THUNDER BAY – When Sean Spenrath found himself with a bad case of isolation-induced cabin fever, the Thunder Bay man went to what some could consider extreme lengths to break out of it.
His recently-completed 30-day “dud to stud, drinking suds” running challenge saw him work his way up to a 30-kilometre run while seeking a beer sponsorship with a tongue-in-cheek campaign.
Along the way, the lighthearted challenge resonated on social media and inspired donations to local charities.
Spenrath was a serious runner when he was younger, he said, and still runs in the spring and summer to keep in shape. Last year, spinning his wheels under pandemic restrictions, he ran his first marathon.
Even as a relatively active person, though, he said motivation could be tough to come by since the pandemic hit, especially in the winter months.
“Prior to starting the challenge, it was tough to get me out of the house,” he said. “Mentally, I was pretty fried, pretty done with COVID.”
“To be sitting at home working eight hours a day, looking at a laptop… then if you’re going to spend your evening like that too, eventually you start to feel that wear and tear on your mental health.”
He conceived of the “dud to stud” challenge to get back into running, and hopefully score a 24-pack of beer along the way.
“That was the big goal,” he said. “We’re stuck in quarantine here, why don’t we start checking off the bucket list items in our life?”
“The biggest one I could think of was, I’d love to be sponsored by a beer company. Why not? Why is it always these big athletes who are getting the sponsorship – why can’t it be the guy sitting on the couch, the guy with the dad bod?”
Spenrath started in mid-March with a one-kilometre run, adding a kilometre a day.
He documented his daily runs with motivational videos posted to social media, hoping to catch the attention of the Busch brewing company.
“I was tagging Busch for 12 days straight before they finally said yes,” he said. “I was sending them videos and pictures, just really annoying them probably. The perseverance definitely helped.”
The dose of humour during a tough time probably didn’t hurt, either, with photos and videos sometimes featuring a bedraggled Spenrath working to stay positive in snow or freezing rain, or his two dogs, a 12-year-old Chihuahua and a two-year-old Daschund.
Spenrath maintains the dogs – particularly the younger one – are champion runners in their own right.
“A lot of people doubt the weiner dog because of their short legs, but what she lacks in stature she more than makes up for in heart and drive,” he said. “That dog – I swear if we put her in the 10-mile, she might actually win it.”
He upped the ante to a 30-day, 30-kilometre challenge when he learned Busch was sending him a 30-pack of beer.
Along the way, the challenge resonated on social media, catching the attention of local businesses Uride and the Hampton Inn, who Spenrath enlisted for sponsorships benefitting local workers impacted by the pandemic, as well as the local humane society and Camp Quality Northwestern Ontario.
“I was inspired to do the Busch sponsorship, and then it kind of took on a life of its own,” he said. “I did try to make it entertaining for people, because I knew they were in a similar situation where they’re sitting at home doing nothing.”
Some days in the final stretch of the challenge, especially during wet and cold conditions, were less than fun, he concedes. After completing a final, 30-kilometre run last week (a half-marathon is just over 21 kilometres), he’s taking a needed break.
Still, he says it was more than worth it (it didn’t hurt that he recently received more beer), and he’s mulling a 100-kilometre ultra-marathon as his next challenge.
It’s a reach goal, he said, but one he plans to try for, hoping he can use it to again benefit local charities.
First though, he’ll be spending some well-earned time back on the couch.