Team USA Trail Runner Amy Leedham shares how those post-run brews have changed her relationship with the sport.

By Amy Leedham.

Beyond the sheer enjoyment of tasting an ice-cold beer after a run, there’s another type of bonus that, for some, might be even more impactful than great taste. I’m talking about the social benefits of beer; to me, the chief benefit of my post-run beer has been the amazing friendships I’ve forged through sharing post-run brews. It might sound trivial, but I believe that ultimately, pint by pint, beers I’ve shared after a workout has shaped my relationship with the sport of trail running.

Image courtesy of Kirsten Kortebein (@kirsten.kortebein)

I’ll start with this: I love a good sufferfest (pun intended) and relish taking on unknown challenges — most ultrarunners share these passions. However, at the end of the day, sharing those hard-fought experiences and celebrating them with other people is what makes the grind worthwhile. While there are definitely many ways to celebrate, there’s just something special about cracking a cold beer after a long day outside (and I know I’m not alone in this sentiment!). As a result, the keg, beer bucket, or beer tent is probably the most important part of a finish festival at a trail running event — nothing’s quite as satisfying after putting the miles in. There is something so cool about meeting someone mid-race, sharing some miles with them, and then bonding over that shared experience with a beer at the finish. It may seem insignificant, but it’s those small exchanges that can change someone’s life. I want to share a story that illustrates how important beer has been to my development as a trail runner over the past couple of years.

Image courtesy of Amy Leedham

Three years ago, I joined the San Francisco Running Company Baybirds team as a way to engage in the trail running community more. I had technically run an ultra, the Tahoe Rim Trail 55k, but had not trained longer than 13 miles for it and certainly did not consider myself a trail or ultra runner. However, I had seen something amazing in the trail running community that I knew I wanted to be a part of. So I joined the team and went to my first Cross Country meet since college, which for me had been about a decade earlier. The race was painful, but it was short and followed by beers and a bbq in Golden Gate Park. I don’t remember anything specific about the race itself, but I do remember the beers afterward because of the people I met, and the conversations we had.

Image Courtesy of Amy Leedham

It was those discussions that gave me the confidence to join more group runs and sign up for more races. It was those relationships that introduced me to even more like-minded people who have all contributed in some way to not only my love for trail running but also the contentment it brings to my life. I started that race, barely knowing anyone and came away with several new friends and a shift in perception that ultimately changed my life. If we had all just gone home after the race and not shared that beer, I may never have come back for the next meet or had the confidence to join the Saturday morning group runs which became a staple in my training and allowed me to build endurance and consistency. Before those post-meet beers, I had been sticking my toe in the ultrarunning waters for about 3 years but never training consistently or really committing to racing. I had run a handful of local races over those 3 years and didn’t have the confidence to try new distances or terrain. Since then, I have run several 50ks, a few sky races, 3 50 milers and represented team USA and the International Trail Running Championship.

Image courtesy of Kirsten Kortebein (@kirsten.kortebein)

These races have taken me places I never thought I would go and allowed me to meet people I would otherwise not have met. I have tested my physical and mental limits, broken through barriers, and am a better person because of it. While there are many contributing factors to my experiences over the past 3 years, the impact of those post-meet beers is undeniable and they were just the beginning. There have been numerous similar occasions since then where a relationship was formed or an idea was hatched over post-race beers that contributed in some way to my trajectory. So next time you are at a running event, stick around for the beer. Who knows where it could take you?

Image courtesy of Kirsten Kortebein (@kirsten.kortebein)