For many runners, it’s the sense of accomplishment that they get as they cross the finish line that keeps them going.
For the rest of us, it’s the beer.
Because as almost anyone who’s ever run a race knows, among the number of incentives offered, T-shirts or water bottles or medals, there is almost always a free beer.
The idea of pairing the beverage with the athletic activity is nothing new.
But the idea of creating a series of races that are devoted specifically to the type of beer given at the end is.
Morgan Jappe and Nate Herrington were two friends who shared a love of community, running and good beer.
In 2012, the two decided they wanted to start a community-centered business. They began planning a number of events around the city, but nothing was gaining much traction.
Then, in honor of National Running Day, the pair decided to throw their other two passions into the mix and hosted a 5K around Fulton Brewery.
“The concept was relatively simple,” Jappe said. “Show up and we’ll give you a 5k course to run and then come back and drink beer. And that was the premise.”
And while it may have been a simple idea, it also seemed to be a revolutionary one.
“The event sold out relatively quickly,” Jappe said. “We had 250 attend the first race.”
As the brewing scene began to grow, so too did the races.
“[We went] from one event to seven to 17 to, now, just over 40 in just over the past four years,” Jappe said.
Thus, the MN Brewery Running Series was born.
Since the first run at Fulton Brewery, Jappe and Herrington have expanded out of Northeast and into Surly in Prospect Park, LynLake in Uptown, Tin Whiskers in St. Paul, Third Street Brewhouse in Cold Spring and even Bent Paddle in Duluth.
“Since we’ve started, we’ve gone back to the same breweries,” Jappe said. “But we’re [also] trying to encourage travel and testing out the rest of the state, [and] also meeting new communities and new runners in other parts of the state.”
The calendar is broken down by season, and each year the new breweries are added to the list of old favorites.
Each run is based on the size of the tap room; the larger the tap room, the larger the run. But as the series grew, Jappe and Herrington realized they wanted to continue to keep their runs small. So even the Surly race had under 500 runners.
“In your typical 5k experience, we knew that events can get to 1,000 to 2,000 participants,” Jappe said. “And this just works so well as a relatively small group of runners that get together on a Saturday morning. It’s casual, it’s fun.”
More compelling still, Herrington and Jappe maintained their passion for community and with each race give a portion back to local nonprofits.
“Nate and I both are active in the community and like to be involved. And when we started this business essentially, one of the team models we had was to give back,” Jappe said.
When the first races began they chose one nonprofit to work with, Bolder Options. As they’ve expanded, they’ve added more partners, including Brewing a Better Forest and People for Parks.
At the end of the season they figure out how much they can give back and donate that amount to the nonprofits. But they also give these nonprofits another platform for their cause.
“We really like to work with the nonprofits to help share information about what they do, get more people involved, [get] more volunteers helping them [and] more mentors signed up,” Jappe said. “Really seeing how we can collaborate and work together to have a great event and add value to all our participants and bring more in towards the community.”
So, perhaps it’s the fact that Minnesotans love to be active, or maybe it’s because Minnesotans love to give back. But when you ask Jappe, she thinks the reason these races have taken off is because Minnesotans love to support other Minnesotans.
“I think we have a very proud state and people want to shop and dine and support local business,” Jappe said.
And the fact that that business is craft beer? Well, that’s just the icing on the post-run cake.
“We all joke it’s the best carbo-load. It’s the best post run fun,” Jappe said. “That beer tastes so much better after a good run. You earned it.”
The Minnesota Brewery Running Series’ next open race is at Boom Island. The race begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 18.