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Why We Run

White Pasty Legs

Avert your gaze, you may go blind from the reflecting light (photo courtesy of R. Koning).

Nick gives us a glimpse at what the Wild Rogue Relay entails.  So sit down, grab a cold beer and read about other people working hard.  Because, really, that’s the best way to enjoy work.

When the Standing Stone running team (a.k.a Slaughterhouse 12) came to me last year and asked me to run in the Wild Rogue Relay, I was more than a little apprehensive about it.  Running long distances ranks somewhere near doing my taxes and cleaning my cat’s litter box in regards to things I would like to spend my time doing.

I’ve always excused myself from such activities by saying I was more of a sprinter, but, while true, it really had more to do with boredom. I’ve always felt running is a lot of the same thing: start running on pavement for 10 minutes, then move on to some running on gravel for 10 minutes, with a little trail running for about 10 minutes and finally, the run is capped off with a nice jaunt on pavement for 10 more minutes (just in case you missed it). There’s no Frisbee I’m chasing or “Free Beer” vendor I’m desperately sprinting towards, pint in hand.  In fact, all of those things I love about sprinting are perhaps the worst thing you can do while running distance, as you’ll likely injure yourself or run out of energy before you finish the run.  I have a newfound understanding for dogs on leashes, or stuck in cars; constantly waiting to be let loose and feel the exhilaration of running at full speed.

So you can understand my – what would you call it, complete and utter lack of any sort of interest in regards to any run that goes on for longer that two or three blocks?  Compound all of that with the fact that I work at a brewery – one that specializes in fried goodness and delicious desserts – and you’ve got the makings of one very unhappy runner.

And then I ran the Relay last year…

Truck Side

Getting Truck #1 ready for the next exchange (photo courtesy of L. Pfister)

…and confirmed pretty much everything I thought about running.  That crap is hard.  Each runner ran between 16 and 24 miles over the course of 34 hours.  Some runs were in the sweltering heat of the afternoon, while others took place in the eerie calm coolness of midnight.  None of the runners slept more than two or three hours during the event, testing the stamina and patience of everyone in the vans; because, let’s be honest, spending 30 hours straight in a vehicle with five other people lacking sleep has its ramifications.

Handoff Alex Nick

(photo courtesy of R. Koning)

That said, when I finished the relay, I found a part of me that I never knew existed: I was a distance runner.  And I had amazing teammates/co-workers/friends.  Of all the places I’ve had the pleasure (or displeasure) to work, Standing Stone has offered me some of the closest, lasting friendships I’ve ever had.  What kind of restaurant has twelve employees who enjoy each other’s company so much they’d actively choose to spend 30 hours straight with them, in the tight confines of a mini van where their only relief comes in the form of a seven mile run?

All of the excuses I made not to run were just that: excuses. I ran 18.1 miles, split in three different legs, without walking once.  This is coming from someone who hadn’t done a distance run since sophomore year P.E. (and failed miserably, I might add).

Why do people run in the first place? It’s a question I asked myself every time I spotted a sweaty runner while enjoying a nice, cold pint at the bar.  I ran not to have a good time, or to stay in shape,  or because I wanted to. I ran because they needed another runner and I was free.  All of my fears surfaced exactly how I expected: it was difficult, I was tired and, yes, I had visions of lounging by the pool with an ice-cold margarita in one hand and another ice-cold margarita in the other.  But something changed once I finished. I ran in the relay again this year because it was arduous.  Some of the best things in life are those that we have to grit our teeth for; to bear down and fight for that last reserve of energy.  It’s a wonderful feeling to complete something so grueling and terribly hard.

Truck 1 Night Shot

(photo courtesy of J. Donehower)

The satisfaction I felt for running that last fifty feet of my final leg was unlike anything else I’ve experienced, because I hit my limit a mile back but kept going. Anytime I wavered, my teammates would come through for me.  Whenever I’d feel that pang of pain biting at my motivation, my crew would summit a hill with Ride of the Valkyries blasting from a loud speaker Mad-Max-style-strapped to the top of a Ford F-250, and temporarily the Rogue River canyons would turn into my own personal concert hall.

Do I like distance running? Heavens, no.  I will, however, be running in the Wild Rogue Relay again next year. It was difficult, but it was also a blast. But naturally, I’ve gone into retirement: I need to make up for all these race-conscious decisions I’ve been making and eat a piece cheesecake with a pint or two, or thirty, to wash it down.

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