Runners are passionate people – that’s how they manage to cover dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of miles on nothing but their feet and sheer willpower.

Those who enjoy craft beer are equally as passionate, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles to visit new spots to sip on new quaffs.

Two enterprising members of a run group in New Orleans decided a few years ago that they wanted to marry those two concepts and thus the Legs n’ Dregs Brewery Marathon was born.

“People don’t think of New Orleans as the fittest area – maybe the drunkest,” joked marathon co-found Scott Tomford. He, along with co-founder Kory Koponen, said the kernel of the idea for the “race” came into their heads in late 2019. Today, Legs n’ Dregs is the only marathon distance race run entirely within the Crescent City.

The duo run with the 504th, a Bridge the Gap (BTG) running crew that meets up every Tuesday night (including Mardi Gras night) at a different location in the city to run between three and four miles. The BTG movement is designed to “bridge the gap between culture and community through the power of movement.” There are similar run groups in cities all over America.

Tomford and Koponen had been running with the 504th for about 18 months when they decided that sometimes, they just wanted to run a lot of miles … and drink a lot of beers. A bicycling friend had designed a route to visit the majority of the breweries in the city, so they thought it might be fun for the two of them to run it.

But as they told more people of their plans, outside interest grew. “We were very new to this,” Tomford said. “We had never planned a race before.”

It was a very DIY affair, with about 40 runners that first year – after some notable setbacks.

“We aimed for Easter 2020, but you know how that turned out,” Tomford said. “Then we did a test run in May of 2020, and we had our first official run in October 2020. We’ve been doing it every spring for the last few years.”

Koponen worked for Parleaux Beer Lab in the city’s Bywater neighborhood for multiple years, so using that as the run’s beginning and ending point made sense. He’s still close with Eric Jensen, one of the brewery’s founders, and they design a signature beer for the event each year.

Tomford said they planned their first marathon route to make sure they covered 26.2 miles properly, which could have been daunting in such a small city. “Having Faubourg [Brewing Company] in New Orleans East helps,” he said. The route had to become a little more creative uptown, with a lot of breweries being situated fairly close together. They’ve also had to tweak the route a little each year as some businesses open or close.

The runners/drinkers of the 2023 Legs n’ Dregs races. Photos courtesy of Legs n’ Dregs

“The majority of the breweries are very supportive,” Koponen said. “Being a part of this helps boost the local scene. It celebrates running and it celebrates the local craft beer scene.”

“Now that we’ve done it a few times, everyone knows the drill,” Tomford added. “If you ‘sponsor us,’ then we’ll tip handsomely. Ecology [Beer Creative] just opened, and they’re excited to be a part of it.”

To be clear, though, this is not a long-distance bar crawl. It is about endurance – and enjoying some hoppy libations along the way.

“One of the main reasons we wanted to do this was to take the piss out of it,” Koponen said of the marathon distance. “You don’t have to run as fast as you can. You don’t have to try to make a podium. We’re an inclusive running club – so this is long distance and it’s fun as well. We hope this helps demystify running as this serious sport.”

It seems to be working. Tomford noted that Legs n’ Dregs has been the first marathon distance run for a lot of people who have registered for it. “It’s interesting to see people take it on a challenge,” he added.

This was the 2023 full marathon route. The 2024 route will be unveiled closer to the day of the run.

Asked why beer may make a superior hydrating beverage for runners, Tomford said, “It just tastes better. And you gotta get your carbohydrates somehow.” (Science says it’s good for you too!)

This year’s Legs n’ Dregs marathon and half marathon are taking place March 3. (There will also be a Friday night beer mile on March 1.) Registration is open until the day of for those feeling adventurous and/or thirsty. Until then, they’ll also be highlighting different breweries along the route on their Facebook and Instagram channels.

Notable entries as of Feb. 12 include Skeeta Hawk Brewing, Second Line Brewing, Brieux Carré Brewing Company, Port Orleans Brewing Company, Faubourg and Ecology.

by Courtney Llewellyn