Last Thursday, I ran with a group for the first time since my son was born almost a month ago. I made me realize how much I missed running with others.
My friend Dan invited me to join the group, which included a university cross country coach. The coach is way faster than anyone there (he’s a sub-3 marathoner), but he ran the pace of me and another runner while we chatted for a 6 mile out-and-back.
Dan filled the group in ahead of time of my beer-and-running schtick and how I recently finished a 3-year streak of drinking and running every day. This received a warm reception. “I like you already,” one runner said when I arrived. “Did you stop for beer?” another asked when I finished.
I was thinking about my return to group running recently when I read about “Running Alone.” This short story is about the rivalry of two elite cross country runners, and was inspired by the real-life competition between Ryan Hall and Dathan Ritzenhein. I remember that because I was in high school at the time, too.
Stories like this stand out because they are the exception to the rule. The loneliness of the long distance runner out training to beat a rival is not the experience of 99 percent of the running community.
The elite rivalries at the front of the pack inspire the rest of us. But the vast majority of runners are training and racing together for the social aspect, and to make us all better. We compete against ourselves as much or more than we race against others.
I believe there are a lot of parallels with the craft beer community.
Yes, there are rivalries in the craft beer world. Brewers go to GABF to pour beers but also to win medals. Brewers definitely want to one-up each other. But there seems to be more camaraderie than competition.
A few years ago I interviewed Jim Koch from Sam Adams when he instituted a “hop sharing” program to help other brewers during the hop shortage. Koch sold hops at cost to brewers who would otherwise not be able to afford hops after a market shortfall.
When I asked why he was doing this, he explained how he was a 5th generation brewer, and all that had come before him had failed. He said craft brewers had to stick together and help each other if they were going to succeed.
Sure, this was good PR for Koch. But he seemed completely genuine about helping others.
This is the craft beer and running community I know. We’re quick to swap home brewing recipes, training tips and even faster to cheer each other on when things go right.
Other sports and businesses might want to pay attention.