Most people would probably tell you that beer and long distance running mix about as well as oil and water.
On a beautiful September afternoon, nearly 500 Torontonians departed Mill Street brewery attempting to prove that most people don’t know what they’re talking about.
The first edition of the Toronto Beer Run on Sunday challenged participants to run an 11.5 kilometre route between four breweries, sampling local craft beers at each station.
Testing both the livers and the legs of its participants, the endurance contest aimed to raise money for Plan Canada, a charity that helps children in developing countries.
The unusual premise for the event stemmed from a single tweet by the Ottawa-based brewery Big Rig last July.
— BIG RIG KITCHEN/BREW (@bigrigbrew) July 17, 2013
Big Rig quickly realized they would need some assistance to put together such an event, leading them to get in contact with inStride Event Management.
Laura Glasper, co-owner of inStride, got the cooperation of five local breweries and the event sold out in three days.
Last year’s success led to an even faster sellout in 2014.
“This year when we launched it in Ottawa it sold out in 15 hours,” said Glasper. “People were just clawing to get in.”
Based on its popularity in Ottawa, the event made its way to Toronto this year, and plans have been set in motion to expand to Calgary and Montreal in 2015.
In order to get to the bottom of this unorthodox phenomenon, your ever-intrepid reporter laced up his basketball shoes, not possessing any actual running shoes of course, and decided to give it a try.
The Beer Run Experience
Appropriately, the Beer Run began with a drink.
On a warm late-summer day, a cold beer on the Mill Street patio was welcome and the idea that they were actually going to have to run a great distance had yet to dawn on the runners.
Then the participants were called to the starting line — an eclectic group that included experienced runners, a man wearing rubber boots and jeans, and a guy dressed as Bender from Futurama.
Before they began, the runners were given one last piece of advice — “drink faster than you run”, a sentiment that was somehow both reassuring and terrifying in equal measure.
The first leg of the run was rather enjoyable. The distance between the Mill Street and Steam Whistle breweries was approximately three kilometres, and the roads were not closed so the runners received respite at the occasional red light.
Steam Whistle rolled out the red carpet for this year’s participants with a seven-piece funk band and all-you-can-eat pretzel bites.
Each brewery had its own unique idea of how to best welcome the runners.
“They really got into it,” Glasper explained. “They’ve almost created a rivalry between the breweries in terms of who’s going to put on the best show.”
The 3 Brewers offered garlic cheese fries and a bastardized version of Captain America known as “Captain Canada” who spoke at length about their brewing process to a tired group more interested in the results than the process.
Amsterdam Brewery had pretzels, a back patio, a DJ, and, more importantly for NFL fans or degenerate gamblers, big screen TV’s.
At each station, the beer seemed refreshing and the food appeared to be a good idea. Every time a leg between them began, regret set in.
What began as a delightful afternoon excursion became a grind in short order. Runners filled their stomachs more and more at each station as fatigue built up in their legs.
It was a deadly combination.
Cruelly, the final leg, between Amsterdam and Mill Street, was the longest of the day. The runners soldiered on to the finish, motivated by the promise of a participation medal and the lure of not having to move for the rest of the day.
Physical rigours — both internal and external — aside, the run was an enjoyable and unique experience, more or less the idea.
With almost 500 runners paying $60 each to participate, it also provided a good haul for Plan Canada. Brand and Community involvement specialist Sarah Muir sees the rather light-hearted event as one that could be quite beneficial to the charity.
“It’s an interest event. I think it’s a lot of fun,” she said. “I think it reaches an audience we don’t have a lot of interaction with.
“It’s just something different.”