Seven years ago, I started writing a blog for DRAFT Magazine called The Beer Runner. As the name suggests, it covers the combined craft beer and running communities. At the time, this niche was on society’s fringes. Popular stereotypes held that you were either a teetotaling health nut, or you were a beer-bellied guzzler who disdained the gym. And never would these two opposing camps meet. Today, it’s no longer an oxymoron to be an enthusiast of both beer and running. Quite the opposite: it’s become a recognized lifestyle in popular culture. Now we have The Beer Mile World Classic and the FloTrack Beer Mile World Championships—events where elite runners drink four beers while running a mile—covered by ESPN and the Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, the beer mile is becoming a popular group activity and was even featured in a storyline on FXX’s show “The League.” The rise of craft beer and the running boom have officially converged. It’s not too late to jump on the bandwagon. You’ll find that these communities together are welcoming to anyone who wants to join. So how do you become a beer runner? It’s easier than you might think. Just follow these eight steps.
STEP 1: Run
Well, obviously. If you’ve never been a runner or if you’ve taken an extended time off the treadmill, the key here is to start small. You want to break a sweat, but you don’t want to push yourself so hard that you can’t move for a week. It doesn’t matter exactly what you do as long as you do something you can stick with. Google “couch to 5K train-ing plan” or “beginner running schedule” to find a plan that you can use to gradually increase your mileage.
I recommend starting with a time goal instead of a mileage goal, because it’s less intimidating and easier to track. Begin with 10 minutes and increase in five-minute increments a few times a week. Once you get to 30 minutes, switch to tracking your miles. You can keep track with an app such as RunKeeper, Nike+ Running, MapMyRun or Endomondo.
STEP 2: Drink beer
Congratulations! If you made it to the second step, you’ve completed the minimum requirements to become a beer runner. You may find that you enjoy your post-run craft beer more at this stage than you did when you weren’t running. You’ve built anticipation, you’ve worked for your beer and it feels like a special reward for your effort. You can even calculate how many beers you’ve earned on your run with the DRAFT Magazine beer allowance calculator at draftmag.com/calories.
STEP 3: Join the club
Don’t stop now. Running and drinking beer are the basics, but sometimes you need a push to keep the momentum going. And there’s no better motivator than joining forces with others who have the same goals. Fortunately, there’s been an explosion of groups that meet for some non-competitive miles followed by an excursion to the pub. The Hash House Harriers—known as a drinking group with a running problem—are a long-standing group with chapters across the country. Other groups have sprung up around craft breweries, like the Big Boss Run Club in Raleigh, North Carolina. More than 1,700 members have joined the Big Boss Run Club Facebook group, where members live by the motto “no pain, no beer.” The runs take place Sundays through the winter, ending at Big Boss Brewing’s taproom. A popular group, the Fishtown Beer Runners in Philadelphia, has even been featured in the New York Times and has spawned its own documentary, a Kickstarter-funded feature that raised thousands of dollars to tell the story of the group’s origins.
If you’ve never been to a group run before, this step can be intimidating. You may feel like an outsider. Rest assured, there will be people at these events of all abilities. It’s meant to be social, not competitive. If you want to ensure that you won’t be left behind, bring a friend you are comfortable running with so you know you’ll have a partner. The more times you join the group, the more people you’ll meet, and the easier it will get.
You can find a beer and running group near you at draftmag.com/clubs
STEP 4: Drink a running-themed beer
Being a beer runner is about exploring, pushing your boundaries and trying new things. That means appreciating different styles of beer, which includes the burgeoning category of running-inspired beers. Find places like Ghost Runners Brewery that serves 5K IPA, Hellacious Repeats Double IPA and Negative Split Stout. Other running-themed beers include Big Boss Run Club’s Tail Wind IPA, the BlueMile Extra Pale Ale from Flat12 Bierwerks, Runner’s High-P-A from Lagunitas and the Pace Setter Belgian Style Wit from Mavericks, among others.
STEP 5: Run a race
After a few months of this routine, you’ve built up your beer runner confidence. You feel like one of the gang. It’s time to test out your new identify and toe the line at a race with fellow beer runners. The good news is many races put as much emphasis on the post-finish line party as they do on the course. A few examples of beer-friendly finishes include the Dogfish Dash, the Abita-sponsored Louisiana Marathon Rendezvous Weekend and the St. Jude’s Marathon, half, relay, 5K or family fun, which has its post-race refueling at Memphis, Tennessee’s High Cotton Brewing Co. To find a local race, go to active.com and search for events in your area. Read the description to see if it’s beer runner-friendly; most are these days. Pick a race at least six weeks away so you have time to prepare mentally and physically. Just like the run club, many races are about the social aspect more than the competition. Dogfish Dash gives out awards for the best costume, not just the fastest runner. So relax, have fun and race to the beer tent.
STEP 6: Cross train
Being a beer runner doesn’t mean you actually have to run all the time. The essence is about maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle and rewarding yourself for your sweat. If you need a break from running, there are plenty of other activities that are craft-beer friendly. Cyclists and triathletes are closely related to runners in their enthusiasm for post-exercise pints. You can find people who share these interests at Oskar Blues, which has its own line of mountain bikes called REEB (beer spelled backwards) or New Belgium’s Tour de Fat, a traveling carnival-like celebration of beer, bikes and music. Beer and yoga is also quickly growing into its own community, as evidence by “Yoga Buzz” classes of poses followed by pints at St. Louis breweries. And if you want to mix it up with the really offbeat, you can combine trail running with fly fishing and craft beer at the Rocky Mountain Flyathlon in summer and fall.
STEP 7: Finish a beer mile—and don’t puke
You made it to the pinnacle—or the nadir—of the beer runner experience. Enter: the beer mile. The concept is simple, but the execution is difficult.
You drink a beer, you run a lap, you drink another beer and you repeat until you have finished four beers and four laps. The beer mile was once an underground event—usually by college students—on local tracks under the cover of darkness so they wouldn’t get caught.
Today, it’s still not exactly a widely sanctioned event. Run at the local track at your own risk. If you don’t want to risk running afoul of the authorities, you can also run the Brew Mile, a series of fun runs throughout the country. The Brew STEPMile is a variation of the beer mile that has participants drink four beers in a point-to-point race.
The beer mile has also attracted elite-level runners with world championships held each year in San Francisco and Austin, Texas. At the time of this writing, the beer mile world record is an astounding 4:54. You don’t have to be that fast to run your own race and keep track of your time for posterity at beermile.com. Just don’t puke—that’s a penalty lap.
STEP 8: Repeat
To paraphrase a famous line from the book “Born to Run,” you don’t stop being a beer runner because you get old, you get old if you stop being a beer runner. It’s fun, it’s (usually) healthy and it keeps you young in mind, body and spirit. During my years as a beer runner, I’ve completed eight marathons, seven competitive beer miles and a three-year streak of drinking at least one beer and running at least one mile a day. So once you climb one mountain, there’s always the next one. Or to put it in beer runner terms, once you’ve completed another mile, there’s always another beer to drink. Cheers!