A couple of weeks ago I went to a colleague’s retirement bash; a great night out fuelled by copious amounts of whisky and a chicken kebab. I’d decided to stay over in a hotel rather than going with one of the other two options (sobriety or sleeping in a hedge), and as usual I had my kit in the car in case I found myself with the opportunity for an impromptu run.
When the morning oozed around, a run was the last thing on my mind. Dehydrated and having had around 3 hours sleep (thanks to the person who kindly decided that 6am on a Sunday is the perfect time to spend three hours revving a motorbike in a hotel car park), the only thing I wanted was a fry up. I don’t often get hangovers, and this feels like a blessing until those occasions when I do get one, at which point the lack of familiarity convinces me that I’m mere seconds from death. Or if not death, then at least a bout of brief but spectacular illness, like someone setting off a box of fireworks in an abattoir.
Once I’d drank some water, had a bit more sleep and eaten a breakfast the size of a small island, I started to feel better. I actually found myself thinking about going for a run, but quickly decided that this was a stupid idea – I was still dehydrated and tired, and to top it off I was now carrying a food baby. Except, by the time I’d finished having this thought, I realised that I’d got changed into my running kit and was lacing up my trainers. My body has long since developed an uncanny knack of doing stuff without telling my brain; it’s sometimes just easier not to involve that squidgy procrastinating know-it-all.
There’s a powerful argument against running while hung over. The kidneys and liver are already working flat out, trying to process all the crap you put inside you the night before, and this is a hard enough task without the added physical demands of a run. Unfortunately, I didn’t know any of this until just now, when I started writing this thing. My brain probably knew at the time, but as we’ve already established, he hadn’t been invited along and has probably made me forget out of spite.
So I headed out, planning a gentle-paced 6 or 7 miles at some nearby lakes and hoping that it’d clear the post-alcohol fuzz out of my head. And it worked. Within the first mile I felt myself transformed from lumbering boozehound to some sort of sprightly jogging-elf as my pace picked up and the world shifted back into focus. My legs felt smooth and easy, and I started to think that maybe being hungover actually makes me a better runner. The miles poured out of me like molasses, and after three of them I was practically flying. To top it off, I noticed that a strong tailwind had joined the party to help me along.
If there’s one thing that’ll strike terror into the heart of any runner on an out-and-back route, it’s a tailwind during the “out” bit*. Although more than welcome when it’s behind you, making you feel as though you’re being carried aloft by chubby little winged cherubs, you know that as soon as you hit the turnaround point it’ll be replaced by its evil twin, the headwind, who plans to beat the living crap out of you.
Sure enough, the return journey was bloody horrible, and every step felt like someone was throwing mattresses at me. It was at this point, buffeted by winds and struggling forward with the nimble grace of a drugged panda, that my body coughed politely and invited my brain in for a quiet word. Apparently (and this may shock you) running while tired, dehydrated and probably-still-drunk is actually not a good thing after all. I shuffled my way through the last few miles, discovering a new mantra along the way (“mmmuurgghhhhh!”) and promising a slow, creative death to the next person who offered me Drambuie.
By the time I’d finished I was a broken man; or a shambling, sobbing, dribbling, embarrasing mess of a man, to put it more accurately. It was a bad run, is what I’m trying to say.
So will I ever run again? Yes.
Will I ever drink again? Yes.
Will I ever combine the two again? I’d rather dig all my teeth out with a rusty paperclip.
PS: Want more? Really? You’re a bit odd. Well, if you insist, you can have a look back through some old blog posts here at borntoplod.com. Most of them contain ducks. Alternatively, you can chase me round the playground that is twitter (@borntoplodblog) or pop over to Facebook and check out my page.* Actually, a lot of things will strike fear into the heart of any runner on an out-and-back route. These include: tigers, stinging nettles, triffids, the walking dead, angry swans, tripping over and landing in a ginormous pile of poo-covered broken glass, Darth Vader, another tiger, chafing that results in more than 30% blood loss, evil wizards, dentists, a tsunami, big dogs that want to eat you, bloodthirsty pirates, Frankensteins, booby traps, that thing that lives under the bed, ducks, forest fires and jam. Okay, not jam.