The Coast News Group
The Vista Beer Run is a natural for a city that advertises it has the most craft breweries per capita in the U.S. Courtesy photo

Vista Beer Run celebrates city’s craft breweries

At the Vista Beer Run — a half-marathon, 10K and 5K road race — beer literally engulfs the course.

That’s by design and an homage to Vista’s myriad craft breweries, a city containing about 100,000 residents which has 18 microbreweries within its borders, with the city advertising that it has the most craft breweries per capita in the U.S. During this year’s second annual Vista Beer Run half-marathon, which took place on Sept. 30 and started and finished at Buena Vista Park, runners who completed the race ran past 10 of those breweries, giving them a de facto tour of the majority of the city’s beer-making factories.

The Beer Run is put together by the Vista Chamber of Commerce as a means of highlighting what its CEO, Bret Schanzenbach, called the city’s ongoing “microbrewery craze.”

“Vista has never had a half marathon before. We thought it would be cool to put on Vista’s first half marathon and tie it one of our primary tourist attractions, the microbrewery craze,” Schanzenbach told The Coast News. “It took 18 months of planning for the inaugural run last year. But we did it.”

Post-race, many of the breweries dotting the race route distributed a complimentary beer to participants and sold beer to those present at the festivities or just looking to toss back a second (or third) beer.

More than 800 people partook in the second iteration of the Beer Run, including 241 in the half-marathon. Kimberly Hicks, 42, the winner of the half-marathon, clocked in at 1:24:20, 22 seconds ahead of the second place finisher and top overall male, Chris Wernke. Two other women, Katie Barrett, 27, and Joanna Zeiger, 48, rounded out the top four, all finishing within a minute of Hicks.

In San Diego for a naval change of command ceremony, Zeiger told The Coast News that she “signed up not knowing anything about the course,” first finding out about the race’s existence the Wednesday before the event. Zeiger, no stranger to major athletic feats, took fourth place  in the triathlon at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics and won the 2008 Half Ironman Triathlon world champion.

“Since I knew nothing about the course, I was quite surprised by all of the hills. It was the toughest half marathon I have ever run,” said Zeiger, who now works professionally as a running and triathlon coach and shared a post-race write-up on her Facebook page. “Every time we rounded a corner and there was another uphill, all I thought was ‘Whoever designed this course has a weird sense of humor!’”

Wernke, running in his first ever half marathon, quipped that the term “beer run” used to have an entirely different meaning for him as a younger man.

“When I was in college, a beer run meant a quick trip to the liquor store. Never did I think that some 13 years later I would be on the podium at my very first Vista Beer Run,” said Wernke. “I’m currently enjoying a cold one out of my winning beer mug prize and am ecstatic to place second overall in my very first half marathon.”

Schanzenbach said that more than 1,000 people originally signed up for the race. Others within the city’s business community also participated in the race, including Frank Soto, general manager of Cinépolis (the race’s title sponsor company) and Natalie Trevino, the owner of the Twice on Main Street used clothing store.

“For me, the Vista Beer Run is awesome,” said Trevino. “It’s a great and challenging course, which is rewarded by delicious craft beer for finishers. It’s really well-organized and executed and I don’t plan to miss it ever. I’ve done the half marathon and then the 10K this year and both were great experiences. Any beginner or seasoned runner will enjoy this Vista gem.”

Schanzenbach said that the Beer Run serves as a solid fundraiser for the Chamber of Commerce and its dues-paying members.

“Like any event we do, it needs to make money. Race coordination involves a ton of prep work and planning,” he said. “If it doesn’t make some money, my board will decide to move on to other activities. It is a great promotion for one of our best tourist industries here locally. All the breweries who participate or donated beer are members of our chamber as well, so we love promoting them too. Plus, we love drawing people to our community. That is always part of what the chamber is all about.”

Beyond the Beer Run in the running domain, the Vista Chamber of Commerce also plays host to the annual Strawberry Festival 5K and 10K road races in late-May.