It seems like an odd pairing: a half-marathon, which naturally burns a lot of calories, and beer, which is notorious for its high caloric content.

It couldn't make more sense, though, to Kent Lemme.

"A lot of people run so they can eat and drink what they want to," Lemme, co-owner of the Berkshire Running Center in Pittsfield, said. "I'd rather exercise more than have to diet."

Thanks in large part to Lemme, brewing and running in the Berkshires will converge at the May 19 Steel Rail Half Marathon. The inaugural 13.1-mile race, sponsored by the Berkshire Brewing Company, will start at 9:30 a.m. and run along the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail through Lanesborough, Cheshire and Adams. It will begin at the Berkshire Mall and end at the Adams Visitors Center, running along the bike path.

"It was part of our business plan to put on running events in Berkshire County," Lemme said. "I've run [the trail] a lot for training, and thought, ‘Wouldn't it be great to do a super-fast half marathon?' If you like to run races for the scenery, you've got it. If you like to run races for the fast courses, you've got it."

Lemme and BRC co-owner Shiobbean Archey have limited the race registration to 500 runners this year. As of Wednesday, Archey said the entrant list was approaching 200. She expects that number to hit 250 by month's end, especially since the registration price jumps from $55 to $65 on March 1.

"You anticipate you'll get 50 percent of your registrations on race day," Archey said. "The Green Mile is an example. We had maybe 2 3 registered up to that day. The fact that we're three months out and we're at 200 out of 500? My bet is that we'll be sold out by April 1."

There's still plenty of work to do before May, of course. Lemme estimates he will need 50 volunteers to stage the half marathon.

He also had to get permission from the state Department of Recreation and Conservation to use the Rail Trail, as well as Berkshire Mall and the three towns through which the race will run.

The Steel Rail will also count in this year's B21 race series, sponsored by the BRC.

"It's already been a big undertaking," Lemme said. "We've got to organize all the timing, the [bathrooms], the transportation for participants, the food, the water stops, the volunteers."

Once it's over, though, Lemme will undoubtedly get to enjoy the race's namesake - the Berkshire Brewing Company's extra pale ale. The brewers will offer samples to runners after the race.

"It seems to work well," he said of the relationship between the half marathon and the drink.

To reach Matthew Sprague:
msprague@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6254.
On Twitter: @EagleSportsZone.