Dave Hiler has long been a runner.
The co-owner of a Brattleboro restaurant and brewery ran the Boston Marathon in 2015 and 2016. Then, in 2018, after a half marathon in Burlington, Vt., “I looked down and had these lumps on the side of my leg.”
Doctors told him it was a benign cartilage disease. But a year later, “I had this other softer tissue happening. They said, you know, that’s something a little bit different.”
It was a malignant chondrosarcoma, a cancer in his knee.
“I was given the option to save the leg — which my doctor referred to as a tube with a foot at the end — or to take it off and go back to living an active life,” said Hiler. “That was a no-brainer.”
In January 2020, Hiler’s left leg was amputated above the knee.
“My doctor said: ‘Well, you’ll a get a running blade, and you’re going to run.’ Well, it’s not quite that easy — they cost money, and insurance doesn’t cover them,” said Hiler, now 56.
His life changed with the gift of a running blade from the Born To Run Foundation.
Founded by 24-year-old para-athlete Noelle Lambert of Manchester, N.H., the foundation provides specialized athletic prosthetics for amputees. Its goal is to “show amputees that having a disability does not mean they are incapable of playing sports and being active,” according to their website.
Lambert was a standout on UMass Lowell’s Division I women’s lacrosse team; she lost her left leg in a moped accident on Martha’s Vineyard in 2016.
Once she received a running blade through Challenged Athletes Foundation, she fought to return to the field. Today, she’s a US Paralymic team sprinter aiming to race in the Tokyo Paralympics, set for 2021.
Hiler became Born to Run’s 10th recipient in November — and immediately wanted to give back.
“I felt we could reciprocate,” said Hiler. “The amputee community is a very tight-knit community. We help each other out.”
As the co-owner of Brattleboro’s Whetstone Station Brewery, he decided to make a beer in honor of Lambert and Born To Run.
The resulting brew, “Born 2 Run,” will benefit the foundation and will be available on tap at Whetstone starting May 1, said Hiler. It will soon be available in cans in Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire, he said.
Hiler, Lambert, and Femita Ayanbeku — a US Paralympic sprinter and foundation board member — held a ceremonial toast to launch the brew at the Boston Marathon finish line on April 19, which would have been the traditional Marathon Monday.
“The marathon symbolizes resilience, persistence, and never giving up. That felt like a fitting place to launch a beer for runners and amputees,” said Hiler.
The beer is a low-ABV, blood orange gose — a fruited sour German-style ale made with sea salt and coriander.
It’s a nice postrun beer, both Hiler and Lambert said.
“It has a light, fruity, spritzy flavor — you can taste a touch of the salt on the back end, with just a hint of sour,” said Hiler. “It’s lower in alcohol, and has salt, which is hydrating. It’s a refreshing beer for runners.”
Hiler wanted Lambert to like the beer, so Lambert visited the brewery.
“I’m not a huge beer drinker — I told him he could do whatever he thought would be popular,” said Lambert. “But he was adamant on finding something I’d actually like and drink. I thought that was awesome.”
“She likes more spritzers. She liked our sours. So we developed a gose,” Hiler said.
Lambert adds: We’re hoping this will be a great summer drink. For people who like to workout, who like having an ice cold beer afterwards, this will quench their thirst.”
Hiler spent 10 years managing Hard Rock Cafes in California before returning to Vermont in the ’90s. In 2012, he and partners founded Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery. They also own a nearby campground.
As for his running goals?
“My alma mater, Northfield Mount Hermon, has a road race,” the Bemis-Forslund Pie Race, Hiler said. “I’d like to run that in the fall.”