The idea of running a marathon – or even a 5km fun run – often conjures images of punishing training sessions, self-sacrifice and clean-living... and nutrition plans rarely feature booze. Fortunately there are a number of events around the world designed to give runners the same endorphin-fueled sense of achievement, but with the added bonus of a few alcohol tastings along the way.
If you enjoy a drink, and you’re looking for a fitness challenge that fits with your lifestyle, these six boozy marathons and races could tempt you to pull on your running shoes.
Although several of these are scheduled for 2021 at time of publishing, things could change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Check local listings for the latest info.
Beer Lovers’ Marathon, Liège, Belgium
The free-spirited city of Liège in Belgium turns its attention to sport each May, when hundreds take to the streets in fancy dress to run the Beer Lovers’ Marathon. There are Belgian beers to sample every 5km along the route, and runners can try up to 15 types of the amber nectar over the course of the race. The organizers point out that drinking the beers isn’t compulsory, though few on the run are likely to pass them up: this is a marathon for beer lovers, after all. But if even the thought of the next tasting stop isn’t enough to lift the spirits of weary participants, then the live bands and DJs creating a party atmosphere along the course surely will. According to the official regulations, only "nice people who want to make sport and have fun" need apply, so if you sign up you're likely to be in good company.
This year's event is currently scheduled for August 29th, 2021.
Lanzarote Wine Run, Spain
If you like your wines dry and your running routes spectacular, this could be the perfect race. Lanzarote’s Wine Country is the otherworldly backdrop for the Lanzarote Wine Run, held each year in June. Resourceful viticulturists here have managed to adapt traditional techniques in order to work with the island’s black volcanic soil, and the La Geria region supports several small producers of quality wines. This half marathon wends though the island’s unique landscape and past various bodegas such as El Grifo, the oldest winery in the Canary Islands. Participants can quaff the local wines at 10 refreshment stations on the course and, if running 23km in the scorching heat of high summer seems like too much of an effort, there’s also the option to run or hike a 12km route instead.
Bacchus Marathon & Half Marathon, Surrey, England
Award-winning Denbies has been producing wine in England’s bucolic North Downs for over three decades, and what better way to sample the (fermented) fruits of their labour than by running a 26-mile route? Race through the vineyards at the 627-acre Denbies Wine Estate and across National Trust–protected landscape, complete with pit-stops for Pinot. The Bacchus Marathon and Half Marathon takes place in September, and involves jogging either one or two laps of the course, each with five tasting stations proffering Denbies wine, soft drinks and snacks. After all that exertion, racers are bound to be hungry, so they can round out the day by refuelling at the hearty, post-race hog roast.
For 2021, the Bacchus Marathon & Half Marathon is scheduled for September 12th.
Marathon du Médoc, Bordeaux, France
The Marathon du Médoc has been an official event since 1985, and it's still the boozy fitness endeavour that sets the standard for all the rest. This full marathon meanders through France's Médoc region near Bordeaux, and, with so many quality wines to hand, naturally there are more than a few tasting stops along the route – 23 in all; mon dieu! But, this being France, race proceedings are just that bit more refined, so not only can runners imbibe the best wines from one of the world’s most famous wine regions, they can also sample delicious produce, including cheese, oysters and steak. Fancy dress is compulsory (the theme for 2021 is "Cinema"), but minor humiliation seems a small price to pay for a day of gourmet indulgence.
The Marathon du Médoc is currently scheduled for September 11th, 2021.
The Dramathon, Speyside, Scotland
Scotland isn't short of whisky distilleries, or breathtaking scenery, for that matter, and those who enjoy a wee dram while admiring a view should consider The Dramathon, held annually in October. Runners choose one of four race lengths: ‘Full dram’, ‘Half dram’, ‘Wee dram’ or ‘We dram’ (a team relay), but whatever the distance, a scenic and challenging trail run is guaranteed. Beginning at the Glenfarclas Distillery, full marathon runners take on a testing course – much of it off-road –which takes in a part of the Speyside Way long-distance walking route, and passes a number of other distilleries. Racers covering shorter distances join in at various points en route, but they all reach the same finish line at the famed Glenfiddich Distillery to toast their achievement with a dram (or several) of their favourite single malt.
This year's event is on for October 16th, 2021.
The Beer Run, Australia, UK & USA
Held across four cities in Australia – Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane – the premise of The Beer Run is very simple: visit five breweries to drink five pints of the good stuff over the course of a 5km run. Held in October as a vague homage to Germany’s legendary Oktoberfest, the short distance covered makes the race an inclusive affair, achievable for seasoned athletes and novice plodders alike. And, following the success of the events Down Under, the concept has spread, with sister runs now taking place in UK and US cities too.
At time of writing, only the Australian events were available for pre-release entry.
Shamrockin’ Run 8K Guinness Challenge Championship, New Orleans, USA
Held annually in March around St Patrick’s Day, New Orleans’ 8km-long Shamrockin’ Run is open to speed freaks, fun-runners and walkers alike (Irish-themed costumes optional). But if merely going the distance isn’t enough of a challenge, runners can raise the stakes and enter the Guinness Challenge Championship. Not only do these participants have to complete the course along with the other racers, they also have to down a 4oz (125ml) cup of Guinness at several designated “Consumption Zones” along the route, under the watchful eye of competition officials. Winning isn’t just a matter of pride: there’s a case of Guinness in it for the fastest five men and women – which comes in handy at the raucous after-party.
This year's event has be postponed to 2022.
You might also like:
This article was originally published January 2020. It was updated January 2021.