On Christmas Day 1989, Derrick Spafford decided he wasn’t going to take another day off of running for as long as possible. He’s been running every day since.
“I don’t really think about it now,” said the owner of Spafford Health and Adventure in Ontario, Canada. “I just go out and run as it’s part of my daily routine.”
Running is only half of his obsession, as beer is an equal part of his life.
“I think that one of the best things about racing,” he said, “is having the opportunity to try different types of beer that is unique to each area that you race in.”
In this interview, he talks about his motivation to start his 22-year streak, his favorite post-run beer and his beer running heroes.
What are your beer runner credentials?
I’ve been running for over 30 years, and enjoying beer for almost as long. I’ve raced at all distances from 800 meters on the track up to ultra marathons, multi-day stage races, snowshoe races and mountain races. My current favourite race distance is 100 miles. I’ve always enjoyed beer, but got more into quality beer probably through running. I used to go to a weekly run that started and finished at a local pub, and it was natural to begin sampling the beer after the run that they made on site. That made me realize that there was much more to a good beer than just the mass produced swill that have big advertising budgets on TV.
How did you running streak start?
Funny enough, there was probably a beer connection to the start of my running streak as well. I went through a period where I wasn’t happy with my races. This coincided with a period where I was probably enjoying going out a little too much, and not living a healthy lifestyle. I sort of got frustrated with myself about this and decided on December 25, 1989 that I was not going to take another day off from running for as long as I could. I’ve run every day since. I’ve run through major illness, injuries (including a broken leg), work/family issues, harsh weather (both hot and cold extremes), and just everyday hectic life schedule. I really had no major goal for it when I started, but the streak has taken on a bit of a life of it’s own.
You’ve been doing races all over the world. What is your favorite race overall, and what is your favorite race for the post-race party or beer options?
My favourite race so far has been the Yukon Arctic Ultra 100 miler in Whitehorse, Yukon in Canada’s north. It was the toughest race I have ever run, but most beautiful and satisfying. Runners have to pull all of their supplies in a sled on the snow. The race takes place in February, so the temperature can get down to -50C (we were lucky that it only got to -30C last year). Aid stations are 25-35 miles apart so you are really out there alone. Incredible scenery though.
How does craft beer fit into your lifestyle?
There is nothing better than a great beer after a satisfying run…or a satisfying beer after a great run! Now that I have discovered all of the great craft beer available, I find that where once I might look at having more beer of a lesser quality, I now tend to drink less beer than I once did, but enjoy it so much more. I am so much more adventuresome now and will sample various types that I might never have in the past. I think that beer in moderation can be a part of a very healthy lifestyle. Besides, when training for a 100 miler, it’s nice to be able to get a few extra calories in the day that you enjoy as much as beer.
Do you have a favorite post-run beer?
That’s a tough question as it probably depends on the run and time of the year. I remember winning a 50 mile race once in the summer and one of the prizes was a sampler of 24 bottles from a local brewery. At the time I thought it was the best beer ever, but once I tried them in a less depleted state, I discovered that they really weren’t very good. As far as craft beer in Ontario, Canada, I have been enjoying Beau’s Lug Tread Lager, Mill Street Tankhouse Ale and Wellington County Dark Ale recently. After a hot run in the summer, I still find Creemore Springs Premium Lager tough to beat though. I really enjoyed Yukon Red, Amber Ale after the Yukon Arctic Ultra, but unfortunately we can’t get it in Ontario.
Who do you look up to in the beer and/or running world?
Rumor has it that Frank Shorter drank several beer before his 1972 Olympic Marathon win, so he deserves mention. Ron Hill was known to enjoy good British beer, and of course holds the record for the longest running streak. Canadian Jim Finlayson who holds the world record for the Beer Mile of 5:09.
What advice do you have for others getting into craft beer and a healthy, active lifestyle?
I’m a big believer in daily physical activity. Our bodies are meant to move daily. It doesn’t need to be just running, but some form of exercise on a daily basis is key for the body, and mind. As for craft beer, I keep thinking that I should keep a beer log with my running log, to highlight my favourites from each area, but have yet to do that. Maybe I’ll start now. Cheers!