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Marathons and beer

November 25, 2015

Reading the accounts of marathons in 2015, my mind goes back nearly 40 years. My first marathon was at Easter time in 1978, the phys. ed. students at the local university put on a marathon in aid of the Heart fund. In those days an avid runner, I read numerous books and magazines to prepare for my first attempt. One writer described how while visiting with college friends in a city the night before a marathon, he discovered they were all running except him. He had a lot of beer, and decided he would run it the next day. He did, and survived. Runners World in those days was high on carbo loading, so I followed one of their suggestions religiously. I cut out carbohydrates on the Monday and had a pure diet until Saturday night. That evening I drank 10 bottles of beer and ate a 15 inch pizza. In the morning I had more beer and a cup of coffee and set out for the start  There were about 50 runners in the marathon, and it was the first time for most of them. I knew I was meant to keep a steady pace and started out slowly. At the turn around point I was about 19th, but steadily overhauled runners all the way home to finish 7th, so my carbo loading worked.

The next year I once again  carbo l0aded, and the result was much the same. Now an enthusiast, I registered for  a marathon in another city with a larger field   and accompanied by an older guy, better than me, on his first marathon. It was hot, and his wife was going to drive along with us to provide him with fluids  . Having checked with the police, who agreed that while it was certainly technically illegal, they would never believe that a marathoner was actually drinking beer in a race, I put a six-pack in my co runner’s wife’s car. I finished the race. and the sixpack in a little over three and a half hours, and found that I had still lost 6 lbs during the race.

I now had a system, and I would arrange for friends or family members to be stationed along the course, to pour beer into cups 5 minutes before I was scheduled to arrive, to reduce the fizz. Using this technology I succeeded in achieving a 3 hour 15 minute time, in a race where I had been mocked at the start for having a cigarette on the start line. I then took a well earned rest from marathons with one exception, in 1988 the Premiers Office staff challenged me to a race, 4 of them would relay, I would be on my own. Lacking any suitable beer carriers I had to run through bars for refreshment, got distracted and lost the challenge.

In 1995 I was visiting my mother in England and we were watching the London Marathon. She wanted to know why I had never run an English Marathon, so I put my name in for 1996, and was successful. Up to now my biggest race had been 300 people, now it was 35,000, a totally different challenge. It was also a qualifying race for the British Olympic team. Sadly my position of 16000 and change did not get me on the team, and I was low on beer.

In 1999, Judy Andrew Piel wanted to run her first Marathon in Prague, and asked me to run it with her. She had booked an apartment on the Marathon route, so I had every confidence that her husband would be able to provide the necessary beer coverage. We ran together for about 10 kilometres, before her young legs abandoned me, and we continued separately. As I approached the apartment thirstily I looked for her husband Harry, but he was not there. About a kilometre further on I saw Harry coming to other way with their kids in a stroller, but no beer! Fortunately I was approaching a park with an outdoor café, and like all good runners I had money in a pocket. Iran to the counter and purchased a litre of beer and left clutching the glass. I drank the beer, and at the next water stop I returned the glass. But I did not catch up with Judy.
One final experience occurred in 2000, both Judy and I got accepted for the London Marathon. This time daughter Robin and a friend were going to watch. I remembered a pub that we ran past at 11 and 19 miles, so I asked them to go there to provide me with sustenance, having provided an estimated time of arrival. Unfortunately I was ahead of schedule, so they only had time to cheer for my first pass. They now guessed when I would be passing again, and as I approached I was spotted, and Robin ran through the crowd of runners with my tankard of beer. Despite rude comments from my fellow runners, I drank the beer and again returned the glass at a water station. Unfortunately as we approached the Tower of London, a carpet had been laid over the cobbled street. Catching my foot on the end of the carpet I fell flat on my face. Sarcastic commentary rather than sympathy was all I got from those who had not had a beer. It is perhaps significant that drinking one glass of beer on the way improved my placing to 12070, 4000 better than four years before.

One final comment, the fastest 10k I ever ran was in Dublin. The team we were competing against sent us round the Guinness brewery before the race where we were well entertained. Feeling no pain I improved my pace by a minute a mile.

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  1. Great post!

  2. Reblogged this on Racing and traveling over 50. and commented:
    A post written by my father, who inspired me to take up running many years ago, about the running and beer. He has given up marathons but he at age 77 he still rides 5000 km a year on his bike and has been known to drink a beer once in a while.

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