One of the things I love most about running races in Baltimore City (which I'm sure is the case everywhere) is the unification of two of my favorite past times: running and daytime drinking.
Nothing is better than a well-prepped, well-orchestrated, well-hydrated rendition of either. In fact, much of what goes into running also goes into proper daytime drinking. The pre-event hydration, the requisite "carbo-loading" (although sometimes I think we get a little carried away- there's probably no need to "carbo-load" before a 5k....), and the plotting of timing, checkpoints, and meet-ups.
This past Sunday's 5k- the Shamrock- saw 4,500 individuals (most of whom in green) running down Charles Street. From the starting line headed southward, it was quite a sight. A sea of green spanning all lanes, bobbing along. The race curled around Key Highway, and the victorious finish line led runners straight into Power Plant.
And there, the grand clusterf--- began.
4,500 people, herded like cattle towards two 6 foot plastic tables with a beer truck parked behind it.
All 4,500 of them thirsty. Very, very thirsty.
The Shamrock 5k is not one of those races for runners who eschew things like alcohol and daytime drinking.
The Shamrock 5k is for runners who embrace things like alcohol and daytime drinking.
Needless to say, the beer area was a maddening throng of individuals clamoring for their free beer. And the attendants were not regulating the amount of beer you could take. This was no beer ticket operation- this was a mad-scrabble, take-as-much-as-you-can-carry free-for-all. This was on par with loaves of bread being tossed out to crowds post-Armageddon.
Mrs. Spaz, who was running her first race ever, was my companion in this grand knot of thirsty daytime drinkers. We happened upon a group of people we knew, and ascertained that they had somehow managed to rob the beer truck blind.
"How did you get so many beers?!" we exclaimed, ogling the beautiful pyramid of glistening, sweaty, foamy beers piled up in the corner they had somehow managed to stake out.
"Carried 'em," they proudly proclaimed.
"Can we have one?!" we asked, excited. We had cheated the system. We weren't going to have to brave the mean, jostling crowd for a sip of delicious Michelob Ultra (the beer choice of champion racers- because you can drink 47 of them and still solve complex math problems.) We were going to get FREE BEER FOR EVEN MORE FREE because we wouldn't have to wait in line!
"Nope. Get your own," came the response.
Angry at the sudden institution of fair-play when it worked against us, Mrs. Spaz and I braved the crowds for all the beer we could carry (which amounted to three, slightly-squashed Solo cups apiece, each only halfway full after sloshing the precious Ultra every couple of steps when someone elbowed us mightily) and, approximately forty five rib-crushing minutes later, made our way back to the corner staked by my friends.
They eyed our beers thirstily. I felt instantly protective of my beers as they circled around us.
"Hey, guys! You're back!" they asked, all smiles and cheer. I was wary. Jackals, they appeared to be, licking their fangs. "Ummmm, can we have one of your beers?" Casually. As if they hadn't previously quashed our hopes and dreams of avoiding the soul-crushing beer line. AS IF THAT HAD NEVER HAPPENED.
Mrs. Spaz and I looked at what had been a glorious, glistening tower of beer. It was sitting in direct sunlight. Some thirsty flies had discovered the cache and were blissfully drinking away at 64 calories of light beer, one drop at a time. The beer pyramid appeared to be melting.
"You still have a beer tower," we replied, haughtily.
"But it got warm! We couldn't drink it fast enough!" they cried.
My, how the tables turned.
Mrs. Spaz and I, ever beacons of charity, willingly donated one of our half-cups of beer to be doled out to the thirsty. We allowed each of them a delicious sip of our ice-cold (ok, slightly-less-than-lukewarm, but still frigid in comparison to the loaves of bread now baking in the beer pyramid) beer and felt as though we had earned our spots in heaven for doing so.
And thus, running season in Baltimore hath begun.