For more than 11 years on Thursday evenings, the Fishtown Beer Runners have assembled in the Philadelphia neighborhood which bears their name, run to a bar located somewhere in the city and toasted to The Professor – first, outside the home of Beer Runners founder David April and now, in Palmer Park.

However, as the club’s reputation and sphere of influence spread throughout the city, its membership grew and more participants took part in the weekly runs. Eventually, with runners from all over the city and elsewhere joining Fishtown Beer Runners, moves had to be made to accommodate the influx of new runners from various locations. This meant incorporating additional places for them to gather on a weekly basis.

The first location to be added was an intersection in Queen Village, at the corner of 7th & Bainbridge Streets in South Philadelphia. Runners from that location are led by FBR member David Ignall. Though by Ignall’s recollection, the announcement of the location under his leadership came as something of a surprise.

“For a couple years, I ran from my house to the bar. Eventually, I got a few other folks to join me. One week, without my knowledge, one of those runners mentioned this to David April. Next thing you know, I was in the weekly e-mail with my own meet-up location,” Ignall said.

For Ignall, leading FBR members from South Philly has been both a rewarding experience and an advantageous one for runners who may be located a few miles away from the original meet-up point in Fishtown.

“It is fun to be able to start at a convenient location. And it’s fun to meet new people. I think we have gotten a number of new runners into the club who can’t easily get to Fishtown for the original start,” Ignall added.

When asked if he had any future plans for the South Philly meet-up point, Ignall said that he was looking into recruiting backup leaders for nights where he would not be able to attend.

In closing, Ignall jokingly remarked that runners who congregate at the club’s newest meet-up spot are “dead to him.”

Speaking of which, last year, FBR added another meet-up point to its roster: The historic structure at the intersection of Broad & Market Streets in Center City, better known as Philadelphia City Hall. With William Penn standing high above, runners downtown who may have recently left work for the evening don’t have far to go in order to participate in that week’s run. The City Hall runners are led by FBR members Jennifer Smith Gamba and Elana Flehinger.

“I can’t say how it came up in conversation, but Keith (Tomaselli) and I were talking about how there were times I had to hustle to make it to 7th & Bainbridge Streets by 7 p.m. The South Philly start location is about 1.75 miles from my office, so there were definitely days my FBR runs would begin with a sprinting session,” Gamba said.

“We were at a run at The Trestle Inn, and he specifically asked if I thought a Center City start location would work and if I’d be interested in leading it. We talked about pros and cons of potential start locations (The Clothespin Sculpture & Love Park were also mentioned). I think the City Hall start managed to take off pretty quickly due to its centralized location. It becomes a convenient start for both people who work in Center City, or who need to come into the city after work. We are also the easiest location for traveling runners to drop in on while in town. In the end, how could I say no to David (April) and Keith?”

Being a meet-up location leader has been “a lot of fun” for Gamba so far, she said.

“I genuinely enjoy making the routes each week. I try my best to find the balance between well-lit routes with decent, construction-free sidewalks, safety for the runners (especially during the dark, winter months) and routes simple enough for people to remember. I think our location might be the most impacted by volume of construction and events hosted in the city, so there are times we need to make adjustments on the fly,” Gamba stated.

As for future plans for the location, Gamba said she enjoys the current setup and hopes to keep growing its numbers each week, while encouraging anyone interested in checking out FBR to do so – regardless of their level of interest in either beer or running.

“I can’t think of anything else to add, except to say that you don’t have to like beer to be a beer runner. Sometimes, you don’t even have to like running…just show up,” Gamba said.


By Nicholas Malfitano