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Nation’s Largest Beer Run?

By Pete Williams

Postrace at The Oldsmar Tap House

When Fred Rzymek and Tony Falso staged the inaugural “Oldsmar Tap House 5K” in 2009, they figured they’d draw 300 runners to the bar just west of Tampa for a Friday night run.

Instead, more than 700 athletes pre-registered. Another 500 showed up an hour before the race. By the time the first kegs were tapped, a crowd of 2,000 athletes and spectators had gathered.

Last year, the race grew to 1,400 runners. This year, more than 1,500 are expected.

Apparently the way to deal with a recession in the endurance world is to offer free beer – but not just any beer.

“Everyone has Michelob Ultra after an event,” says Rzymek, a longtime race director in the Tampa Bay area who is staging the third-annual Oldsmar Tap House 5K on June 10 at 7 p.m. “Being able to enjoy a number of craft beers no doubt helps.”

This year, Sierra Nevada is the official beer sponsor, providing 25 kegs. That will get things started, with the Oldsmar Tap House providing other craft beers as the night goes on.

As usual, the street in front of The Tap House will be shut down to traffic, creating a block party. There will be a live band and runners receive towels in addition to T-shirts. The first 50 male and first 50 female finishers will receive a lanyard and one-liter plastic “das boot” to fill with beer (up from the 18-ounce versions distributed the last two years). The boot allows access to an express beer line all evening.

Rzymek also will distribute 100 pairs of Boston Bill sunglasses, probably through a random drawing of sorts.

Falso opened the Oldsmar Tap House in an upscale but largely vacant office-and-condo district in February 2008, not long before the economy crashed. The brew pub features dozens of microbrews and an old-time pub atmosphere. Some patrons take on the challenge of drinking a 60-ounce beer from one of the Tap House’s signature glass boots.

When the pub opened, a running group was leaving for Wednesday twilight runs along the Oldsmar waterfront from a nearby bike store, meeting at the Tap House afterward for beer. When the bike shop closed the group, now known as the Oldsmar Run Club, began departing from the brew pub parking lot. The Wednesday night Tap House run continues to be one of the best-attended in the Tampa Bay area.

As for the race, Rzymek says he already has more than 1,000 runners pre-registered. There is early packet pick-up and sign-up at the Oldsmar Tap House on Wednesday, June 8 and Thursday, June 9 from 4 to 8 p.m. Online registration is open until the evening of June 8.

“You get the shirt and towel, and maybe win a boot,” says Falso, the Tap House owner. “Heck, some people drink enough free beer to cover their race entry fee.”

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