Running with a hangover: the ultimate cure or a really bad idea?

Hannah Hillyer is training for her first marathon. Read her weekly running diary at IMAGE.ie where she'll be taking you on her journey. This week, she looks the stick issue of running with a hangover


Ah, the dreaded hangover. Nobody likes them, although some people are better equipped to deal with them. Unfortunately I am one of the many who can be found flaked out on the sofa (or in bed depending on the severity of said hangover) swearing never to touch the stuff again.

Sadly, one can't always spend the next day on a Netflix rampage and sometimes sh*t just has to get done. This is when things get interesting, and you see the myriad of different 'cures' people use to right themselves. Whether it's a chicken fillet roll, hair of the dog, a Bloody Mary, or a Dioralyte (mine is a Mars Bar and a Lucozade Sport if you're interested), everyone has a different remedy to get them through, although they don't always work.

Apart from the obvious guaranteed hangover cure - just drinking a bit less - there is another option that doesn't involve greasy food or a can of Coke. It's going for a run.

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Trust me

I know you're rolling your eyes right now but I promise I am not one of those 'holier than thou' preachers, trust me I was an eye roller too. Until I tried it.

I've been running on and off now for a couple of years and it's always a struggle to get out of bed and go in the mornings anyway, and that's on a good day. So, dragging yourself from your bed after a night out? Whenever I heard of people doing this I couldn't imagine being able to muster up the willpower to do so with the lingering taste of last nights sambuca and a throbbing headache.

Read More: Want to start running? An IMAGE staffer's tips on how to get moving

Having spent last New Year's away for the weekend with as group of friends we obviously had a few drinks (maybe more than a few). I woke up the following morning in desperate need of a glass of water and stumbled into the kitchen. Bleary eyed and worse for wear, I watched my friend bounce into the kitchen having just completed a 5k run. Considering he went to bed after me, I just couldn't understand how he looked so fresh, awake and, well, not hungover.

Bleary eyed and worse for wear, I watched my friend bounce into the kitchen after a 5k run.

Since New Year's this has played in my mind over and over. I spent the rest of that morning (and early afternoon) in a hungover fog I couldn't shake. I wanted to be bouncy and bright eyed. So the seed was planted.

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Time to try it

Perhaps it's just me getting older, and not being able to cope with the tiniest of hangovers anymore, but the need to cure it is greater than ever these days. With more responsibility in life, there is no time anymore to sit lazing in front of the TV eating potato waffles - although that does sound fabulous.

A few months ago whilst out for drinks I decided tomorrow would be the day I'd be one of those sparkly, shiny humans who runs the morning after a night out. Stumbling in the door around 1am wasn't too bad, so I felt encouraged I'd be able to go the following morning and even got my kit ready and laid out.

Read More: What to listen to when you're out running

My flatmate peeped her head out the following morning surprised to see me lacing up my trainers - "I can't believe you're going for a run" she croaked - neither could I.

Leaving my apartment at about 8am I was struck with how quiet it was - it seemed that everyone else was in bed. I nursed my poor head to the end of the road, slowly acclimatising myself to being outside so early when I felt so rough. I had already accepted that it was not a morning for running personal bests.

My brain felt like it was jangling around in my skull (dehydration is not fun) my knees juddered with every smack of the pavement and my legs felt like lead.

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As I gently began jogging down the road I headed in my usual direction when I'm doing an easy 5k. Pretty soon I began to feel that this was a lot tougher than my normal runs.

My brain felt like it was jangling around in my skull (dehydration is not fun) my knees juddered with every smack of the pavement and my legs felt like lead.

What fresh hell was this? And why on earth do other people do it??

I ended up doing a clumsy 4k before throwing in the towel and drenched with sweat, I landed at my front door. I felt knackered and incredibly thirsty. After knocking back a couple of glasses of water I got in the shower and what happened next was a game changer. I felt amazing. Now you always feel good after the post-run shower, but this was different, my hangover had disappeared.

It seemed forcing my body to do something strenuous and really get my sweat on almost cancelled out my bad behaviour the night before. I felt awake, energised and ready to get on with my day.

Good endorphins

Anytime you run, those first few minutes - this can be longer for some - your body is groaning at you, you feel too tired, you want to stop and walk. Then comes the point when it becomes easier, you find your rhythm, you even start to enjoy it. This is when the endorphins get released and even more so when you're finished. Aptly titled, the runners high, it's what keeps us going back for more.

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All these good endorphins you hear runners banging on about really get to work when you're hungover. They may take a little longer to kick in but are so much more noticeable as you probably felt rubbish to begin with.

Read More: Getting your gait analysed for a better run

I think we all know that feeling we call 'the fear' after a big night out. It is in part fuelled by the anxious, depressive qualities alcohol can leave many of us feeling the next day. As someone who definitely gets this the morning after, I can safely say the endorphins felt after slogging it out on the pavements completely cancelled out these negative feelings. I also felt lighter and more positive knowing I wouldn't lounge around wasting my precious Sunday off work.

Stay hydrated

Don't go hell for leather, stick to a short easy run, just enough to get you sweating. As you will be dehydrated from the alcohol you consumed (and that late night Burger King devoured on the way home) you don't want to work out too intensely.

All these good endorphins you hear runners banging on about really get to work when you're hungover.

Make sure you drink plenty of water before you go to sleep and have at least one or two glasses before you head out the door for a run. Better still, bring a bottle with you. By exercising you will be dehydrating your body even more so even consider picking up a sports drink with electrolytes.

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So, no more eye rolling, give this a chance next time you feel the fear but don't feel too guilty if you would prefer potato waffles and a Netflix binge.

We won't judge.


Read more: IMAGE staffer Hannah Hillyer will run a marathon this year, and we'll be following her every step

Read more: Running and safety: the reality of being a female runner

Read more: The best 5k races to sign up for this summer around Ireland

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