Posted by: David Stewart | July 11, 2013

Understanding the connection between running and wine

Someplace in my random access of information, whether on the internet or from the paper pages of a newspaper or Runner’s World, I picked up a factoid that runners as a group actually consume more alcohol than non-runners.

Rather than confuse speculation with actual research (which by the way, does seem to correlate alcohol consumption with greater exercise), I’m left with a few assorted stories.

Pause here and reflect on moderation. I don’t for a moment suggest that heavy drinking is ever a good idea, either for runners or non-runners. Don’t do it. The standard these days for moderation is no more then one drink per day for women and two per day for men. (Why that distinction, I wonder? Just on average mass?)

My friend Giorgio Shaunette was one of my earliest running buddies. We ran the storied “Hood to Coast” relay more than once in the same van and countless times around Portland and Beaverton. Some of my most memorable runs included him, like the “Blair Witch Run” I organized with a group one night through a forest park in Beaverton. Giorgio has run the Boston Marathon, climbed Mount Hood and been an inspiration to me for how I hope to be running through the next decade. Always an active and well-built guy, Giorgio’s running has been terminated by bone spurs in his foot. Giorgio did joke after a hard run that he might be employing some Jagermeister as a pain reliever. I have never been a big fan of this stuff, but one or two times it was fun to order it, ice cold.

Scott Wright is a winemaker and wine importer in Oregon, the maker of Scott Paul wines. I first met Scott in 2011 at the Pinot in the City event in Portland. I remember it well because we had a spirited debate over corks vs screw tops on wine bottles. (He defended the screws). I respect Scott and his love of both Oregon Pinot and French Burgundy and Champagne. But I really respect him for taking charge of his fitness and starting a marathon running effort. Scott has run the Eugene Marathon and has dropped a considerable amount of weight in the process. His blog http://www.scottpaul.com/category/scott is a delight to read and proves that you can be an expert in fine wine and still be a good runner. Run on, Scott!

My friend Eileen might not appreciate me blogging about her. But she is an inspiration to me as a runner and a wine lover. As I write this, she recently ran a qualifying time for Boston – again – in a marathon and shows no signs of slowing down. My friends Joe, Sandra and Charlie are all runners and wine drinkers as well. I have learned an immense amount from Joe and I truly appreciate his insight and generosity in sharing his many years of experience enjoying wine.

But there are some cautions. Wine is indeed a dehydrator. I once asked my dad (a biochemist) why alcohol dehydrates the body, and after several stories and research studies, he admitted that we just don’t know. Runners need to be well hydrated or their blood will thicken like gravy and the heart will need to work extra hard to pump that stuff around. This is why I try to never have wine the night before a long run or race.

There are also the worries about abuse and addiction. I worry about people who are alcoholics and hide their addiction with running. I’m sure than I might know some without realizing it. Probably the best advice is to keep within the moderation guidelines and don’t ever exceed them.

But I do appreciate when studies come out linking moderate wine consumption (especially red wine) with cardiac and brain health.

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