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Beer Run

Getting fit in the name of lager and ale.


From the February 5, 2009 Philadelphia Weekly.

David April stands on the front steps of his Fishtown rowhome, talking to Traci Browne and the dozen other people clad in sweatshirts, fleeces, ski caps and running shoes.

"I don't know why I'm here," Browne tells April. "I guess you just talked me into it!"

The night before, the two had been drinking beer at the Philadelphia Brewing Company when April mentioned running.

"I don't know if I shamed you into coming out or if I challenged you or something," April responds with a laugh.

"You just had me convinced it was such a great idea," Browne says. "And I haven't run for like ... years."

The crew waits in the 30-degree night as a few more people amble down Susquehanna Street, shaking their limbs and stretching their calves as they approach.

Finally, at exactly 7:00 pm, April announces, "We're ready to rock and roll. Let's go!"

And in the name of science, the assembled members of the Fishtown Beer Runners dash through the heart of the hipster-haven on a five-mile jog that will end, appropriately, at a bar.


In November 2007, medical professor Manuel Castillo Garzon of Granada University in Spain announced that the hydration effect of beer was "slightly better" than that of water.

After putting test subjects through rigorous exercise, Garzon poured half the subjects a pint of water, and the other half a pint of beer. He found that the beer drinkers recovered faster - the carbohydrates replaced lost calories and the carbonation quenched their thirst.

The news spread quickly, especially among the tight-knit community of beer-lovers. Fishtown resident Eric Fiedler found the story online and informed April. The two decided to test the theory.

"We ran to Port Richmond, ate some pierogis, ordered a few beers," remembers Fiedler, 32. "We felt great. But unfortunately, we realized we forgot our wallets."

Despite the setback (resolved by Fiedler's wife arriving with cash) and the debate whether the post-run pint should be a lager or ale, the pair discovered they had found a way to make running fun.

"We've got to share this," April, 43, recalls saying.

A few weeks later, the Fishtown Beer Runners were born.

Every Thursday night since that first official run 14 months ago, between 12 and 20 people meet at April's home for a three to five mile run that ends in revelry at an establishment serving beer.


They sprint down Susquehanna, on icy sidewalks, past modest red brick homes with kitschy, ceramic figurines displayed in the windows. They turn right on Girard Avenue and run past auto repair shops and other businesses closed for the day, leaving the strip dark and desolate. The beer runners scamper under the El, turn onto 2nd Street, down to Market and then head for City Hall.

A new runner, Annette Dumont, jumps in with her 2-year old pit-mix, Brutus.

Along Market, a few people gawk at the runners.

"You go girl!" a homeless man bellows near 4th Street.

They run through City Hall, up Broad to Race, north on 12th and across Spring Garden Street, back to 2nd. Finally, they arrive at Liberties bar, a popular police hangout in Northern Liberties.

"Every week, we go somewhere different," April says between deep breaths. "We've actually gotten to the point where bars invite us to come. We show up on a Thursday night with 15 or 20 people. That's a pretty big crowd."

Over the past year, they've run to Fergie's, The Institute, the South Philly Tap Room, the Abbaye, McGillin's, Cavanaugh's, O'Reilly's Pub and numerous other watering holes.


"The idea of running is not attractive to a lot of people but the idea of drinking beer is attractive to most," says Fiedler, who handles community relations at MiND TV and was not much of a runner prior to founding the club. "The combination of beer and running made for an interesting experiment that resonated with a lot of people."

April - also not much of a runner prior to the club - was the perfect person to organize. He deals with people constantly, directing tours of the New Jersey State capitol building in Trenton during the week, and guiding visitors at the Philadelphia Brewing Company every Saturday. He is curious, outgoing and involved in numerous organizations in Fishtown and elsewhere.

"He's a social mugger," jokes Mike Xander, April's neighbor and one of the first people to join the group.

"He's like the mayor of Fishtown," adds Xander's girlfriend, Samantha Bogin.

April started a club blog and a Facebook group. For beginning runners, they created the Fishtown Beer Runners Lite - with shorter distances at slower paces. For those who can't attend on Thursdays, the group now runs on Saturday mornings as well. April tries to persuade everyone he can to join the fun.


"Anything that ends with a beer has to be good," Traci Browne says at Liberties, a pint in her hand and a smile on her face.

First time runner John Hobbs leans against a table, still catching his breath.

"It makes the beer taste that much better," he states after admitting that the run was a little rough on him.

April says the group is not about partying, nor is it a serious running club.

"It's something in between," he adds.

After runs, the crew lingers, socializing and enjoying beer. Sometimes they run home but more often, they hop cabs or ride the subway.

As the last of the runners arrive at the bar and grab a beer, April raises his glass in the air.

"To the professor!" he toasts, honoring the researcher inspired the club. "Cheers everybody. Good run."