What's it like having a cold one after running in the cold? Torontoist took to the streets to find out at RunTOBeer's first event of the year.
Dozens of brave runners bedecked in thermal leggings, wooly headbands, running shoes and pink cheeks gather at three different intersections in downtown Toronto, looking forward to taking over their city streets. But this isn’t an ordinary winter run. Because there’s beer, and that changes everything.
The RunTOBeer 10k started at the final destination, Scallywags, at the corner of Yonge and St. Clair: “Brave souls prepared to spend an extra half hour shuffling,” as organizer Dan Grant cheerfully describes them. “There’s just something badass about getting together on a winter night—a weeknight, no less—to run in pursuit of beer,” he adds.
RunTOBeer originated in the dead of winter back in 2014. They truly deserved a cold one then, as many Torontonians will remember it as the most brutal winter of the recent past—”polar vortex,” anyone? They’ve kept it up with dogged consistency though, the true mark of dedicated year-round runners (and beer drinkers). The club operates regularly, with 10, 5, and 3k run options, weaving through a specified neighbourhood of Toronto and ending at a cozy bar replete with free (yes, FREE) beer for each and every pre-registered runner.
For someone starting from the 3k running in a straight line up Yonge Street, the adrenaline of the lights pouring from restaurants, designer stores, not-so-designer stores, head shops, tattoo parlours and bars is enough to kickstart your engines at first. You have to not mind running in the face of angry commuters trying to get to the subway after staying late at work, but being part of a group and knowing that you and the commuter are both probably heading for an icy Pilsner helps.
As commuters slink away and the streets gradually empty heading north, the run becomes a steadier, gruelling plod, but familiar Toronto sights along the route pass by accompanied by many individual motivational soundtracks playing through earbuds. The 10k portion of the run includes the challenging and iconic steps at Casa Loma where Spadina meets Davenport, thankfully ice-free in time for the evening, though darkened. “That more than 40 people chose the longer distance for the same reward just seems so beautifully Canadian,” says Grant. “The biggest challenge was navigating the 110 darkened stairs at Casa Loma without running over (or being run over by) someone else.”
Fitting for the boozy end goal of the run, the route passes the overtly beautiful and high-class flagship Summerhill LCBO, and more than a few runners might have licked their chops as they passed the fancy Price Street location of Terroni. A group run through this section of the city delivers a condensed feel for the spectrum of the neighbourhood, providing a quick way for a seasoned Torontonian to connect some more physical memories of the downtown core that don’t just involve mass consumerism.
At Scallywags at Yonge and St. Clair everyone grinds to a grateful halt. Since the event attracted a fair number of participants the line is long, but endorphins and communal experience make the runners friendly and talkative enough to pass roughly a 10-minute wait time.
As their sweat dried and they finally approached the bar, runners selected from one of two kinds of beer available from Cameron’s Brewing Company (based locally in Oakville) for one free pint’s worth of consumption. One of the beers on tap was Cameron’s regular Lager, and the other was a malty, caramel-y Dark Lager. After a few drinks and some swag giveaways, runners left exhausted but energized, their bellies full of beer and food.
If you’re simply curious about participating in the next RunTOBeer, you can join their Facebook group or follow them on other social media to stays on the alert for the next event. Oh, and maybe buy a good pair of long johns.