Once a year, Austinites go bananas for a 5K race like no other–The Austin Gorilla Run.
Donning gorilla suits while running, participants are helping to raise money for the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund.
Though the Gorilla Run was conceived in Denver a decade ago, it expanded into the Austin market four years ago, with this year’s race being held January 25.
Since the beginning, beer has played an integral role in the Gorilla Run. Silverback Pale Ale, an original recipe designed by Wynkoop Brewing Company, has become the official beer of the Denver Gorilla Run. Thirsty Planet Brewing Company has picked up the torch in Austin, brewing a variation of the beer. An impressive 50 percent of all proceeds from Silverback sales go straight to the charity.
Gorilla Run Local Organizer/Director Jon Partridge, who is also a frequent Thirsty Planet volunteer, describes the beer as tasty and, in a way, healthy.
“[It’s] a crisp pale ale with a citrus aroma and slight pepper spice to it,” he said. “It’s brewed with grains of paradise which are seeds harvested from a plant native to the African jungle. It’s part of the Silverback gorilla’s diet and it’s thought to have anti-inflammatory properties which are good for their hearts. It gives the beer a nice earthy flavor.”
While grains of paradise seeds may be part of the gorilla’s diet, beer, you can bet, isn’t. The same cannot be said of the Austin Gorilla Run participants, who down the Silverback pale ale in victorious fashion at the Gorilla Run’s after-party each year. But Silverback Pale Ale is not just available on race day.
“We’ve produced around 200 kegs this year due to demand and extra capacity,” Partridge said. “It’s one of the most popular seasonals Thirsty Planet produces. The beer also brings with it the ability to raise awareness, get out around town and interact with people to bring attention to the race and the cause.”
Leading up to the big race, Partridge and the folks at Thirsty Planet have several events planned to raise that awareness, and, of course, to give participants more opportunities to imbibe.
On Saturday Jan. 18, a pub crawl will take gorilla costume clad participants to a variety of downtown bars.
“Last year we hit Rainey street with around 130 people, most in Gorilla suits and it really was a sight to behold,” Partridge said. “This year promises to be something else too.”
If you’re worried a gorilla suit may not be the sexiest outfit to sport downtown on a Saturday night, you may be surprised by what Partridge says is a common reaction.
“People are usually surprised at how soft the fur is,” he said. “If you’re out in a bar wearing a gorilla suit expect to get petted quite a lot. Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on who’s doing the petting and your relationship status I guess.”
The next day, Jan. 19, the Gorilla Run is collaborating with the Alamo Drafthouse to host a screening of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” Theater attendees are encouraged to wear their gorilla suits. The screening will be held at the Slaughter Lane location, and the Thirsty Planet crew will host a happy hour in the theater’s bar, 400 Rabbits, with a fresh keg of Silverback prior to the screening.
While the race and its surrounding activities certainly promise to be a ton of fun, Partridge cannot underscore enough how important the cause they support really is.
“Simply put, in 1987 there were only 248 mountain gorillas alive in the world,” he said. “Since then, through the efforts of the the MGCF, the population is currently estimated at around 900. This event actually does help make a difference.”
And Thirsty Planet and the Austin Gorilla Run’s efforts have certainly helped to play a role in that progress. Last year alone, more than $50,000 was raised in Austin for the MGCF.
“It’s a great cause and I can guarantee a fun, memorable day,” Partridge said.
New for this year, Austin Gorilla Run will begin and end at the Mueller Browning Hanger. After the race, participants can enjoy live music, food trucks, an awards ceremony, and Thirsty Planet brews like Armadillo Wheat, Thirsty Goat amber, Buckethead IPA , and, of course, Silverback Pale Ale.
Interested participants can register before January 23 at a discounted rate. First time registrants will receive a gorilla suit to keep, and returning gorillas who already have a suit receive a discounted registration rate.
Photo courtesy of Austin Gorilla Run.