MEMBER PROFILE: PAUL BERG

Question and Answer with Paul Berg, currently our club President, and beer aficionado.

Question: What is your theory about the connection between distance runners and beer drinking? Why do runners love beer?

Answer: In addition to the cold refreshment factor, we can imagine that the barley and hops are liquid carbs, somehow beneficial in replenishing our depleted energy stores. But bottom line, alcohol is the world’s most popular painkiller.

The most important thing Empire members want to know is what’s your favorite beer, and why? Please get specific with the details – the aroma, taste, after taste……Do you like specific beers after you run, as opposed to other times, like during dinner?

Lately I’ve been getting into the slight citrus-y thing in the Sculpin Grapefruit IPA, or the other night someone brought a Firestone “Easy Jack IPA” to our Thursday night run. That’s the best part of beer drinking for runners, it’s social. We used to have a Thursday night rule that whatever we tasted had to be from a can, but that sort of fell by the wayside. Not we at least try to pour it into those sneaky red cups. But bottom line I’m a hoppy IPA guy, so my desert island brand would have to be Lagunitas, so much great variety.

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You’re currently the Empire Runners President.  What do you find is the most satisfying part of this experience?

I hadn’t really planned to be president, so was a bit surprised that evening in December when the new Board got together and I was selected.

There is a vast storehouse of institutional memory in this club, people who have been making it happen for a long time behind the scenes. I’ve only been around for 12 of the 40 years, so a lot has happened that takes some time to absorb. I think if the club was to be run like a business, which I am NOT advocating, things would be done differently for efficiency, but hey- we’re all volunteers here. There’s a certain quirkiness that has served us well, and we don’t need to take it too seriously if it’s working.

I am surprised at how much  junk email I get weekly from companies selling shirts, medals, timing systems and racing schwag.

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 How has your running “experience” changed over the decades, like when you turned, 40, 50, and 60? Has your mental experience of running stayed the same or changed?

I didn’t start running seriously until I was 48, so I have had a lot of catching up to do in terms of training and racing. On the positive side, I don’t have any college age PRs to lament never again achieving.  I just turned 60, so I’m excited about a new time slot for the XC season.

Of all of your “destination” races, what’s been your favorite race and why?

I have to say that the race I most look forward to (heresy for the ER president to say) is the Dipsea. The energy, grueling course and crazy finish make for an unbelievable experience. The fact that very few people win it consecutive years proves that it’s a wide-open race with good handicapped starts.

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In the Empire club, we have had a massive increase in the number of kids participating in races and track meets – what’s your take on the club’s changing demographics?

Getting kids involved in running has always been the focus in my volunteer efforts with Empire Runners. As co-director of the Summer Track series, I’m heartened to see the number of kids, especially in the 8-18 range that we’re getting out. We’ve had some press coverage this year that gave us a big boost, and it’s really become a fun summer thing that families can do together. I’ve also been co-chair of the Student Grant fund for several years, and I’m encouraged by the member support for these high school kids going off to college. The teachers’ recommendations and personal statements from these students are truly heart-warming in how they explain the effect that running has on their lives. Most of them may never even settle in Sonoma county as adults or run another ER race, but I believe that running can set them on the right path for a healthy life. The support for the high school running programs in exchange for their helping out at our races has been going on long before my time, but I think it’s a real win-win arrangement.

2015 Loop de Loop, March 29, Empire Runners Club

We know that you’ve experienced some injuries, and have had some time off, but you have come back and continued to run. What advice to you have for older runners about working through injuries and continuing to run? (we are looking for some pearls of wisdom from our fearless leader here)

Core strength. In early 2014 I took a 3-week trip to Cuba and Mexico, during which time I made the serious blunder of sitting on busses and planes and not running or doing any other exercise. When I came back and tried to resume my normal routine, I found that my hips were seriously out of alignment. Several rounds of doctor visits weren’t helping, but at the suggestion of trainer extraordinaire Shelli Main I tried TRX. A patented system developed by the US military for soldiers to stay fit in remote outposts in Afghanistan, it employs a set of adjustable straps that work on body weight resistance for hundreds of exercises. After a year of group classes, instructor Nan Hall calls me her “miracle case” for the improvement I’ve made concentrating on core strength.

I’m back now running with new resolve, incorporating stretching and core training in my weekly routine.

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