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Aug. 7, 2009 | Jogging and chugging


HISTORY WILL record that one of the great moments in science occurred in late 2007, when researchers in Spain discovered that drinking beer after strenuous physical activity improves rehydration.

The study, by Professor Manuel Garzon of Granada University, showed that - thanks to its bubbles and carbohydrates - beer can help thirsty athletes retain liquid better than water alone.

The findings not only nominally justified the carousing that goes on after rugby matches, it may have encouraged a few inveterate beer drinkers to lace up their sneakers before heading to the fridge.

"That's all we had to hear," said David April of Philadelphia, who, upon reading the study two years ago with his friend Eric Fiedler, immediately headed out for an early evening run to one of their favorite watering holes. "We had pierogi and beer, and it felt so good afterward, we had to share it with people."

That was the birth of the Fishtown Beer Runners club, named for the pair's neighborhood, where each Thursday night an average of 30 runners begin their organized trek to an area tavern.

The runs, which attract novices and marathoners, typically range from 3 to 5 miles. In recent weeks, they've paced themselves to Good Dog in Center City, the P.O.P.E. in From NYC's 5 Borough RaceSouth Philly and Memphis Taproom in Port Richmond, ending each session with rounds of good beer.

The weekly jaunt is one of hundreds across America devoted to jogging and chugging.

The most notable and widest-spread are the boisterous dashes sponsored by the Hash House Harriers. (Motto: "A beer-drinking club with a running problem.") There are an estimated 2,000 so-called H3 chapters worldwide, including at least two in Philadelphia.

In noncompetitive runs, called hashes, members follow a meandering trail laid out by a leader known as the hare. There are no official winners or losers, but there's plenty of beer and bawdy song at the post-race party.

Recognizing the natural affinity between running and beer drinking, breweries and taprooms across the country now sponsor races with a foamy finish line.

In Delaware, Dogfish Head Brewery draws 1,000 runners to its Dogfish Dash each September. In Wisconsin, those who complete the 13-mile "half-barrel" route in the Tyranena Beer Run in November wash down plates of lasagna with cups ofBitter Woman IPA.

In Milwaukee's Riverwest Beer Run, competitors must drink four beers along the 1.8-mile course. (One blogger writes that if you want to win, don't stop, but cautions: "Quaffing beer while running can be pretty unpleasant if it goes up your nose.")

In Rochester, N.Y., Johnny's Tavern sponsors the annual Halloween "Run Like Hell" 5K race, with beer drinkers competing in costumes. John Urlaub, who owns the city's Rohrbach Brewery, said: "I probably drink significantly after the run, and not entirely for hydration."

In the Philadelphia area, beer blogger Bryan Kolesar of BrewLounge.com has organized several runs, including one last month to the Gen. Lafayette Inn and Brewery in Lafayette Hill.

A competitor has run four marathons, Kolesar said, "It's grain, it's water, it's hops, it's yeast. There's no fatty salad dressing in there, so if you keep the alcohol low, there's nothing but goodness in that glass."

During Philly Beer Week last March, Kolesar organized a 6-mile beer run from Dock Street in Old Citey to the Dock Street Brewery in West Philly. About 50 runners competed, then shared fresh ale afterward.

"The really neat aspect to the run was that, yeah, we're drinking beer, but more importantly, it was a great way to meet people," he said.

April agreed that draining a brew after a run "is probably more of a social thing." But he noted, "there definitely is some science behind it."

Indeed, as a tribute to the Spanish study's groundbreaking research, the Fishtown Beer Runners named Garzon their honorary president. "Every time we run," said April, "we drink a toast to the professor."

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Despite the Spanish study's findings, many experts advise caution when combining exercise with beer.

Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it will dehydrate you. Dehydration reduces blood volume, which limits oxygen to your muscles. That lessens energy.

As Garzon's study noted, some of that may be offset by the carbohydrates in beer - but not by as much as you might guess. A typical beer has fewer than 20 grams of carbs, compared to more than 40 in an energy bar.

If you're looking for a high-carb beer, however, try one of these:

 
 

Victory Storm King Stout (28g).*

Pike Barley Wine (30g).

Three Floyds Dreadnaught (32g).

Rogue XS Imperial Stout (41g).

*Data from "Does My Butt Look Big in this Beer?" (Gambrinus Media, 2009).

The Fishtown Beer Runners run every Thursday. Here's their website.

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