St. Patrick's Day Bar Stroll - Key West, Florida - Bar None Suds Run - Pub Crawl

31st Annual St. Patrick's Day Bar Stroll in Key West Florida on Saturday, March 14, 2009
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Key West Citizen circa 1979

Upwards of 250 runners turned out for the Bar None Suds Run, rather a shock to organizers who soon found their hands, and Key West’s streets, quite full. But the race came off without a hitch, if you don’t count people hitching onto lamp posts and passing pedestrians for support. As each runner got his first beer (above right), he embarked on a 12-bar, 12-beer odyssey that culminated, sometimes a bit ungracefully (below right), at the Sandcastle. But if success can be measured in plastic cups, about 3,444 were turned up yesterday as the race wore on into the late afternoon and none, word has it, were turned down.

SPRINT FOR SUDS – Establishing once and for all that athletics and beer-drinking-and especially this off beat combination of the two – are not for men only, Marilyn “Chicken” Moyer, left, and Kim Daley sprint up United Street towards the Simonton Street Station, the second stop on yesterday’s first annual St. Patrick’s Day Bar None Suds Run. They shared second place in the women’s division. Key West artist Martin Laessig won the event in 28 minutes. Story and more photos on page 6. (Citizen photo, Scott Matu)

Bar None Suds Run Is Some Fun When All Is Suds And Done

Conched Out
By Bill Bowen

Crazy was the order of the day yesterday.

If the St. Patrick’s Day throng that assembled at various angles to the pavement along Duval Street gathered to offer encouragement to participants in the first annual Bar None Suds Run, the original intent soon degenerated into a scene of chaotic merriment.

The runners themselves, cutting zigzagged swaths through the crowds as they pushed their bodies through various stages of inebriation along the 2 ½-mile, 12 beer route, seemed little affected by the surrounding melee. Some, still clad in their telltale Suds Run T-shirts, opted to join the celebration and forego further jogging through the afternoon sun.

But most completed what turned out to be a rather grueling course in admirable fashion, leaving only their digestive tracts to be reckoned with later.

Martin Laessig, a local artist and sometime bartender, completed the run in a time that staggers the imagination. It also staggered Laessig a bit, as he came into the finish line at the Sandcastle Bar in 27:04.6 (unofficial).

Laessig’s battle plan, which seems to have paid off, included induced regurgitation at intervals of every three cold ones. Some of his pit stops at rubbish containers and planters along the way, he says were, in fact, cold ones.

“I ended up throwing up five times,” he confessed. “That was my strategy. At first I was putting my finger down my throat to help, but after the fourth bar it wasn’t necessary.”

Without a detailed accounting of the most popular percentage points along the route for barfing, suffice it to say that the line of competitors resembled in their brightly green decorated T-shirts disciples of a ptomaine outbreak.

The format of the race, the first of its kind in Key West and as far as we know anywhere else in the universe, was basically simple. Only in execution did it become hazy. Starting at the Full Moon Saloon, upwards of 250 runners drank a 12-ounce beer, ran to the Simonton Street Station, drank a beer, ran to the Lowell C., drank a beer, and so on through a literally mind-boggling course that included the Blue Boar, The Bull, Maynard’s, Sloppy Joe’s, Billie’s, The Chart Room, Dill’s Pickle, The Half Shell Raw Bar and finally to the Sandcastle.

At the Sandcastle, nerve center for the whole nerveless operation, awaited a large sunny parking lot in which the competitors could collapse in satiated stupor. Several did.
“We were surprised a little bit at the number of people that showed up for this,” said Rick Dostal, who conspired with Curley McGinn to pull of the First Bar None Suds Run. “We were really playing it up at first but then more people showed up than we had anticipated and we ended up making it very low key.

“The bottom line of the race was no shenanigans,” said Dostal. “And I think most of the runners went about it pretty well.”

Although there were a few complaints of contestants tossing out half-filled beers, most of the runner seemed to have entered the race for the purpose of simultaneously finishing and reaching the altered plane of awareness that only 12 beers can evoke. That goal was met with widespread success.

“I really thought a runner would win this race,” said Larry Greer, a member of the Southernmost Runners group that let the early field but was passed at the fourth beer. “But I think the beer drinkers had the edge. I run about 60 miles a week but I only drink about a six-pack a month. After the first two beers I got really sick.”

Although the serious contenders reflected a penchant for finishing each beer as the rules called for, stragglers in the pack demonstrated an uncanny knack for missing their mouths. Next week’s laundry could contain more hops than a bunny farm. In more than a few instances, suds and duds became as one.

Among the 287 entrants were such notables as a county commissioner, representatives of the state attorney’s office and several local businessmen.

“As large a field as this turned out to be,” said McGinn, “our idea for a staggered start was a good one. I’m sure we’ll handle it the same way next year.” The starting line scene at the Full Moon Saloon was more than the organizers had bargained for. Early signups had bordered on 200 and droves turned out yesterday morning, including at least one laden U.S. Navy truck.

“It was mass confusion at the start,” said Peter Martin who was second across the finish line, followed by his Virginia schoolmates Ed Dinkins and Rocky Law. “Once the first runners drank their beers and left, everybody was anxious to go. The hardest part of the race, for me, was actually drinking the beers. You had to have the ‘chugging’ down to keep up with the leaders.”

As the race progressed, other things came down, such as resistance, inhibitions,  lower jaws and in some cases whole bodies. As has been alluded to, ‘up’ also became a popular direction.

“That green beer with the little pickle in the bottom did me in,” said Frank Chodzin, who won a personal vendetta against his brother, Michael, finishing under a minute ahead of him.
Dill’s Pickle, a Simonton Street bar and the tenth along the course, added a St. Patty’s day touch with green beer and plopped its distinctive trademark in each and every beer.
“Everybody barfed after that,” said Frank, of Chicago. “That’s how I passed up a couple of people. They were standing off to the side.”

Marilyn Moyer and Kim Daley were the first women to down the obligatory final beer at the Sandcastle. Their game plan had gone awry at Billie’s, the eighth sponsoring bar.

“We planned to lose there,” said Daley. “We got there and got sick, but everybody kept saying ‘you’re the first women’ and that was initiative for us.”

“We haven’t trained much for the running part,” pointed out Moyer. “But we’ve been training for the drinking for about 10 years.”

In the end, the whole zany affair became a test of one’s ability to come to terms with his bodily functions under extreme alcoholic duress.

“Kidneys is 40 percent of my game,” boasted Tommy Ratchford of West Palm Beach. “The only way to get ready for something like this is to do a lot of serious fishing. That’s the only thing with as much beer drinking as this.”

St. Patrick would have doubtless been impressed.

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