Last year, one of my BRFs and I went to Shiner as spectators. She had registered early because it sells out fast, but by the time race day came around she was injured so we decided to go and cheer instead. This year, we were both healthy and decided to run the 5K while two other BRFs signed up for the half and later on have the Shiner Beer celebration, we are working with the reviewbrewery for the selling in the event.

The four of us drove from Austin to Shiner—about a two-hour trip–on Friday afternoon. We arrived too late for a brewery tour, but they were giving away free beer samples in the gift shop. I visited the packet pickup tent and contemplated switching shirt sizes, but after trying one on I decided to keep mine. They told me I could switch shirts after the race started, though, if I changed my mind.

Last year we stayed at a cheap place in Hallettsville—the primary draw being the Mexican restaurant next door. This year we stayed in Yoakum at a nicer hotel but lacking dining establishments, so we drove back to Shiner for dinner at Werner’s.

A cold front had blown in during the day, and temps really dropped after dark. After dinner, we retired early. The race wouldn’t start until 8:30 A.M. but we had a little bit of a drive plus there was an unknown parking situation, so we wanted to leave by 7:15 or 7:30.

It was in the 40s and windy when we checked out of the hotel and headed to the race. We scored a parking spot across from the brewery, accessible primarily by truck or SUV due to the slope of the grass. Rogue CP had chartered a bus, but they had made those plans after we’d already decided to come in Friday night, so we didn’t ride with them. It was inexpensive, saved the parking hassle, and sounded pretty fun, although I heard from several arriving friends that the bus somehow got stuck somewhere near the brewery. Still, everyone arrived on time, so it’s a minor inconvenience I think.

Before the race, we huddled with the crowd as a windbreak and it wasn’t too bad. Around 8:15 two of us made our way to the start area, but we couldn’t find the others before the gun. I felt bad that I didn’t get to wish them well before their longer race.

The race is capped at 2107–the population of Shiner– and the 5Kers and half marathoners started together, so it was a little crowded at first. But it spread out pretty quickly as the course ran out of the brewery and up a short hill before turning through a small business district into a residential area. My lungs burned from the cold air–I tried to use my inhaler but couldn’t hold my breath long enough for the medicine to work very well. That first mile, several Rogue friends encouraged me as they passed.

I knew the course would be mostly uphill on the way out, so I expected (planned, even) for my first mile to be my slowest. I was somewhere around 1.25 miles in when the bike escorting the leader–a Rogue!–flew by going the other direction. The number of returning runners increased, and even though I wasn’t really looking at my watch, when I spotted my faster friend I knew I didn’t have too much further to go before the 5K turnaround.

When I reached it, I had to avoid a couple of half-marathon runners going straight as I tried to turn. I was impressed with the runner pushing a stroller who whipped that thing around the cone like one of those zero-turning-radius lawn mowers. A few minutes later I spotted the other two and waved, glad I didn’t completely miss them at the beginning of the race.

I knew from here it was mostly flat or downhill, so I could pick up my pace just by running the same effort level as the first mile. And I did–the half-uphill second mile was 13 seconds faster. So now I knew a PR was possible as long as I kept up this pace or better–possible, but not easy. My breathing was raspy, exacerbated by the occasional wind gust, but otherwise I felt okay.

I remember making one of the last turns and seeing a downhill stretch before runners disappeared to the left and the finish line. Almost done. I was tempted to look at my watch–it felt like I was running faster now, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to know if I wasn’t.

As I turned the final corner, a blast of cold air hit me. Really? A headwind at the end? But it was all downhill and I could see the finish. Just before I reached the last mile marker, my watch announced my third mile was thirty seconds faster than my second. That (and my BRF shouting encouragement at me) powered me over the bridge and to a 25-second PR. She had PR’d as well, so there were smiles all around.

After some water and another attempt at the inhaler, I dropped off some race stuff and grabbed a warmer shirt from the car. We went back to the finish line to catch one of our friends, then got in line for the food. We sat on the grass eating sausage wraps and chips—more food than my 5K calorie burn warranted–while absorbing sunshine, which was pleasant except when the wind gusted.

We decided to walk back along the course to catch our half-marathon friends and run in with them, and we called out to several Rogues on final approach. We stopped on a corner about a mile from the finish–where there was no crowd support at all–and cheered while keeping an eye out for their matching blue shirts. Which was a challenge because the race shirt was also blue, albeit a little more turquoise. It seemed like forever before we saw them, but I think that’s mostly because the wind gusts were freezing.

We jumped in and ran with them. My breathing was still funky, but half-marathon pace was doable. I pushed my friend to pass a couple of people at the end, then veered off at the bridge and sent her to the finish on her own. That was way more fun than running the half!

We sherpa’d their stuff from the car, and once again we sat on the grass, relaxing. They got food and beer, then we caught up with the other Rogues and took a huge group photo as half-marathon awards were called out. A couple of Rogues won–impressive but not surprising since they run past me every week and I know they’re badasses.

This race is pretty unique in that a lot of people come from out of town (they had packet pickups in Austin, San Antonio, and Shiner) and stay all afternoon for the post-race beer and live music. Pleased with our performances, we hit the road when the Rogue bus left, and even though it was 1 P.M. the party was still going strong.

I think we all agreed that the Shiner Beer Run is a fun race we’d absolutely come back to run again. The swag bags were pre-packaged with shirts and were sorted by size, so volunteers just had to find the right race bib and collect a bag. Mine included two tubes of lip balm—my favorite. And the 5K finishers received a Shiner bottle opener while the half-marathoners earned a spiffy medal, which actually wasn’t a bottle opener this year.

The only disappointment—and it’s a minor one–was the iRun vendor wasn’t there selling Shiner Beer Run shirts like last year. The brewery’s gift shop offered dozens of shirts (I got a cool long-sleeved technical shirt there last year) but none specifically for the race. Fortunately I like the official race shirt and didn’t really need anything else, but need and want are two different things. As far as I’m concerned there’s no such thing as too much running gear. Maybe next year. About the Author: Melissa Cooper started running in 2011 with Couch to 5K. In the summer of 2012, in what seemed like a leap, she joined Rogue Running and completed her first half-marathon–San Antonio Rock and Roll–later that year. Finishing San Antonio was supposed to be a one-time bucket list thing, but these days her half-marathon total is at double digits (and climbing). Her favorite race distance is probably the ten-miler. By day, she is a middle school teacher who juggles work and life and running—sometimes even successfully.