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Legs for kegs

The new Centennial Beer Chase got off to a running start on Saturday.

Forty teams finished the 52-mile relay race that began at Trickster’s in Coeur d’Alene and finished at the Spokane Convention Center, with several brewery stops along the way.

“It was a good first year for everybody,” says organizer Scott Douglass of Bend-based Cascade Relays, who’s hoping for 100 teams next time. “The runners had a blast and breweries were ecstatic to have the people coming in. We’re excited for next year.”

The race is modeled after the Bend Beer Chase, which had its third running in June. Several veterans of that event were in the field here, including Bend’s Gretchen Smith.

“I can’t say enough about the community up there, how warm and inviting everyone was (in Spokane and North Idaho)," she says. “We were definitely impressed by the amount of breweries in the area, and how on board they were with the event.”

And the beer held up well against the high standards set by Bend’s brewers, she adds: “In Bend, everyone is so focused on IPAs. Up there, it was definitely still hoppy, but with a little more variety mixed in.”

While running and drinking might sound like an odd mix, most teams divided the miles among six runners taking turns throughout the day.

“People think you’re drinking a pint and running, and it’s not like that at all. You’re doing three-ounce tasters and it might not be your turn to run for quite a while,” says Sandpoint’s Suzy James, captain of the Drunkin' Grownups (whose shirts mimicked the Dunkin’ Donuts logo).

Amid all the beer, both she and Smith singled out a cider as particularly memorable: One Tree’s Lemon Basil. “I’m not a big cider drinker but that was really a standout,” Smith says.

The day began on a soggy note, with rain pouring down on teams taking off between 8 and 9 a.m. “Not even the runners who were supposed to start that leg would come out until the very last moment,” Douglass says.

But the sun arrived as they continued the course, largely along the Centennial Trail, that included stops at Slate Creek, Selkirk Abbey, Post Falls Brewing, English Setter, Arbor Crest/Square Wheel, One Tree, Bennidito’s Brewpub and Perry Street before finishing downtown.

From there, most embarked on a post-race Keg Leg to Black Label, Orlison, River City and wrapping up at Iron Goat. “Every time someone came in wearing a race shirt, everyone cheered,” James says.

Douglass hopes to increase the number of breweries involved next year. At a standard beer festival, he says, “You can try their beer but it doesn’t bring you physically to their space. Here, you’re running to them, getting to see where their tasting rooms are located.”

James, who was particularly impressed with Perry Street and Post Falls, is planning some return visits. “I went to a lot of breweries I hadn’t been to before and wouldn’t have known they were there if they weren’t on the (course) map,” she says.

And as a runner, she adds, with the brewery detours, “We got to see things and go on trails that we’d never been on before.”