Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Carolina Brewsfest Half Marathon 2016 Review

On a cold, wet Saturday morning in April I got to combine my love of running with my beer drinking hobby and run my first beer-themed Half Marathon. While I've finished beer runs ranging from 8k to 15k, The Carolina Brewsfest Half Marathon in High Point, NC was my first beer run totaling 13.1 miles. It is also the only Half Marathon in the Triad followed by a craft beer festival. When I read about this race, I knew I had to participate. They also offered a 5k race. Runners for both distances received free entry into the Carolina Brewsfest after the races. 

I reached out to Junction 311 prior to the race to inquire about a complimentary blogger's entry and they were generous enough to comp my registration fee. I love free races but I also love sharing my experience and expressing my genuine thoughts on a race so you will get nothing but the honest truth from me on ALL my races. 

I'll admit I was a little skeptical about the race taking place in High Point. All other Triad beer runs have taken place in Greensboro or Winston Salem. My impression of High Point before this race also wasn't the greatest. I may have a love/hate relationship now with High Point, the furniture capital of the World. Yes, that's right. Little High Point is home to the International Home Furnishing Market every April and October. On my way to packet pickup I passed through the downtown area where the semi-annual market is held and was astonished at how nice it is! Maybe I should've given High Point a little more credit. More on the hate part of my relationship with High Point in a little bit... 

Early packet pickup was on Thursday at a bar and that was my first indication that this race was going to be great. The location was Brown Truck Brewery on N Main Street.  I would've stopped for a few beers but the bar was about 20 minutes away from my house and I wanted to squeeze a run in before sunset. The alternative option to packet pickup was on Friday at the High Point Omega store or on race morning. In addition to our bibs, we received a race shirt and canvas tote perfect for farmers market shopping. You know, when you buy food to pair with your beer you need a bag to put it all in and this one is perfect. 

I arrived about an hour before the race started on Saturday morning. I was actually thrilled with the 8:30 AM start time. When it comes to races, I've become accustomed to much earlier start times than that. The weather was less than ideal when I arrived. It was chilly and misting before the race took off. I've unfortunately ran in significantly worse conditions so I wasn't worried about a little rain or cold. The cold never bothered me anyway! 

There was a lot of food before the race took off. I have a hard time running with food in my stomach so I had to pass on the fruit and candy offered pre-race to runners. Between the Half Marathon and 5k, there were approximately 1,000 runners. It was definitely one of the smallest races I've participated in. It's an awesome race so everyone who likes beer and running needs to show up in 2017. I prefer larger races with tons of runners and need more beer drinking enthusiasts to run with next year. 

Race Review 

The course: 6/10
That love/hate relationship comes from the rolling hills of High Point. Holy hills! I wasn't expecting such a tough course.  The race started off in residential areas which I was not a fan of but we did run through High Point University's campus and past Oak Hollow Mall. Because of the size of High Point and the number of race participants, there were hardly any spectators on the course. I live for cheers of encouragement so I was disappointed with the turnout. The weather may have also played a role in the lack of spectators, though. 

The swag: 9/10 
In addition to entry into Carolina Brewsfest, runners also received two free beers. I'm not talking Michelob Ultra (not hating on Mich Ultra- it's my fav bikini-conscious beer) but local craft beers. There were dozens of choices. I decided on the Skull Camp Not So Pale Pale Ale and Bombshell Beer Strawberries N Cream Summer Ale. Two totally different beers but both very delicious. Local breweries such as Natty Greene's were also present but I've had all their core beers and wanted to try something different. If you're not from the area and run Carolina Brewsfest Half Marathon in the future, I do recommend stopping at the Natty Greene's tent. I love their Wildflower witbier. There were also food trucks lined up waiting for runners during the festival. It normally takes several hours for my appetite to kick in after a Half Marathon so I did not hit any of these up. 

The medal: 6/10 
This was not my favorite medal. I like big sparkly medals and was hoping these would have big beer mugs on them. You know what would have been really cool? A medal with a bottle opener. For the theme, I was expecting a little more. I'm a medal snob though and at the end of the day any medal is just more bling to add to your collection. 

Overall Experience: 7/10 
If it weren't raining I would have stayed at the festival much longer, bringing overall experience up to an 8 or 9.  Unfortunately it was cold and miserable and I was in the mood to just go home and sleep after finishing my two beers.  Considering my dislike for the hilly course and the smaller amount of runners, I still really enjoyed this race experience. I love themed races because it incorporates more than just running and encourages more people to get involved. The craft beer festival afterwards was great. It kept the race interesting and gave me motivation to finish sooner. It wasn't my greatest time but that's an incentive to come back next year for time improvement. 

It's worth mentioning that there were several other packages you could purchase during registration.  I did not add anything on to my registration, but for $35 you could become unlimited taster and receive a commemorative glass to try every single beer from every single brewery.  With 25 breweries serving 4-6 beers each, you can guarantee a good time with this pass.  Make sure you stay hydrated with plenty of water, though!  There was also a VIP unlimited taster for $60.  I would totally go with this option next year because VIP received entry into a seated section away from the brewery tents.  There was extra food, tables, and plenty of room to mingle over here.  From the looks of it, the VIP experience was well worth the additional $60 on top of your race registration fee.

Next year's event will take place on Saturday May 13th. Junction 311 offers many events throughout the year in addition to Carolina Brewsfest Half Marathon. Check out some upcoming races below for the two options I'm most interested in running! A full list of events is available here.

Big Beach Marathon and Half Marathon 
Gulf Shores, Alabama 
January 31, 2017 
The inaugural event of The Big Beach Marathon promises a flat, fast Boston Qualifying course along the Gulf coast. I would travel all the way to Alabama for this race! Afterwards, there will be a post-race party with free beer and live entertainment. I've never been to Alabama, but from the looks of it this will be a great beach town to run and celebrate in.  There's also a pre-race pasta party the night before both runs. 

Morehead City, North Carolina 
March 4, 2017
I spent the summer after I graduated college soaking up the rays of the Crystal Coast and stuffing my face with fresh seafood daily. The little beach towns of Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle are sure to capture your heart. In March, experience a 5k, 10k, or Half Marathon run across the famous Morehead City bridge then party afterwards in the Southern Outer Banks.

I hope you have as much fun with your beer runs as I had with this one.  Keep running and drinking beer, my friends.



  1. I love beer! I have never run a beer theme race. We have one here in Florida is a 4K for a loca brewery. They offer beer shots throughout the course and a medal bottle opener at the finish. I have yet to try this race. It's in the middle of summer in the blaring hottest month in Florida. Not sure I'd wanna take beer shots while running a hot race. April was quite a month for you hon. You're a race demon. Also very inspiring. Keep up the great work.

    1. Beer during a race is a bad idea. Beer before and after... best idea ever! I'm sure you have more local beer races than you realize. We have a lot up here in NC!

  2. Good to know you had such a great time. My college bud & I are running it this weekend, hoping to finish in the top 5 (unlikely haha). I was afraid the beerfest was going to be a fail afterwards but I feel much more relieved now.