Coming upon my second week of no alcohol and I’m beginning to wonder why we even drink in the first place. I do feel as if I never want to drink again. Where did that habit begin? I have more energy, feel fitter, leaner, brighter, and have somehow expanded time: it’s not working from home that robs productivity, it’s the long shadow of booze.
With that, of course, comes the vague fear that I’m being insufferable. I see people on social media touting their righteous sobriety and it makes me, like five pale ales in two hours, nauseous. I’m definitely running more, and lifting weights, although I’m exercising so much that I risk overuse injuries. I think I can also get burned out by this lifestyle. Perhaps alcohol is ingrained in our minds as some kind of reward, although it’s strange to reward yourself for a job well done with something that will hinder the next job we have to do. Last night, my friend told me that he likes to drink (and consume cannabis) because it helps him turn off. It’s not healthy to only be thinking of self-improvement. To use every moment as an opportunity to get fitter, smarter, further ahead. That temptation is real and maybe it’s almost from those alcohol commercials that we associate cocktails or a cold beer in the sun with a glorious exhale.
I know I do. How do you take a pause for relaxation with Nuun? How do you pair a cheeseburger after a long run with a Sprite? How do you meet up with your crew after a half marathon and order a round of water? Anyways, as all runners know, it’s all a journey and trial and error and ups and down and a continuous path. Runner’s World recently published a story entitled, “Does Running Have a Drinking Problem?” And it’s not a terrible question. Our sport has been married to liquor so much so that many races offer free beer at the finish line. By no means am I condemning the practice (at least, I think). During the pandemic I ran a marathon and was so chewed up after finishing that I drank my free beer while lying on the ground. It was delicious.
So, what’s a runner to do?
Our friend Jonathan Marcus, a popular run coach in Oregon and a shit disturber online, told me that the optimum level of a booze for a runner is none. But then again, Natasha Wodak—icon, Olympian—drank three glasses of wine a week before setting the Canadian marathon record. Of course it all comes down to personal choices, but I’m very interested in this subject matter and it ties into why I started running in the first place. I was writing about music when my wife got pregnant and figured I should spend a little less time in the bars. Just then, Born to Run came out and I wrote about it, and I had a friend in AA turn me on to his running. The year was 2009 and I’ve been lacing up ever since. I haven’t given up alcohol, but I have discovered something new in my life that’s healthy and introduced me to a community and immeasurably improved my life.
Still, the question of booze remains and I know I’m not the only runner reckoning with its role in our life. Dry January, on day eleven—and forgive me for being so sanctimonious only eleven days into my experiment, how annoying, I know!—has me questioning everything.
At the very least, asking questions is a good place to be.