They arrived in pairs, in teams, on their own. Some with kids, several with dogs in tow. Dressed in spandex, draped in flags, and bedazzled with Day-Glo headbands, mile-high tube socks, and lived-in loafers. The few. The proud. The underachievers.
On a glorious spring morning, they gathered beneath a cigarette smoke cloud in the narrow parking lot that abuts the Dodging Duck Brewhaus. Here, volunteers, participants, and spectators shared morning beers, donuts, and good old-fashioned gossip. It was race day in Boerne, Texas, where the small town’s inaugural .5K, billed as the world’s shortest road race, had attracted the attention of couch potatoes far and wide.
Point Five. That’s no typo. The Boerne .5K: “The Running Event for the Rest of Us” traversed the approximate equivalent of a stroll through your local mega mart’s beer and ice cream aisles. The route (very) briefly followed a scenic river trail from one brewpub at the starting line to a second brewpub at the finish line. Lest participants’ cups ran anything-but-over, beer and donuts were available in plentitude before, during, and after the race. Did we mention the mid-route smoking lounge?
Hatched as little more than a caper by BBBs (Best Beer Buds) Ben Meyer and Jay Milton, the Boerne .5k has greatly exceeded their modest goal of “ … assembling maybe half a dozen friends and laughing our asses off,” Milton said. In an era of increasingly meticulous diets and dangerously intense exercise trends, it captured the zeitgeist of a marginalized but expanding population of underachievers.
Kicking off at a downright laggard 11 a.m., the race seemed tailored to those whose most developed fast-twitch muscles involve a snooze-button. As racers moved from the beer garden to the starting line, many revealed their training regimens. And if said training regimens evoked more frat house than CrossFit, well, therein lay The Boerne .5k’s charm.
“Hydration—of the fermented kind,” advised racer Curtis James, whose pre-race nutrition fearlessly straddled carb-loading and Paleo, “Donuts, pancakes, chips … sausage.” He grinned at that last part. Fellow racer Dan Connor described a rigorous routine of “staying in bed,” while others championed a popular sausage-laden local delicacy, the kolache, as the ideal balance of excessive carbs and excessive protein.
Vegans, or those unable to find tasty cooked meat on race morning, shared their own training secrets. “Oatmeal, bananas, Jell-O shots, and Baileys,” quipped Meyer. Dressed in spot-on Richard Simmons homage, down to the faux chest hair, he effused energy and fitness that bordered on inappropriate for an event that wears its sloth on its sleeve. But like most of the racers, he was just there for a good time.
The late morning start yielded no injuries—fortunate given that the race was monitored by a single boozy RN and two self-described “underachieving nursing students.” Quickly, and with marginal fanfare, the lead racers crossed the halfway point. Word arrived at the finish line, where the crew at Cibolo Creek Brewing steeled themselves for the slowly approaching throng.
Nearby, spectators roared as beer-toting trekkers, ramblers, and unabashed lollygaggers shuffled across the finish line. Local nonprofit Blessings in a Backpack watched with particular delight. Race organizers selected the group, which provides weekend meals to kids who might otherwise go hungry, as the beneficiary of race proceeds. And with over $20,000 generated, there’s plenty to celebrate.
As the most underachieving racers crossed the finish line minutes later, volunteers fêted them with victory photos, Olympic-style medals, T-shirts, and downright enviable .5k oval stickers á la those smugly affixed to overachievers’ vehicles. Though barely noon, it was hard to tell if the world’s shortest day party was wrapping up or just getting started.
The party band played on, and sun-kissed, beer-fortified race organizers Meyer and Milton cast an optimistic eye toward the future. But fear not: while next year’s .5k might evolve, the founders’ training advice for future participants remains refreshingly un-athletic. “Do as little as possible.”
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