I moved to Philadelphia in 2012 after having spent years living “On the Road” as a touring theatre technician, but i didn’t discover the Fishtown Beer Runners until a few years after arriving. For me this community represented the two things i thought i was merely adequate at: making new friendships and running. I was confident in my beer consumption already. 

Exercise had only ever existed to balance out my joy for food and drink after college. A trip to Planet Fitness justified a trip to the Gastropub. But after a long work trip where a gym was not available to me, I tried my feet out running along a trail on the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh. Fresh air, more fun than on a treadmill, an easy way to explore…after 10 years confining myself to tracks and gyms I was delighted to experience the freedom, ease, and spirit of an outdoor run! With my newfound running spirit back home, I searched for similarly minded people to help show me the way in Philly. The club popped up on my facebook search for “Running Clubs”. It was an intriguing looking group existing just down Frankford Ave from me, and FBR posted several pictures from the Philadelphia Brewing Company that I lived next to. While it seemed exciting to investigate a group which married my newfound love for outdoor running to socializing over a beer, the whole thing seemed intimidating. 

I arrived at Palmer Park one Autumn Thursday night when my work schedule finally landed me back in Philadelphia. I had kept up my outdoor running regiment and became comfortable with a few outdoor miles interspersed with my travelling work life. Scanning the crowd of friendly fit fishtownies, I doubted my abilities to infiltrate this community. While I met some super friendly and inspiring people including David April himself early on, my insecurities led me to pop in my headphones during early runs, quietly grab a beer, and quickly irish goodbye. 

This community was the one for me though. Just keep showing up. Just say hello. I would be out of town for months at a time. But when I returned people remembered my name. Slowly I’d let down my guard and have conversations with FBR regulars about running goals and races, helping me to set goals and sign up for races. My doubt in my abilities subsided as I rested the stigma about the lofty attributes of what a “Runner” was supposed to me. Apparently if you run, you’re a runner. And I wasn’t so different from this solid group whose entire mindset revolves around just showing up. No questions asked. If you show up, you’re a Beer Runner!

Turns out that I needed that great energy and purpose from the Fishtown Beer Runners community in order to feel comfortable as a Philadelphian. So I kept showing up and tried to give back in both effort and conversation. I learned how much fulfillment can come from both running and drinking for the purpose of raising funds for a charity. I joined the efforts of the Mayors Cup for FBR in 2017 and it felt great being part of a team effort again for a singular cause while also just having fun. Approaching the tent village on the Belmont Plateau gave me this community vibe I hadn’t felt since I got off the road as a touring theater technician in 2012. I looked around to see these nearly army regimented running groups stretching and warming up, while we stretched and tapped the PBC kegs. Beer Runners arrived to partake in all the events with a passion and competitiveness of underdogs, checking in with team mates and sharing camaraderie. FBR always shows up and puts in the miles. FBR picks up those who question their abilities and will hold the toast until everyone has arrived. FBR pays an extra buck for a beer so it can go to someone else who needs it. FBR runners still show up a year into a Pandemic for a Facebook Video Toast to be around their great community (and echo David April’s scream “TO THE PROFESSOR!”).

I run FBR because at the end of a long Thursday run with friends, we grab a beer and continue the conversation. Turns out at the end of that beer, I feel just as hydrated as with water, though I’m definitely happier. 

—- Ryan McAlpine