By Marty Gordon
This past week, Christiansburg runner Carmen Graves helped unveil a beer at hometown brewery Iron Tree named Blue Collar Beer after her and her philosophy of being a blue-collar runner who lays down fast times while holding a full-time job..
Blue-collar runners “grind on the daily to fit in both work and training,” Graves said. “They are the runners who don’t have a running contract, but still have big dreams.”
Her dream is of qualifying for the steeplechase in the Olympics. She initially qualified in 2016 but sustained a plantar fasciitis injury that sent her to the sidelines. Her time was 9.52, barely hitting the Olympics qualifying standard of 9.53. This year the committee lowered the standard to 9:50, which worried her because she hasn’t run under 9:50 in over six years.
“I ended up qualifying with a personal best time of 9:47 at the Portland Track Fest (May 27),” Graves said. “It’s exciting because I know that I can run faster. I fell in the water pit and still ran a personal best in Portland, so I am excited to see how fast I can run while staying on my feet.”
A 2009 graduate of Christiansburg High School, Graves now lives in Denver. After an outstanding career at CHS and Roanoke College, she went on to run in the professional ranks.
“I identify myself as a blue collar runner,” Graves said. “I work full time in education and coach track and field while also rubbing elbows with full-time professional runners.”
This past week, she said, “It’s probably not the best recovery strategy, but after a long day at work and a hard training session, I just want to relax on the couch with my husband, my dog, and a cold beer. It’s hard to find a good IPA that hits the spot just right after a run,” Graves said.
“My taste buds seem to be sensitive after physical activity, and the typical IPA can taste too harsh and strong. The perfect post-run beer to me is light and refreshing while still holding the integrity of an IPA; hence, Blue Collar Runner,” she said.
Graves said it was important to work with Iron Tree Brewing Company because they are helping to make downtown Christiansburg special.
“The Brewhouse Manager, Seth Locklear, has been great to collaborate with, and he took all my
suggestions into consideration,” she said.
Iron Tree Brewing Company is a new brewery that is not yet at the point where it is canning beers yet, but it’s definitely a possibility in the future for Graves and her newly named beer.
“I’ve been healthy and happy, which has allowed me to get into consistent training for the last four years,” she said. “Moving to Denver and training at high altitudes has also been a good change.”