Opposites Attract: Beer and Running

Inaugural Craft Beer Relay in Bigfork brings together microbrew craze and fun-run fad

By Molly Priddy

Exercise and beer: two of the most pronounced and visible aspects in American culture have spent decades in seemingly diametric opposition, with gyms urging us up off our couches to combat beer bellies, and beer companies telling us to put our feet up and relax with a cold one.

In recent years, however, the wall between the two has crumbled, as beer commercials try to portray a fitter, fewer-calorie option for the athletic, and events like the beer mile – timed races wherein the competitors run four laps around a track, drinking a can of beer at the beginning of each lap – gain popularity.

So it only made sense to Chase Averill and Rob Brisendine to further combine two of the country’s most popular trends at the moment, craft beer and adventure racing.

The end result will take place on Oct. 3, at the first Craft Beer Relay, a 5K, four-person relay race with beer tastings and traditional drinking games involved on a course at Flathead Lake Lodge.

“We were just looking at ideas for some shoulder-season events, an event concept that could be something of a bigger picture,” Averill said. “The whole beer mile has gained a lot of momentum, and so that kind of came into the conversation. We wanted to do something more on the fun, zany side of things and tie in the craft beer movement as well.”

While running the race, competitors will encounter an obstacle course from a college student’s dream: each station has beer samples from a different brewery, and obstacles in the course include giant flip cup, tire bowling, giant beer pong, keg pulls, hop-sack racing, and water crossings.

There are also non-alcoholic drink options at each station, so competitors who might want to skip the IPA or Scotch ales still have to stop and take a drink along with their boozier competitors.

It’ll be enough of a race to bring out the competitive side, Brisendine said, but also fun enough to keep it light. Beer consumption from 12 Montana breweries on the course will equal about one pint, so racers don’t end up in danger of inebriated wanderings and injuries.

“It’s presented in a responsible manner, but it’s going to be really fun and festive,” he said.

The course is set up to have a central festival area in the middle, where spectators can enjoy a beer garden with offerings from the dozen breweries involved and live music. Competitors are highly encouraged to wear costumes as well.

The race is chip timed, and there will be a variety of prizes awarded to participants. Not only will first, second and third receive accolades but random-numbered finishers, like teams in 34th or 182nd place, will win awards as well. Creativity in costumes and team names will also be rewarded.

“It creates that more fun, festive atmosphere,” Brisendine said. “We’re going to award some fun prizes to people throughout.”

So far, more than 200 teams have registered to run the inaugural race, and race organizers are projecting another 25 teams to join up before the starting gun goes off, equaling about 1,000 runners.

Race heats start running at 1 p.m., with heats running every 20 minutes. Racers must be at least 21 to participate.

There’s no cost to come watch the race, but it will cost $10 to get into the central festival space with the breweries. That price also buys one beer, and there will be beer tickets for purchase for further brews.

Food trucks and live music will also round out the celebrations, and Brisendine asserted that there would be transportation available on site for anyone who needs a sober driver.

“Be responsible: don’t drink and drive. We take this very seriously,” he said. “We want to make sure everyone knows we have the measures in place.”

Already, Averill and Brisendine are working on expanding the Craft Beer Relay idea into larger, warmer markets, such as Austin, Texas, San Diego, California, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Arizona, and about 16 others.

And though they may be strange allies, beer and exercise may prove to be more powerful together than on their own.

“We’re blending this craft beer craze with the fun run idea that’s kind of sweeping the nation right now,” Brisendine said. “Craft beer is one of the fastest growing industries in the country right now and the fun runs are essentially a billion dollar business.”

Online registrations will be available through Sept. 30. On-site registration will be open until Oct. 2. For more information, visit www.craftbeerrelay.com.

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