Beer and I have been friends for a long time. Shortly after my 21st birthday, my brother bought me a glass of Chimay Red to celebrate the occasion. I had obviously had beer before this, but it was the mass-produced, Miller-and-Budweiser swill that has ruled the market since there was a market. One sip of that Belgian beauty and my only thought was “there’s no going back.” I knew about Guinness and Sam Adams before that, but it was Chimay Red that opened my eyes to beer. After that, my roommate and I regularly made the trek to our local liquor store and picked up anything we didn’t recognize and felt incredibly cool, like we had discovered a new moon.
Fast forward about 10 years where, with a chemistry degree and some lab experience, I land a temp job at Diageo, the corporation who owns St. James Gate Brewery. Yeah...THAT one. I didn’t get to test any Guinness or Smithwick’s, but my experience there got me a job at Lagunitas in Chicago. Before then, I knew beer, but I didn’t KNOW beer. There I learned about the brewing process and all of the work that goes into beer analysis. I was in love in the first week. Beer chemistry is fascinating, from flavor production to aging. I loved my work, and now that I live in Columbus, Ohio, I’ve been fighting like hell to get back into it.
Running and I haven’t always been friends. As one of the biggest kids at my high school, I practically got sentenced to the football team, and my hometown paid by the pound. Bigger meant better. However, I also spent my springs on the track team...as a shot-putter. I respected runners, but I never dreamed I’d be able to do what they do. My football career ended hilariously after a single season in college, but I found the track team and spent four years as a thrower, even got voted captain in my last year. Throughout my college athletic career, running was the vegetable you had to finish before you could start on the main course. Sure, I ran, but for me, it was compulsory, not recreational. I occasionally ran, usually after watching a documentary on the heart or breaking a chair I just sat in, but hardly anything habitual.
Fast forward again to a few years ago. It was January, in Chicago, and I had just been dumped. Beer was ubiquitous - I WAS working at a brewery - so plenty of sorrows were mercilessly drowned. But with the self-medication came weight gain, a slimmer wallet, and one monstrous rude awakening. At the time, I figured I could get back in shape and find the next girl of my dreams, but it couldn’t wait until spring. I made an investment: cold running gear. Tights, gloves, the works. I stepped out into the brutal Chicago winter and stomped out the two hardest miles of my life. It was enlightening. I was slow, and cold, and chafed, and I wanted to do it again. I was Ed Norton after the first time Brad Pitt beats him up in Fight Club. I ran in the cold again, and again. Life just felt better. I had started with the intention of getting over my ex and finding a new girl, but what I got was a little self-worth, a little clarity, and a hobby that turned the volume down on everything else. I haven’t looked back.
Almost three years later, and these size 15’s have covered a lot of ground. A handful of 5K’s and 10K’s, 5 half-marathons, 2 full marathons, and a couple of road trip relays...those two miles in January of 2015 were the first of about 2500 miles in the past three years.
I write about beer and running because those are my passions. I love to drink beer and I love to run...and I prefer both cold. I won’t claim to be a guru on either subject. There’s a lot out there that I don’t know, and putting my thoughts out there is an invitation to learn more through discussion. The Beer Runner also exists because if there’s a typical runner type, I’m sure as hell not it. Am I a big guy who runs, or a runner who’s pretty big? Welcome to my mind.
If you’ve read this far, hopefully, you and I can share a beer. Post-run, of course. See you at the finish line.