I ordinarily saunter from place to place, maintaining a leisurely pace. I appreciate being able to take in the world around me, normally accompanied by whatever tunes are resonating through the pair of earbuds that are eternally plugged into my head, and running has never been my strong suit.
That all changes after a few strong drinks, though: My conventionally sluggish composure goes out the window, and I take on the determination of a decorated marathon runner. Once my final glass is empty, I step out of the bar, point myself toward home and run. And run. Then I pause, gasping for air because I literally never run in any other situation. Then I run some more. I am, for all intents and purposes, Drunk Gump.
This has become something of a tradition whenever I take a trip to any nearby bars within, say, a couple of miles of my apartment. Of course, I look like a complete lunatic, incoherently bumbling down the sidewalk in plain clothes. In fact, I once attracted the attention of police while running home from a bar late at night. I cut through an alley, where two cops in one car pulled up next to me and asked, “What are you running from?” I proudly responded, “Just heading home from the bar.”
Dumbfounded, one of them replied, “This alley is pretty spooky, huh?”
I promptly looked around, nodded, and they drove off so I could continue my mad dash home.
Fortunately, after a few drinks, looking like a maniac is the least of your worries, which must be one of the reasons why drinking prompts me to run. Plus, as anyone who enjoys the sauce knows, alcohol is something of a motivational draught, one that has the potential to, at least in the moment, reduce fatigue and the usual pains of running. “When you’re drunk, or even a little tipsy, you think you’re invincible,” confirms Beer Mile world record holder Corey Bellemore. “Your pain tolerance can be blinded, and I think the onset of muscular fatigue might be blocked to some degree, at least psychologically.”
He’s not exactly correct — according to a paper in the Journal of Cardiovascular Medicine, running while drunk (after three shots of whiskey, to be exact) is “associated with a non-significant exercise performance reduction and stress hormone stimulation, with an unchanged exercise metabolism” — but in the moment, it feels pretty good.
For this reason, even esteemed runners enjoy a drunken dash here and there. “It’s not uncommon for ultramarathoners to occasionally imbibe during long runs,” says decorated ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes, who admits to the occasional tipsy run. “In fact, the winner of the first modern Olympics marathon, Spyridon Louis, is said to have stopped midway through the race for a shot of ouzo and a raw egg. He was in second place at the time, but quickly overtook the leader.”
Now, before I take this any further, I recognize that running drunk has some potential downsides — namely, alcohol adversely affects coordination, which could result in a busted ankle, and is a diuretic, which combined with all of the sweating you normally do while running, could make you feel like shit. Moreover, belligerently drunk pedestrians are, statistically speaking, significantly prone to being hit and killed by cars, presumably because they get so drunk that they wander into the street, or drunkenly decide to risk dashing across busy highways. Some experts have even crunched the numbers to suggest that drunk walking is, on a per mile basis, more dangerous for you than drunk driving — a statistic that, while kind of unnecessary and perhaps even a little misleading, points to the real dangers of being highly intoxicated in public.
So, if you plan on sprinting home from the bar, please call a cab if you get too hammered; only run in designated areas; drink plenty of water; and do your best to maintain good form. “The biggest thing to ensure is that you’re picking up your feet and keeping your momentum going forward, rather than side-to-side,” Bellemore suggests.
What you drink before taking off should also be a consideration. “Too many beers will weigh most people down, and too much carbonation could be a problem after it gets shaken and blended like an explosive milkshake in your stomach,” says Matt Dockstader, founder of the IPA10K and the Hallowine Run, among other boozy running events, who concedes to “having a history of being athletically inspired” after a few drinks.
“If I need to remain nimble or have any thoughts of running or exercising after drinking, I recommend a cider (which has almost no carbonation) or hard kombucha (which has carbonation, but half the calories). As for hard liquor, tequila seems to have an energizing effect if consumed in moderation. I live in Wine Country now and have been fueled by fine wine on more than a few occasions. Red Bull and vodka is always a good choice if you need to motivate yourself for your run. It’s my go-to post-race drink when I start to fade late in the day.”
If you can manage to keep a good stride and to drink the right drinks, though, running home from the bar is full of benefits, including saving money on pricey Ubers. “I’ve run home a few times from the bar,” Bellemore admits. “Most of the time, it’s to save having to spend money on a cab. Ultimately, I don’t mind the exercise, and I know it won’t take too long or be that difficult if I just cruise it.”
Likewise, one more drunken dash, rather than ride, is one less plume of harmful carbon gases sent into the atmosphere. “People talk about the need to make changes for the environment,” Karnazes says. “Most car trips are fewer than two miles, and that pumps a lot of carbon into the air. I say just run there instead.”
Hell yeah, dude.
In a pinch, drunkenly running home can also work as a tactical Irish goodbye. “I was on a blind date in my early 20s,” explains Dockstader. “We were with two or three other couples and were hopping from one establishment to the next. It was a weeknight, getting late, we were on our sixth (or so) round and I had to be up early for my eight-to-five job. They ordered more drinks, and I’m sure they were expecting me to pay again. I obviously wasn’t that enthused about my date, otherwise I wouldn’t have done this, but I excused myself to the bathroom after we ordered. While standing at the urinal, I decided I’d had enough right then and there. They’d picked me up, so I was at their mercy — or, maybe not. I climbed out of the bathroom window and started to run all the way home. I was chuckling under my breath, proud of my resourcefulness and sudden ‘escape’ from an uncomfortable situation. I ran like a gazelle. I didn’t answer my phone when they called that night, but I let them know the next day that I’d suddenly gotten ill and was too embarrassed or sick to return to the table. I never saw her again.”
So, take it from Dockstader and me and give running home from the bar a try. But only if you can stand up straight and see the sidewalk ahead of you.