I’m not exactly proud of what I did, but much like skydiving, redheads, and turducken, it was something that I think everyone should try at least once.
I ran a race drunk.
The Late Night 6(K) Glo Run was to be my 2nd out of 3 wildly different race experiences during the weekend of June 16/17th; I had already run a 15K that morning, and I was slated to run a Warrior Dash the following day. But as the race date grew nearer, I came to the realization that I just didn’t care about this one. I think we all have races like that, where you just know going in that the race won’t be seeing you give your best, and this was one of those races for me. That aforementioned 15K down in Peoria that (3 hours away) was a race that I DID actually care about, and I reasonably anticipated that I wouldn’t have much gas left in the proverbial tank for another race that night. Even though this 2nd race of the day didn’t start until 9:15pm, I had a feeling that my legs would be drained from the morning run. So, I asked myself, what could I do to make this interesting? And so after 7+ weeks of doing this running/drinking thing, it was finally time for those two concurrent goals of mine to collide violently, in a race setting. I would pre-game the race.
As far as I can recall, there has been only one other time in my life where I’ve gone running following heavy drinking and it did not involve fleeing from an authority figure (thanks, college!), and that was actually just 4 days into this goal of running and mile and drinking a beer every day for a year. On that day in question, myself and some co-workers went a bit too Mad Men at the office after normal business hours, and I returned home to run exactly 1.02 miles at a time when I could barely see the road in front of me. THAT was an interesting night, but this would be a bit more intense.
And so after my long drive from Peoria back to Chicago that afternoon, I headed out to pick up my race packet and some beer, both of which I would need for that evening. Now, let me present to you the first in an ongoing how-to series, with this installment being tentatively titled “How To (Successfully) Run a Race While Inebriated in 6 Simple Steps”
STEP 1: PICK THE RIGHT RACE
I swear that my running intentions were pure when I first signed up for the inaugural Glo Run 6K, but once I decided that I didn’t give a hoot about my time for the race, I realized that this race could end up being a lot of fun. In fact, the race was being marketed as one giant party — everyone would receive a glow-in-the-dark t-shirt to wear (!!) and some glow sticks, there would be a break-dancing crew performing before the race, and there were multiple DJs set up out on the course. In the days leading up to the race, the organizers sent out an email that included a sentence cautioning runners about not running too fast, since visibility wouldn’t be great in parts of the course. And with it being dark out and everyone wearing the same shirt, I was sure to blend in with the rest of the pack, making it nigh on impossible for any law enforcement to single me out for punishment should they notice me drinking in public mid-race. Much like zebras run together in herds to avoid being singled out by a hungry cheetah on the plains of the Serengeti, so too my fellow runners would act as a buffer between myself and Johnny Law.
STEP 2: IF YOU FAIL TO PREPARE, YOU PREPARE TO FAIL (AKA, “DON’T FORGET TO PRE-GAME”)
This sounds horribly obvious, but you can’t run a race drunk unless you’ve drank enough beforehand, so make sure that you’ve wrapped yourself up in a nice, cozy beer blanket before you leave your house. With my roommates Mike and Cash not at the apartment, I knocked on the door of our downstairs neighbors (who are always down to party, sometimes obnoxiously so) to see if they wanted to toss back a couple cold ones. Once I explained to them that I happened to be pre-gaming for a race, they wouldn’t even let me drink my own beer that I brought with me, as they were INSISTENT that I drink their beer so that they could “play some sort of small role in this great American endeavor.” With all this neighborly love, it felt like something out of a Normal Rockwell painting….just, drunker.
This should also go without saying, but the beer you drink pre-race should be of a rather bland and unrewarding flavor, so as not to come up and haunt you during the race. In my case, I selected Old Style Light, which goes down crisp and smooth but arguably has even less flavor than Bud Light. You gotta play it smart, you guys.
STEP 3: MAKE HER OPEN THE BOX
Because you’re welcome.
STEP 4: BRING SOME ROADIES TO MAINTAIN YOUR BUZZ
After a solid pre-game session, I brought 4 OSL tallboys with me down to the starting line in my REI running pack, whose hydration reservoir had been removed to make room for more important things. Before you ask, yes, I had considered filling the reservoir with my beer(s), but I was worried that the smell/taste might never be able to wash out. I drank one of my tallboys as I was milling around the starting area and watching the breakdancers, which left 3 x 16-oz. OSLs to be consumed during the race, or roughly one per mile.
I was admittedly surprised to see so many people turn out for the race — I wasn’t sure what kind of race it would be, since this was the inaugural running and it was a nighttime race on a Saturday, but the race ended up selling out. Sadly, I would be running this race alone, which is happening less frequently these days; while i knew of some other people running the race, we weren’t able to meet up before the start. This was actually fine by me. It would have been nice to have a running buddy, but I also didn’t want to be the asshole cheerily chugging a beer next to one of my friends if they happened to be struggling. I couldn’t care less if I did that next to complete strangers, but I would have felt like kind of a dick if I were showing up a friend.
STEP 5: HYDRATE FREQUENTLY
No need to stop at a water station when you’ve got 48-oz of refreshment strapped to your back!
STEP 6: TAKE FREQUENT BREAKS TO ENJOY THE SIGHTS AND/OR NOT DIE
Without the added pressure of trying to register a fast time (this was honestly a very novel and liberating concept for me), I was free to take breaks at my leisure, whether it be to walk or take photos or whatever. Being able to do so made this race SIGNIFICANTLY more enjoyable. In addition to it being more challenging than you’d think to maintain a steady running pace after drinking a lot of beer, which made breaks somewhat necessary, I liked that I felt no guilt about stopping to take pictures of the Chicago skyline or other cool things I saw along the course.
I’ve found that as I get sucked deeper and deeper down into the rabbit hole of reading other runners’ blogs, I actively envy runners/writers like Danielle, whose top priority generally revolves around having a fucking blast rather than trying to throw down faster and faster splits each time out. I’ve run races on some absolutely beautiful courses, but because I’ve never run with a camera before and I rarely run with a phone (it’s just inconvenient), I’ve had to settle for taking mental pictures of all those scenes I pass through
I have to rely on my memory to think back to the B-1 bomber buzzing the runners overhead at the start of the Air Force Marathon in Ohio, or the horses running next to me at Churchill Downs during the Kentucky Derby Fesitval miniMarathon, or the way the sun came up over the mountains just so during the Mission Gorge 15K Trail Run in La Jolla. Running this Late Night 6 with a camera gave me the chance to do something I’d never done before, which was to relive the race visually the next day, instead of just through my mind’s eye.
Would I have remembered the way that the Chicago skyline shimmered over Lake Michigan? Would I have remembered the girls dressed like light-up Transformers, or the blacklight tent that illuminated everyone like we were running through a rave? Perhaps, but I was happy that I had my camera with me to document what I was seeing.
I drank one of my 4 beers before the race began, which left 3 in my backpack that were available for consumption. With the race being a shade under 4 miles, I decided that I would be best served to crack a fresh beer at each mile marker, even if that meant running the first mile without a beer in my hand (THE HORROR). The opening of each beer always drew at least a couple comments along the lines of, “Wait, is he really….whoa, that’s hardcore” from the surrounding peanut gallery, and by the end of the race I was well and truly ripped. For whatever reason, I didn’t fully compute that drinking another 3-4 beers in a little over half an hour of racing, on top of all the beers that I’d had before the race, would have more than a small impact on me. Oh well, because the one picture of me that the on-course photographer snapped was GLORIOUS:
In the end I ran faster than I thought I would, especially taking into account that I’d run 9+ miles in the morning. My only goal going into the race was to average better than a 12:00/mile pace, since I feel that’s just about the bare minimum pace required to say that I really “ran” a few miles, but my chip time of 32:32 came out to an 08:43/mile pace for the 6K. What was more surprising is that I finished 356th out of 2,448 finishers, which gives you an idea of the casual field.
Real Talk: I maayyy have blacked out a bit on the train ride home, which perhaps wasn’t unexpected. All of those smooth OSLs finally caught up to me. I’m including the following picture in this entry not because it’s a great picture, or even a merely below-average picture, but simply because I have no recollection of taking it. Or why I took the picture. Did I think I looked cool in my sweet cut-off shirt? Did I just want more documentation of my soon-to-be-shaved beard? That’s not even my guitar.
- Step 1: Choose the Right Race
- Step 2: Pre-game
- Step 3: Make her open the box
- Step 4: Bring extra beer
- Step 5: Hydrate appropriately
- Step 6: HAVE FUN!
And there you have it. What’s the stupid thing that you have ever done during a race?