Posted by: Joe English | August 2, 2007

Training: Should I run with a hang-over?

One of my runners sent me the following question the other day:

“I have a question about running when hung over. I have not been much of a drinker for several years. But Friday night I indulged quite a bit. Then didn’t sleep much at all. So I debated whether to run Saturday morning. Nope, didn’t happen…. After the fact, someone who ran track said that I should NOT run when hung over really bad. He said my various organs are already working overtime to clear the alcohol. So it would be especially taxing on the body to go for a long run. Agree?”

Leave the drinking for after your run
Photograph: still photo from the movie Beerfest. Visit the official web-site.

Let me start by telling you a little story. Once upon a time, I was living and training in Phoenix. I was near my peak for a marathon, so I needed to get in my long run of 18 or 20 miles. On Friday night, I tied one on something serious. I was pretty trashed, enough so that I didn’t get up until about 10:00AM. It was May, I believe, so by 10:00AM, the desert sun was beaming down in full force, with the temperature nearing 100 degrees or more.

The run started out pretty uneventfully, for about the first mile that is. Now I was used to running in the heat, but about six minutes into the run, I started shivering and having difficulty controlling my temperature. Forty-five minutes later, I was walking along in the desert, just hoping to find something to crawl under. I did finally find a little tree and managed to crawl into the shade for awhile to cool off. Thankfully I cooled myself enough to be able to walk back home.

What’s the moral of this story? The bottom line is that you should never run when you’re hung-over.

I have often spoken of my “Four Hs of Hurt,” which are Heat, Humidity, Hills and Head-winds. There is actually a fifth member of this terrible group: Hangovers. The problem with drinking alcohol, is that your body has to get rid of it. In the process of metabolizing the alcohol, you lose a whole lot of fluid. When you’re hung-over, you are in essence, quite dehydrated. That’s why you’re peeing all night long when drinking beer. And that’s why you feel so bad when you wake up in the morning.

So if you’ve got a hang-over, you’re going to start your run dehydrated. And as I said in my column “10 things you need to know about hydration”, if you start out dehydrated, it just gets worse from there.

My advice: leave the drinking for the night after your run. Of course, I would advise against running with a hang-over, but more than that it just doesn’t feel good anyway.

Coach Joe

Running Wild with Coach Joe – a blog focused on marathon, triathlon and ultra-endurance racing, training and motivation. Bookmark us at or use your favorite RSS feed reader to get the latest news and articles. Running Wild is also now available on Facebook and My Space.



  1. This is a great topic. I don’t know too many college runners who haven’t experimented purposely or otherwise with running while hung over. I have to say that I agree with some of the comments made re: body working a bit harder to clear alcohol and getting re-hydrated. But, alcohol actually leaves your system fairly readily compared to many other drugs. Unless you are talking about being almost comatose from drinking so much, the small bit of alcohol left in your system will not tremendously affect your running. I know of a couple runners who have a few beers the night before they race… enough to get a good buzz. They happen to race better. Don’t ask me why, it might be mental, but, I have witnessed it. They do.

    Hydration is very important and is more a limiter than any tiny bit of alcohol in your body.

    Also lack of sleep is actually a red herring. There is no evidence that lack of sleep the night before racing (or working out of course) has an adverse affect on performance. However, lack os sleep TWO nights before a race has been shown to have adverse affects.

    That all being said, I would never advise someone NOT to run with a hangover. I do advise an easier day of running… Joe – no 20 milers!!!!! The physiology doesn’t warrant canceling a workout. The psychology (having to do a workotu while feeling like crap) may be the bigger issue to overcome.

    If you end up drinking until you are blotto on any regular basis or each time you do drink you end up blotto… there is a different problem to deal with.
    Coach Dean

  2. Was hungover today and opted to make it a weight lifting day and took the day off running. I think that was better than nothing and might even help me with my long run tomorrow.

    Great blog by the way coach.

  3. […] with a jog. If you manage quell your hangover headache long enough to consider running, read what Joe English, had to say on his blog before groggily lacing up your shoes. I have often spoken of my “Four Hs of Hurt,” which are […]

  4. i would never consider training after a big nite…not even 2 days after at least 3 days……..otherwise your going to get sick and have to miss a lot more than 2!if you party hard on sat nite dont train sun or mon.train tues pretty lite.your immune system will be down and pushing it the next day will most likely make ur self is very underated!!!!

  5. I was just discussing this topic with my friends. In my past i used to drink a lot while in college(sometimes 4 nights a week and usually quite a bit) but I would still haul myself to the gym the next day and I felt amazing afterwards(little or no hangover) which included at least 20 min running around the track. I have to say that usually my endurance would be a lot higher if I had been drinking the night before. So I believe there is something to drinking and a performance boost. Not sure exactly what but…

  6. I would shiver and crawl under something if I was trying to run in 100+ degree weather too. With or without a hangover. That is crazy!

  7. Why do I run better hungover?…

    Maybe it’s the proverbial “sweating the alcohol out of your system…” But lets phase it: you are running on a treadmill for three miles, which is a fairly benign activity. From my perspective, one beer the night before a competition doesn’t negati…

  8. […] Training: Should I run with a hang-over? « Running Advice and NewsAug 2, 2007 … Training: Should I run with a hang-over? One of my runners sent me the following question the other day: “I have a question about running … […]

  9. I was training for a half marathon last fall during one of my last semesters of school. During this time I was drinking fairly heavily 2 and 3 nights a week. I was still running 40-50 miles each week. I know that drinking that much was definately hurting me. However, I will say that going on tough workouts when hung over made me tougher. This helped me push through the pain when I needed to during races.

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