominate and thoughts of boozy night-outs are anathama.

But what about your 'common or garden' runner - two or three runs a week, variable mileage, seasonal or big event highs, a more relaxed approach? Where does alcohol fit in to that more balanced lifestyle?

A curiosity about other runners and their attitude to drinking is the prompt for April's Running Guide poll.  So, please vote in the poll from the home page.  And if you've got any personal insights you'd like to share use our Facebook page or Twitter feed.