Marijuana pairs best with intense physical activity, says 420 Games founder Jim McAlpine

On Saturday, the 420 Games — McAlpine’s brain child —will take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Berkeley Park in Denver.

Jim McAlpine, Ricky Williams and Steve DeAngelo at the 420 Games in Los Angeles. (Courtes of Jim McAlpine)
Jim McAlpine is putting on the second annual 420 Games in Denver on Saturday. (Courtesy of Jim McAlpine)
Jim McAlpine is putting on the second annual 420 Games in Denver on Saturday. (Courtesy of Jim McAlpine)

Two days before the second annual 420 Games held in Denver, founder Jim McAlpine was in Boulder, about to embark on a bike ride. The morning began, like many of them do for McAlpine, with an edible. He has a high tolerance for cannabis products, so an average dose for him is anywhere between 50 and 100 milligrams. He usually takes gummies about an hour before he exercises.

“It’s made the sun shine a little brighter, and the birds chirp a little nicer,” McAlpine said Thursday while he was pulled over to the side of the Boulder Creek path.

On Saturday, the 420 Games — McAlpine’s brainchild —will take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Berkeley Park in Denver. The event includes a 4.2-mile race, a kickball tournament with ex-NFL players and the opportunity to hear from a variety of former professional athletes about the health and wellness benefits of using cannabis products.

The goal, McAlpine said, is to show that cannabis users “are not lazy, unmotivated stoners” and to spread the word that cannabis can be a part of active people’s lives.

“We want people to think of Michael Phelps and intense yoga classes when they think of marijuana, not Jeff Spicoli or the High Times Cannabis Cup,” McAlpine said.

“After we smoked, I’d get really into it.”

McAlpine, who’s 47 now, began regularly smoking marijuana in high school. He considered himself a stoner at the time. It wasn’t until college at the University of Colorado in Boulder that his perception of himself started to change.

McAlpine, who has a self-described “ADD brain,” found that smoking marijuana helped him focus, whether he was completing a school project or just working out.

“I realized, ‘Hey, I’m more focused and do better work when I smoke marijuana,'” he said. “And then as an athlete going to the gym, I realized on days I didn’t smoke my ADD would kick in or whatever, and I’d be like, ‘Oh, this is kind of boring.’ Thirty minutes in, I’d quit after a few exercises. But after we smoked, I’d get really into it, and it’d take the pain away. It’d be more fun.”

McAlpine graduated from CU in 1995 with a degree in sociology. Two years later, he started a company called SnowBomb, which provides members with discounted skiing and snowboarding gear and puts on festivals throughout the West Coast. McAlpine fell in love with skiing — particularly skiing while high — during his college years in Boulder.

“Skiing and marijuana was like fucking peanut butter and jelly,” McAlpine said. “I loved skiing. But I fucking triple loved skiing when I smoked weed.”

The idea to start the 420 Games came to McAlpine during the California drought. SnowBomb’s business began to dry up with the rest of the state when the rain stopped falling. McAlpine needed a new revenue source.

He noticed from afar the success of events like The Color Run, a 5K race where runners are blasted with paint, that emphasized happiness and healthiness over competition. McAlpine wondered how he could tie that idea with cannabis. He came up with the 420 Games.

The first 420 Games were held in San Francisco three years ago. Last year, McAlpine put the event on in six cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Denver, Boulder and Seattle. This year, the 420 Games will again be held in all of those cities, plus Las Vegas and Phoenix. Each is centered around the 4.2-mile race.

“Really what this is about is advocacy. This isn’t about getting high. It’s about coming together around a cause and being athletes,” McAlpine said.

McAlpine also understands that mixing marijuana and exercise “is not for everybody.”

“For some people, it does the opposite of what it does for me,” McAlpine said. “It makes them feel a little uncoordinated or self conscious or whatever. It’s not something everyone should do.”

Experts say there is no proven link between consuming cannabis products and improving athletic performance.

“What research we have is anecdotal,” Iñigo San Millán, director of the Human Performance Lab at CU, told Men’s Journal in 2014. “We know it might help with inflammation, sleep, and pain relief. But we don’t know if it will improve performance — or if it might even jeopardize it.”

“Opioids were making me feel insane.”

On Saturday, five former NFL players — including ex-Broncos Tatum Bell, Charlie Adams and Reuben Droughns — ex-UFC fighter Frank Shamrock and a handful of extreme sports athletes will be in attendance. The former NFL players will discuss the health benefits of using cannabis products as opposed to opioids to cope with pain. 

Eben Britton, who was an offensive lineman in the NFL for six seasons with the Jaguars and Bears, is one of the speakers. Britton dealt with a laundry list of injuries in his football career, including a dislocated shoulder, a torn labrum, herniated disks, sprained ankles, broken fingers, broken toes and concussions. He found that using cannabis products to help him deal with pain were much more effective and, he felt, safer than using opioids.

“Cannabis was always my preferred substance to deal with pain management,” Britton said. “Opioids were making me feel insane. They were putting me in a worse state than I was in before. Cannabis was always a very healing entity. I have a much higher quality of life because of it. I’m a better husband, father and functioning member of society because of my cannabis use.

“Helping people understand that cannabis fits into an active and healthy lifestyle, I think that’s a very important message to convey.”

The 420 Games in Denver are expected to draw close to 1,000 people. Attendees are asked not to consume cannabis on site.

“This is all about changing perceptions,” McAlpine said. “And we don’t want the outside looking in seeing clouds of smoke over our heads, literally or figuratively.”

Jim McAlpine, Ricky Williams and Steve DeAngelo at the 420 Games in Los Angeles. (Courtes of Jim McAlpine)
Ricky Williams, Jim McAlpine and Steve DeAngelo at the 420 Games in Los Angeles. (Courtesy of Jim McAlpine)

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Christian Clark

Author: Christian Clark

Christian Clark covers sports. He's worked for outlets that include the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Oklahoman, Columbia Missourian and Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine. He likes music and Mexican food. Lots and lots of Mexican food. Got questions? Tips? You can reach him at cclark@denverite.com.