Champioooonee, Champiooooonee, Ole, Ole, Ole!
This is relevant to the following post, but please allow me to set the scene…
Mid-February, 2018. It’s around this time of year that a lot of runners have their race calendars worked-out and, barring the odd variable such as injury, know where they will be running and which training plan they will be following.
I don’t really work in this way. I’m never quite sure what frame of mind I’m going to be in from week-to-week and, as a consequence of this, I’m never entirely confident that I’ll be fit enough to complete an event, even the short, 5k parkrun on a Saturday morning.
However, the one race that will always be in my calendar is the Great Eastern Run, not least because it takes place in my home city of Peterborough. Entries are now open for the event, which takes place on 14/10/2018. Seeing the ‘Entries now open’ message from GER is always great, but it does remind me of my first time running this race…I’d had a period of very heavy drinking leading up to it.
I was is pretty good running shape at the time, as I hadn’t touched a drink for three months and I’d been looking after myself. Despite this, I decided to follow a 12-week training plan, and stick to it, so there were no complications on the day of the race. This began well, and for the first four weeks I stuck to the plan and I felt marvellous. My general mood was good, I was sober and I felt fitter than ever, boosted by the fact that I was cycling sixty miles per week to work and back.
That’s when ‘disaster’ struck. I use inverted commas, because for most people being knocked-off of your bike by a lorry driver opening his door, whilst travelling at speed, and not being able to run for a couple of weeks would be a bit of an annoyance, a minor setback to their training, but not the end of the world.
Unfortunately, my brain doesn’t work like that, and this was, to me, a ‘disaster’. My mood plummeted, I took two weeks off work and, the real catastrophe, had a drink…just one…and that, inevitably snowballed into a 3-week, every-waking-hour, booze-binge.
The morning of the race…
I’d stopped the main boozing rot, but I was still drinking, up until a couple of days prior to the Great Eastern Run. I was awake all night, and around 5am I started to think about how I was going to get through this race. I didn’t have full-on DTs**, but I was certainly shaky, and empty, as I hadn’t eaten much for a few days.
Above: An alcoholic man with delirium tremens on his deathbed, surrounded by his terrified family. The writing on the bottom of the image says “alcohol kills”.
I knew I needed to lose this shakiness, and I needed to eat, but I had no appetite. Tesco wasn’t open until 10am, so a ‘quick’, 7.3% Champion Ale was out of the question. The local One Stop opens at 6:30, though, I thought. I can’t get anything strong there, but if I have two ‘weak’ beers I should be okay, and they will help to give me an appetite.
Two bottles of Brown Ale, a bowl of Ready Brek and an apple oat bar later, the shakes had long gone, and I waited for my Dad, who was dropping me off at the race. I got into the passenger seat of the car:
Dad: (Sniff), Blimey, have you been drinking?
Me: (My usual response to this question), I just had a couple, last night. I’m fine.
My original goals for the race had gone out of the window. By now I just wanted to complete the course, and if I could do it in under two hours it would be a miracle!
I did it, in just over 1 hour 58 minutes, largely because of the immense support from spectators all around the course. Mentally, it felt like the support was all for me, personally, and physically, well, I’m just so grateful to all of the kids who were handing-out sweets every step of the way.
Shattered, but proud of my achievement, I sat down to rehydrate and admire my medal for a few minutes… Shit, those shakes are beginning to make a comeback.
**Delirium tremens (DTs) is a rapid onset of confusion usually caused by withdrawal from alcohol. When it occurs, it is often three days into the withdrawal symptoms and lasts for two to three days. Physical effects may include shaking, shivering, irregular heart rate, and sweating. People may also see or hear things other people do not. Occasionally, a very high body temperature or seizures may result in death. Alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs from which to withdraw.
Delirium tremens typically only occurs in people with a high intake of alcohol for more than a month. A similar syndrome may occur with benzodiazepine and barbiturate withdrawal. Withdrawal from stimulants such as cocaine does not have major medical complications. In a person with delirium tremens it is important to rule out other associated problems such as electrolyte abnormalities, pancreatitis, and alcoholic hepatitis.