By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
The runner’s high. You’ve likely heard of it. Maybe you’ve even experienced it. This exercise-induced state of euphoria has eluded many, however. Some are much more likely to find that joy and exhilaration at the bottom of a pint after pounding the pavement. Happily for those casual runners who are moved to sign up for the occasional 5K primarily for the after party, there’s a new series of regularly scheduled runs tailored just for you.
The Oregon Brewery Running Series offers the all of the trappings of an official competition: a finish line, a guy with a megaphone who yells ‘Go,’ and even bibs you can personalize with colored markers in order to look legit while huffing and puffing around Portland’s neighborhoods. But the experience is pressure free. There are no personal timing chips or gold medals. And true euphoria hits at the end when you’re surrounded by fellow runners congratulating each other for completing the route back at the pub.
Despite Portland’s abundance of breweries, the series didn’t originate here. It all began five years ago in Minneapolis and expanded to Oregon after a Minnesota transplant recognized the program his friend had launched back home would fit perfectly in the Pacific Northwest. “I mean, the beer capital of the world; arguably the running capital of the world,” described Nathan Freeburg, events and marketing manager of the Oregon chapter. “I said, like, ‘This is where we need to have the Brewery Running Series.’”
Freeburg’s motivation to bring the beer run west was also, he admitted, a little self-serving. “Moving out here was really hard because I was staying home with the kids and not working a normal office job. And I was very involved in the running community back in Minnesota, so it’s just like this is how I’m going to get connected and plugged in. Throughout my life, running has been such a critical focal point of my own social life and community,” he explained.
So the running guy found himself a beer guy to help round up breweries that would serve as the start and finish of each route. That’s where Drew Klinsing’s inquisitive taste buds came in. The self-described foodie in his friend group, Klinsing’s longtime hobby has been exploring all things edible in Portland. He’s the go-to for dinner recommendations and would make a pilgrimage to the Oregon Brewers Festival even when living out of state. Freeburg, having relied on Klinsing’s advice for date night destinations in the past, reached out to see if he’d be interested in a partnership and together they brought six breweries on board last fall. There are now four seasons of runs that last for four straight weeks with breaks of about two months in between each segment.
During a recent event held at Lompoc Brewing, some 70 participants — most in tank tops and nylon shorts in preparation for temperatures that promised to soar into the upper 80s that day — searched for a sliver of temporary shade near the pub’s back patio awaiting Freeburg’s announcement that they could take off at 11 a.m. Unlike a massive event like the Starlight or Shamrock, the course remains open. Cordoning off streets would cost thousands of dollars, which isn’t feasible when there aren’t also thousands of runners paying registration fees. But that simply means abiding by the rules we were taught as preschoolers: look both ways and follow directions. There’s actually an added benefit of maneuvering through an uncontrolled environment — you get to experience different neighborhoods and interact with people in a way that an event with tens of thousands of bodies crammed together doesn’t allow. For instance, about a mile into the Lompoc route along North Williams Avenue, participants carefully hopped over a garden hose stretched across the sidewalk as the homeowner sprayed the willing with skin already glistening from sweat. Nearby, a toddler motivated passersby with claps and high-fives from the edge of his yard.
Directionally challenged runners need not worry about taking a wrong turn and accidentally stretching the 5K into an 8K. Freeburg runs each route at least once beforehand and knows where to place volunteers with signs at critical corners and crossings, guiding you back to the brewery where rewards await. As part of the $30 sign-up cost, participants get a beer, brewery or running swag, live entertainment and snacks from small businesses based in state.
“A good way to think about it is like a craft run,” explained Klinsing. “So Shamrock is like a mass run. What we’re trying to do is a craft run where it would be craft beer and we’re also partnering with local craft artisans.”
Beyond supporting those entrepreneurs, another objective of the series is charity. Two fitting organizations benefit from a portion of the entry fee: Portland Parks Foundation and Oregon Brewshed Alliance, which works to protect forests and waterways. “Because we know that Portland cares about social justice — it’s an important thing that our community is a part of as well,” said Klinsing. “People don’t just want to run for no reason. It’s fun to run for beer, but it’s also fun to run when it’s giving back to our community in a meaningful way.”
But perhaps the most significant outcome of the program so far is the community it has fostered. At the Lompoc run, most attendees had sweated through more than one of the 5Ks in the past and many had a handful of runs under their elastic waistbands. A few had finished nearly all in the series. Freeburg and Klinsing have found that bonding comes more easily to strangers who’ve shared a journey — even a short one — and can then talk about it over a beer. That’s why the group size will never swell to several hundred people. The average turnout of 125 isn’t too big to hinder those interpersonal connections from taking place, but that number is just big enough so that you feel like you’re part of something larger than yourself as the collective energy builds.
“One of our goals for this is around that sense of community and fun and togetherness,” Freeburg said. “We’re going to stop doing this if — it’s a bit hard to measure — but if people don’t hang out after, it’s probably a good sign that they’re not having fun. They don’t feel connected. If there’s not much repeat business, that’s probably another indicator that we’re doing something wrong.”
Based on the lingering crowd at Lompoc, there’s no danger of that happening anytime soon. And many participants seem to discover that if they can complete one 5K, they’re ready to take on another. Active events that incorporate beer like this one may just end up taking an important, yet often unfulfilled, role as health advocates in craft brewing culture. After all, it’s hard to beat that sense of accomplishment when reaching the finish line — no matter how long it took the first time out.
“One thing I love about running in general is that everyone has different goals. Everyone can achieve — like whether or not you’re finishing a 15-minute 5K or a 55-minute 5K — that could be the fastest you’ve ever gone. And in some sense, you have the same sense of, ‘I did this. This is amazing,’” Freeburg said. “And it really doesn’t matter your skill level.”
Runner’s high, achieved.
By Alethea Smartt LaRowe
For the Oregon Beer Growler
As we ring in the new year, many of us will make a list of resolutions which inevitably include something related to health and fitness. Why not accomplish several things at once by participating in some fun activities with the added bonus of beer as your reward?
Note that there were too many events to list here in print, so be sure to check with travel bureaus, breweries, gear shops, fitness and sports clubs, and tour operators for even more outings involving beer.
Event: Fit Right First Thursday Urban Adventure Run
Details: Similar to a scavenger hunt. At 6 p.m., a checkpoint map will be revealed in person and on the Fit Right Facebook page. You'll have one hour to go to as many stops as you can to receive a raffle ticket. At 7 p.m., there is a raffle drawing where you can relax with one complimentary beer and listen to music from the disc jockey. All abilities and paces are welcome.
Dates: March 5, April 2, May 7, June 4, July 2, Aug. 6, Sept. 3
Event: Fit Right Pub Runs
Details: A social running event that happens monthly or sometimes twice a month at a designated brewery. The pub run is three miles in length and will start and finish at the brewery. Occasionally, footwear brands will sponsor the run and bring footwear demos for runners to test. After the run, happy hour beer prices are offered to the participants, who have a chance to socialize over a few drinks. The breweries rotate around Portland and Vancouver, Wash. All abilities and paces are welcome.
Dates: This run typically happens on the third Tuesday of the month.
Event: Thirsty Thursday Run
Location: Portland Running Company, 800 SE Grand Ave., Portland
Details: Join owner Dave Harkin and a fun group of runners at 6 p.m. for a 4- to 6-mile waterfront or neighborhood run, followed by beers at a nearby watering hole. PRC will buy the first round for everyone who shows up, provided you're age 21 or older.
Dates: Every Thursday night
Event: Shamrock Run
Details: Run really fast and win your weight in beer! The men and women winners of the 5K, 8K, 15K and half marathon (including the wheelchair divisions) will be mailed gift certificates from the Shamrock Run during the week of March 16 with instructions for how to redeem their weight in Widmer Brothers beer.
Date: March 15
Event: Bite of Bend Beer Run
Location: Downtown Bend
Details: The Beer Run happens each June in conjunction with the Bite of Bend. It’s a 5K walk/run that includes stops at several local breweries.
Date: Late June
Event: Bend Beer Chase
Details: The Beer Chase is a one-day six-person running relay approximately 70 miles long, consisting of 12 legs of varying distance (4 to 8 miles per leg). The course starts in Bend at Worthy Brewing, travels to Redmond, then goes to Sisters and back to finish in Bend at Crux Fermentation Project. Each time you hand off at a brewery, you will have the option to enjoy a 3- to 4-ounce sample of beer.
Date: June 6
Event: Pints to Pasta
Details: Pints to Pasta is an award-winning Portland 10K run. Participants follow a downhill course through the city to Widmer Brothers Brewing, then across the Willamette River, finishing at the Old Spaghetti Factory where runners get to enjoy free post-race pasta meals along with their finisher’s beer.
Date: Sept. 13
Event: Santa Speedo Run
Details: The Santa Speedo Run is an annual fundraiser for The Ethiopia Project. Included in your entry fee are four drink tickets for Deschutes beer and light appetizers. This event is for men and women over the age of 21. Speedos and costumes are not required but Santa hats and bells are encouraged.
Date: December TBD
Event: Worst Day of the Year Ride
Details: The Worst Day of the Year Ride is Portland’s annual you-can’t-stop-us celebration of year-round riding. The event draws around 4,000 riders who show up in sometimes outrageous costumes (there are prizes!) or not, enjoy belly-nourishing warm treats along the way, and ride 15 (or 46) miles with wide smiles no matter what the weather. Laugh at the elements and enjoy the finish line party at Lucky Lab Brew Pub.
Date: Feb. 8
Event: Blitz 2 The Barrel
Details: Blitz 2 The Barrel is all about having a good time. From start to finish, there is something to satisfy every bike fan. Racing, jumping, downhill riding, street riding, arm wrestling — and let's not forget beer! Traditionally hosted at 10 Barrel Brewing, this event truly embraces its Central Oregon roots.
Date: June 16
Event: Baker City Cycling Classic
Location: Baker City
Details: This is the first bike race in the world to offer equal prize money for women and equal distances for all riders. It's one of the most difficult stage races in the country and is open to amateurs and professionals. It also finishes at the highest elevation in the Northwest at 7,238 feet above sea level. Barley Brown’s Beer is a longtime sponsor of the Cycling Classic and is a commanding presence at the finish line where all participants enjoy beer and winners get pint glasses containing their cash prize.
Dates: June 26-28
Event: Petal Pedal
Details: Petal Pedal is a gourmet distance bike ride like no other. You’ll journey along scenic, quiet roads along mostly flat routes (with a hilly option to visit Silver Falls) as you drift away to another world. The ride starts and finishes at The Oregon Garden, Oregon’s premier botanical garden with more than 80 acres of specialty areas. Your ride pass includes breakfast, lunch, gourmet dinner, free Hopworks beer and access to the garden.
Date: June 27
Event: Anthony Lakes Mountain Bike Festival
Location: North Powder
Details: The second annual Anthony Lakes Mountain Bike festival features guided rides for all abilities, a kids bike park, barbecue and beer from Barley Brown’s, bike demos, swag giveaway, and lots of good ol’ Anthony Lakes fun.
Date: Aug. 1
Event: Tour de Lab
Details: This annual festival is a triple threat that celebrates a few of Portland’s favorite things: beer, bikes and dogs. After a spirited costume contest, participants choose from two bike rides: the Puppy, a 19-mile flat ride or the Big Dog, a more challenging, 40-mile ride that offers a spectacular tour of the city. Riders stop for rest and “people treats” at up to four Lucky Lab Brew Pubs, earning dog costume gear (tail, ears and nose) along the way.
Date: September (TBD)
Event: Deschutes Brew Bus
Details: Throughout the winter season, Mt. Bachelor partners with Deschutes Brewery to offer the “Deschutes Brew Bus” between Portland and Mt. Bachelor. For $109, riders get bus transportation from the Deschutes Brewery pub in Portland to Mt. Bachelor, a lift ticket for the day, a lunch voucher, a light dinner at the Deschutes Brewery pub in Bend and transportation back to Portland — all in the same day. Of course, riders can enjoy some Deschutes Brewery beer as well!
Dates: Jan. 19 and 31, Feb. 16, March 7 and 28, April 25
Event: Laurelwood Town Challenge
Location: Mt. Hood Meadows
Details: The Town Challenge, sponsored by Laurelwood Brewing Co., is a recreational race series designed for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. The goal of the series is to provide both business and non-business teams the opportunity to enjoy Mt. Hood Meadows in a team-oriented, family friendly, recreational racing environment. Participants may race as an individual or as a team.
Dates: Feb. 27, March 6, March 13
Event: Anthony Lakes Nordic Crawl
Location: North Powder
Details: This new event invites you to Nordic ski from brewery to brewery for tastings. Enjoy up to 10 different beers and up to 10 different wines, all local of course! Family friendly, non-alcoholic beverages provided. Enjoy at your leisure or register for the competitive event.
Date: March 22
Event: Full Sail Banked Slalom
Location: Mt. Hood Meadows
Details: Sponsored by Full Sail Brewing, this event challenges skiers and snowboarders to complete a series of banked turns. The faster a rider goes, the bigger the course becomes due to the nature of the course’s high walls. Everyone gets two runs and the combined time will be used to determine the finish order. The event is open to men and women, juniors as well as adults, open and masters divisions. There is a cash prize purse to be split among the open and masters division winners (based on full fields) and gift cards for the junior divisions.
Date: April 4
Event: Sno-Kona Pond Skim
Location: Mt. Hood Meadows
Details: The ninth annual Sno-Kona Pond Skim at Mt. Hood Meadows, presented by Kona Brewing (brewed in Portland), challenges snowboarders and skiers to skim across 100 feet of frigid water. All competitors must be 21 or older. Participants get one attempt to cross the pond successfully. There will be prizes for the top competitors as well as best costume, best splash and more!
Date: April 25
Event: Shoes, Brews & Views
Details: Wanderlust Tours offers snowshoeing tours in the winter with a beer component.
Dates: Daily, check website for availability
Event: Brews & Views
Details: Wanderlust Tours offers canoeing tours in the summer with a beer component.
Dates: Daily June-October, check website for availability
Event: Raft n’ Brew
Details: In the summertime, Sun Country Tours does whitewater rafting trips in conjunction with local breweries.
Dates: Various, check website for schedule
Event: Beers Made By Walking
Location: Various cities in Oregon and other states
Details: Beers Made By Walking is a program that invites brewers to make beer inspired by nature hikes and urban walks. Each walk is different and each beer is a portrait of that landscape. The program happens in multiple cities each year.
Dates: See website for schedule
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