Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Boston Marathon and Beer

I miss the Eliot Lounge. Located on Mass Ave. in Boston, the Eliot Lounge was the place to be after finishing the Boston Marathon. Or on any other day of the year. I remember the running memorablia adorning the walls and friendly faces behind the bar. Heck, I even remembering getting one "on the house", which has always been a hard thing to find in Boston.

The Eliot Lounge closed in 1996. And recently a lot more Boston "institutions" have gone the way of the horse and buggy. But not the Marathon. The Boston Marathon endures, and gets stronger every year.

Here's a small piece from on Tommy Leonard's legendary bar, The Eliot Lounge, and how for so many years it was the " best water stop" after the Boston Marathon.

The Boston Marathon Tradition
The policy for years at the Eliot Lounge was to award every Boston Marathon finisher a complementary brew. This was the marketing ploy of Tommy Leonard, who became the Eliot's bartender in 1972, and whose love of running made the Eliot the international welcoming center for the marathon for 25 years.

Leonard's 1972 debut behind the bar at the Eliot happily coincided with the biggest moment in the history of American distance running. That was the year that a skinny mustached Floridian named Frank Shorter won the Olympic Marathon title in Munich, and ostensibly kicked off the running boom in the United States. Leonard saw an opportunity here, and quickly began to draw customers to the Eliot from Boston's fast-growing running community. Runners migrated to the Eliot to glean training advice from Leonard, hear stories of past running greats, and admire his artful wall display of running photography.

Unfortunately, the Eliot served its last customer in 1996, but Leonard is still on the scene and pushing the running and beer connection. One recent venture has been with the Back Bay Brewing Co. in Boston which has opened a "Tommy Leonard Room." With Ted Mott, Back Bay's brewer, Leonard developed a special ale to award to the last-place finisher in the marathon.

"That's what's great about runners," Leonard said. "Most are out to have a good time regardless of whether they're running by themselves, with a group, or in a race. Half the time in races they don't even know about the contest being waged up front. They don't care about the elite guys. To them, entering a road race is a moving street party. And at the end of every race, they know that a cold beer is waiting for them."

from The Thirstiness of the Long-Distance Runner, The Natural Affinity of Running and Beer
by Jim Denison. All About Beer Magazine. Volume 23 Number 3 July 2002.