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A Beer Runner in wine country

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Finish line IPA

Seems like you’re doing something wrong if you run 19 miles on a 13.1 mile course. But I just did that, and it was one of my favorite races ever. It actually had nothing to do with the wine at the end.

Since March I’ve been coaching the Wisconsin chapter of Team Challenge, a half marathon training group raising money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.

This morning about 1,000 Team Challenge members from around the country met in a vineyard to run the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon.

Many of these runners are racing because a loved one or they themselves have Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis, an irritable bowel disease beset by random and severely painful flare-ups of the digestive tract. There currently is no cure.

In one case, one of my runner’s training was disrupted when his son accidentally destroyed his medication, and he fell behind on treatment.

Another runner — who has one of the most positive attitudes of anyone I’ve ever met — was told by her doctor last year that she needed her colon removed. Thankfully, her condition has improved and she hasn’t needed surgery.

Many join the team because they’re raising money to find a cure, not because they necessarily like to run. Several are first-time racers, and some have never really run before.

At the first practice I told everyone we were going to run easy for 30 minutes. We would have to go slow to build up to 13.1 miles. One runner later confessed to me that his mouth dropped open when I told him we were running for 30 minutes. I need to train before running that long, he thought.

The first few practices were tough. Some runners later told me they couldn’t move the rest of the day after our progressively longer Sunday runs.

But as any runner knows, something happens when you faithfully put in your miles, bit by bit. One day you go out to run and realize you feel better than you ever thought possible. You may even wake up some morning to find you actually enjoy running.

Finally race day was here, and my job was to run back and forth on the course to run with as many teammates as possible. It was a unique challenge that required me not to run for time, but to cover as much distance as possible.

In reality, we coaches were incredibly lucky. I got to keep crossing the finish line over and over again, the best part of the race. And I got to see the look on people’s faces as they realized what they accomplished.

As a nationwide group, Team Challenge raised $2.2 million in this one event alone. I won’t soon forget the sea of orange Team Challenge members rallying around the finish line to bring home the final finishers. This is one of the most inspiring events I can recall.

Then the party began. They gave each finisher a wine glass, and you took that around from table to table for wine tastings. Yes, I had some finish line wine.

But then I found the lonely keg of local Lagunitas IPA, and immediately changed course. It’s one more reason to come back next year with Team Challenge.

 

Author
Tim Cigelske is DRAFT's Beer Runner. (Beer Run•ner [noun]: Someone equally devoted to fine beer appreciation and an active, healthy lifestyle. Ex. "John downed four microbrews at the triathlon finish line. He's a total beer runner.”) Follow Tim on Twitter @TheBeerRunner, and email him at beerrunner [at] draftmag.com.

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