Running past the colorful Christmas displays that illuminate Greeby Street on a cold winter night, a group of about 20 people comes to a halt to take a quick group selfie. Then they’re off running again, some faster than others, but everyone running in pairs or groups.
After they’ve finished the 2-mile route, a course on the shorter side of what they’re used to, everyone reconvenes back at Daly’s Irish Pub on Comly Street. They’re there to socialize, enjoy food (provided by the bar or baked by members of the group), and hydrate on their drink of choice – beer.
“If you run as well as you drink, you’re [expletive] awesome,” the bartender at Daly’s said to cheers from the group.
The Northeast Beer Runners is one of the more recent beer-running groups to form in Philadelphia, emerging from the Fishtown Beer Runners back in May. Joining the likes of Torresdale Beer Runners, co-captains Colleen White and Brenda Fath Lager hold runs all across the Northeast to encourage widespread involvement.
“With beer runners, you’re never going to get an unwelcoming, unhappy vibe,” White said. “It’s just a happy vibe, and we love that.”
Beer running is a trend that’s been gaining mileage in Philly, with at least half a dozen similar groups scattered across the city. It all started with a simple study from Professor Manuel J. Castillo of the University of Granada: Beer after exercise – yes or no?
Yes, he claims. Why not? Castillo (simply referred to as ‘The Professor’ by runners) tested 16 healthy young males’ health and performance (in a study simply referred to as “The Experiment”). The study compared when the participants drank water after 60 minutes of vigorous exercise to when they drank beer after the same activity levels. No negative effects were discovered when they drank the beer – and beer contains plenty of water to provide hydration.
Even though beer is in the name of the group, it’s not the main draw for some of the runners. Take Larry Powell, who runs with the group consistently despite not being an avid drinker of brews.
“To see all the runners that love running as much as I do motivates me to keep pushing myself to do more distance running,” he said. “I don’t drink, but I come out because everyone’s cool and fun to be around.”
Powell is involved with a few exercise groups around the city that he said is the key to motivating him to exercise. That was also the key for Tom and Dani Buckius, who wanted to participate in triathlons despite neither one of them “liking running.”
“We thought going out with people that have different experiences and have different paces would help us become better runners,” Dani said. They’ve been running consistently since May thanks to the group.
Since beginning in May, White and Fath Lager estimate a few dozen people have gotten involved, and runs see an average of 20 people participate. Routes are often designed in a way that more serious runners could get in some extra distance, and novice runners can tap out earlier.
“We have a lot of people who are just starting out or normally wouldn’t run,” White said. “Just come out and run, walk. We stay together and have groups of people.”
There’s no required level of experience to join.
“You could have seen someone running last week and you can come,” Fath Lager said.
Every run starts with a group selfie before takeoff. Stopping for a selfie on Greeby Street isn’t standard – the cold weather made this shorter and more of a “fun run,” but routes in better weather can go up to 7 miles. Members of the Facebook group will use it as a tool to meet up with runners at different times in the week to get extra miles in.
Chuck Zerambo can’t run. He got injured during a marathon six weeks ago, but as a frequent runner with the group, he was still present at Daly’s and Greeby Street.
“Even though I’m down about being injured, these guys are still encouraging me,” he said. “It’s the whole spirit of teamwork and, you know, all that good stuff. Positive vibe. Stick-to-it-ness.”
“To the end of this year, thank you so much,” White said at the end-of-evening toast, before they toasted the group, the Professor and the Experiment.
“We talked about it and we think we’re gonna continue on next year,” Fath Lager said over banter from the crowd about meeting up on Christmas Day for the next run.
“Maybe,” White said.
“See you in 2019,” Fath Lager said. ••
The group meets every Tuesday night at a bar of White and Fath Lager’s choosing. The next run will be on Jan. 8. To learn more about the group and get involved, visit the Facebook group.