Allegra Swanson is a runner, triathlete, beer mile champion, a pacer for Toronto-based running group RunTOBeer, and much more. In this Q+A she talks about losing 40 pounds without giving up beer, striving for balance and her aspiration to crack the list of top beer milers in the world.
What are your beer runner credentials?
I am a pacer for RunTOBeer and often write about beer on my own blog, or Sounds Like Beer, a blog by my good friend Matt Gibson (Nickel Brook Brewing, Ontario). I’m also the editor for Matt’s podcast and, lucky for me, he pays me in beer. I’m a beer mile women’s champion and, in true Canadian fashion, ran it in knee deep snow and -20-degree weather (that’s Celsius!). I’m also a very active member of the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies in Toronto.
Which came first, love of beer or running?
Back in 2012, I went to see a nutritionist and over the course of a few months, lost 40 lbs. This is when I started running, and it’s been running that’s helped me keep the weight off over the years and introduce me to a new community of people who are a positive force in leading a healthy lifestyle. One of the things I’ve never given up was beer. Regardless of my work with my nutritionist, I made it clear that craft beer was non-negotiable. She laughed, and recommended I run more. A future beer runner was born!
Having studied as an opera singer at university in Montreal, my breath control is excellent and made me the perfect candidate for many late night “boat races.” I was always the first girl to be picked for any team. As for drinking something other than PBR? Well, that came with age and taste.
Since 2012, I’ve run 4 half marathons, 4 10Ks, 2 5Ks, and of course, a beer mile. Aside from running, I’ve done a “give-it-a-tri” triathlon and two obstacle course races; this fall, I’ll be participating in the Obstacle Course Race World Championships.
What’s your current go-to beer after a run?
In the summer, I like to give in to my guilty pleasures and go for a beer with fruit. Currently, that’s the key lime gose from Burdock. Otherwise my summertime go-to is Muskoka Detour.
You’re currently blogging for Canadian Running Magazine. Tell us more about that.
Canadian Running Magazine was one of the things that helped get me into running. I think it’s easy for people to think that running is only about lacing up your shoes and getting out the door but I found that committing to runs was easier for me the more I made running part of my lifestyle. I’m really grateful to be given the opportunity to blog for them from the perspective of someone who’s a runner who might not do everything right. It’s a series called “Confessions from a middle-of-the-pack runner.”
My aim is to be honest about my training schedule and my progress; I think it’s really easy on social media for people to think they’re the only ones who miss a run because they stayed out too late the night before. Really, none of us are perfect runners and I hope people can find comfort in knowing that other people struggle finding that balance between real life and training, too.
You’re also involved with RunTOBeer. What does that involve?
I am a pacer for RunTOBeer which is a bit different than your normal pacer. We have front-of-the-pack, middle-of-the-pack, and back-of-the-pack. We don’t focus on pacing a specific time, just ensuring that no one gets behind and people have fun! It’s a lot of chatting with new runners to the group and floating around to take photos. We usually offer a 3K, 5K, or 10K option and end at a brewery or bar in Toronto where each runner gets their first drink on the house. Right now, I’m helping to coordinate the summer RunTOBeer series called “Venture off the Beaten Path,” a bi-weekly urban trail run in partnership with Muskoka Brewery and 5 Peaks Trail Race Series, where I’m an ambassador.
What’s your proudest accomplishment to date?
I used to be a competitive ultimate frisbee player in Montreal and we would compete in different tournaments around Quebec and Ontario. One of my favorite tournaments was in Ontario called “Harvest” where only 12 teams are accepted and it’s a camping weekend with games, food served family-style, and of course, ultimate frisbee. Each year, there was a big boat racing tournament and obstacle course. My proudest accomplishment was being chosen each year as the anchor (chug two beers in a row) despite the huge guys on our team and being key in winning almost every year. Ladies, represent.
What are your goals for the future for both the running and craft beer world?
My future goal for running AND craft beer is to complete a beer mile that puts me in the top 100 women internationally. I’m planning a beer mile with my run crew in the east end of Toronto in August so I’m hoping that day will be a record breaker. In the craft beer world, I’m planning to do my very first home brewing with a fellow beer runner this summer. Our aim is to brew a refreshing beer aimed to be enjoyed post-run!
What words of advice do you have for other aspiring beer runners?
Networking is your friend! I can’t believe how many connections I’ve made across the beer and running community since I started running and talking about beer. Both communities are so welcoming and when you consider the specific “beer running” community, it’s even smaller and more connected. People come from all walks of life and it’s amazing to meet new people and learn about what they do, what beers they like, and what their goals are. If there’s a beer running group like RunTOBeer in your area, get out there even if you don’t know anyone! People are so friendly and helpful and the people I’ve met while running and drinking craft beer are a hilarious, supportive group of people who know how to have a good time.
Where can people find and follow you online?
Anywhere you need a username, I’m @ayoungvoice.
Anything else to add?
I travel a lot for work and I’m always aiming to meet local runners and go for an adventure to a local brewery or craft beer bar. If you’re ever in Toronto and looking to do the same, please reach out!