When the hot months hit and air gets heavy, runners head out the door onto baking hot roads. Perspiration happens almost immediately and in humid weather, times slow and lungs work harder. During summer conditions, the dread of burns and dehydration can be off-putting to the runner. There’s perhaps no better motivation to run than the promise of a post-run pub session with crisp IPAs, bubbly pilsners and a group of friends to chat about upcoming runs and races.
For runners in the Toronto area, RunTOBeer is a group that promises this post-run dream to anyone who wants to take part every other Sunday. They are a new club that has popped up in the past year adding spice to city runners’ routines by organizing runs to different Toronto pubs and breweries twice a month. They started with 5K routes. Since their early early days, they have added a 3K loop for beginners and a 10K option for those who want a little extra workout (or maybe just want to burn more calories in anticipation of knocking back an extra pint later on). It’s organized by Dan Grant and Tej Sandhu– both are Toronto runners who are keen on the city’s beer scene. They meet on Sundays at 2:00 p.m. and hit up local beer gems like the Mill Street Brewery, Bellwoods Brewery, Brewer’s Backyard events and countless pubs. It’s a different route every time.
RunTOBeer: The early days
It started in February of 2014. Grant used to be part of the modelling industry but was looking for a change. He wanted to get into the beer world. He organized the first RunTOBeer run. Grant put it out on social media and started getting interest from folks more in the beer scene and less in the running scene. But it was mid-winter and in the period where “polar vortex” was frequently uttered from frustrated Torontonians. Needless to say, interest in running waned closer to the date. “When it came down to actually doing it, the only person who actually showed up was Tej,” says Grant. Not yet fully understanding how to plan their routes, they ran on the packed and windy Queen Street. Grant acknowledges that it was a “really terrible” route for running, yet they were determined for their new running club to gain momentum.
Sandhu took to social media to get notice. “Initially, I was just sending out a flow of tweets. I was so into making this become a bigger thing,” he says. “No one was coming out for the first couple [runs].” Last summer, the pair could expect around four to eight runners for each run. That size was great for some of Toronto’s smaller pubs that seat less than 50. Unlike most running groups which attract beginners or seasoned runners depending on the group’s focus, RunTOBeer was pulling people from the beer industry. They were beer aficionados turned runners rather than the other way around.
When beer connoisseurs meet running nerds
But in the last three months, things have changed. The group has been getting more and more attention since Sandhu posted on meetup.com. The numbers grew from a handful of runners to 15, 25 and then 100 at their most recent event. Now, it’s a blend of the beer-savvy types as well as those who have been mingling in the running world for years. “It’s very much about the social side,” says Grant.”It’s supposed to be a fun, casual environment.”
Unlike other clubs though, for many members, RunTOBeer is sort of an additional group to meet with to add a little fun to their routine. That means that if runners have a prime group already, they can still join. Sandhu for example, has been running with The Night Terrors since last August (Grant is a solo runner). In fact, he says that they’ve seen runners from notable Toronto groups like the Parkdale Roadrunners, Pace and Mind and The RunningRats. For those runners, they can rely on their group for the harder workouts but head to the breweries for some fun. “We’re not looking to replace any running groups,” says Sandhu. “We’re just adding a fun run in every other week or so.” And for those who are new to running and didn’t already have a club, this one offers the chance to get fit in a non-judgmental environment with a reward for later. Sandhu says the abilities of members varies.”We have people who run marathons and half-marathons and people who have never raced before.”
What else is on tap?
This past weekend saw a soar in numbers for the club. For the first time, they saw 100 people show up. That was for their long weekend run to Brewer’s Backyard on May 18. This is their largest event so far. But going forward, Grant and Sandhu have many things planned. They are working on planning post-race events with Canadian Running Series, will be involved in Canada Beer Run and of course, are looking forward to planning events for Toronto Beer Week happening late September. And with the recent spike in numbers, Grant says things may have to change little. “We can’t keep going to small pubs,” he says. That just means more new routes.
Toronto Mikkeller Running Club: RunTOBeer’s little sister
For runners who are involved in the sport to achieve goals centered on performance, running for beer on Sundays, the day dubbed for the holy long run, might not be an option. For those who are sour from their fear of missing out, there’s more good news going forward. RunTOBeer has just announced that they are starting a sibling club: Toronto’s Mikkeller Running Club. That’s a branch of the Mikkeller Running Club named after a famous brewer in Copenhagen who was also a star runner in his youth. Mikkeller has clubs in world class cities including Paris, New York, Chicago, Sao Paolo, Barcelona, Montreal, Boston and others. This new club has its first run on June 6. Unlike RunTOBeer, the club starts and finishes at the same pub (Bier Markt), members pay a fee by purchasing the T-Shirt and the first pint is on the house.
Two beer-focused running clubs and countless pub runs later, Grant and Sandhu can now say they have found a solid place both in the beer industry and the running community. They’ve certainly come a long way since they first clinked glasses, exchanged a “cheers!” and rested tired legs after that first lonely run battling the frigid winter wind. We’ll drink to that.