What could possibly taste better then that first cold sip of beer after logging a few miles beneath your running shoes? Not much, which is why excitement is brewing over Asheville's innovative new race series, Race to the Taps.
From April to October, six chip-timed, four mile races will begin and end at a local craft brewery and feature tons of bonuses such as prizes, sprints, and free pours. An undercurrent of community altruism ties together what's bound to become a popular and enduring tradition here in Beer City.
The six race courses are designed to provide participants with a flavor of different neighborhoods and surrounding towns in the Blue Ridge, incorporating iconic views and natural elements. Enjoy leafy North Asheville with Asheville Brewing, dash around Brevard with Oskar Blues, race through Mills River with Sierra Nevada, and take on scenic Black Mountain with Pisghah Brewing.
If you have to pick just one, the South Slope course winds through the city's brewing epicenter and incorporates Twin Leaf, Greenman, and Wicked Weed's Funkatorium.
Although a free pour is included at the end of each race, this is no pub crawl. The race length—four miles—was chosen to be inclusive of runners on all levels. "The courses are appealing for seasoned runners, or someone training for a marathon," says Nikki Mitchell, events and program director for Asheville Radio Group. "But it's not out of the realm for someone on the 'couch-to-5k' program."
The races are infused with extra fun and challenges, such as mid-course sprints, with prizes awarded to the winners. And that's just the start of it: the top place finishers will receive an award, as will the runner whose finish time falls right in the middle of the pack. On each race day, the 'King and Queen of the Taps' will be dubbed to the two runners who best embody the spirit of Asheville's brewery culture: friendly, quirky, and supportive. "It really seems like a welcoming environment where talent and innovation are celebrated and supported," says Mitchell. "The Breweries help each other out and love to see each other succeed."
As for the prizes, Mitchell does not want to spoil any surprises, but she does concede this one hint: "They will be beer related."
If tap royalty, race T-shirts, free koozies and craft beer isn't enough incentive for you to break a sweat, consider this: Race to the Taps supports the community by donating a portion of the revenue from each race to a local non-profit. The organization is chosen by the race day brewery and will reflect their unique culture and initiatives. Asheville Brewing, an establishment that has long invested in animal welfare, is pairing up with the Asheville Humane Society . Highland Brewing has chosen to support Friends of Connect Buncombe , whose mission is to build greenways and trails throughout the city—a perfect cause for any runner.
The series kicks off on April 25th at Highland and concludes on Halloween morning at Sierra Nevada. Registration is available online through Racetothetaps.com, where you can sign up for an individual race, or snag the whole 'six pack' for a discount. Walkers are welcome, pets and strollers are not, and all beers will be enjoyed after passing the finish line.
If you just can't wait until spring for that first sip of well earned workout beer, check out Highland Brewing's Run Club . This casual group meets each Wednesday for a three mile loop with a frothy reward. Or, stretch it out with Twin Leaf's Beer and Yoga events, where you will enjoy your brew in post-savassana bliss. These activities will get you in such great shape that by April, you just might be the first to the taps. And if not, well- at least you'll be in the running.