2018-06-21 / Front Page

Running Club Chugs Away

By James Merolla

After a 5k the runners enjoy refreshment and relaxation. (Photo submitted). After a 5k the runners enjoy refreshment and relaxation. (Photo submitted). As its members say about Run and Chug, “The beer is incentive. The community and camaraderie are the motivation.”

Where else on Aquidneck Island can you sprint and jog five kilometers across the most beautiful routes imaginable, exercise with a group of like-minded souls, then return to a pub to sit down for your reward, which is laughter amidst a cold-frosted beer that literally has your name on it?

The brainchild of Jeff Heimiller, the Newport Run and Chug Club starts and ends at Fastnet Pub on Broadway on Thursday nights. It begins with planning a route and ends with downing a cold brew.

“A real running and fitness revolution is taking place in Newport and I can feel it bubbling just under the surface,” said Eddie Valen, the unofficial club vice president, who has participated since 2016. “Some of it has to do with the great local road races… some of it has to do with real leaders here interested in community and fitness. It seems like there are more runners than ever in town.”

Valen and Chris Bessin, club president, took over the reins from Heimiller. Fastnet, while not a sponsor, is the host bar that accommodates the Run and Chug crowd with open arms every Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

Counting members is difficult. “We fly kind of loose and fast that way,” Valen says. “There have been Run and Chug evenings where there are three of us running in a rainstorm and I’ve also showed up for a run with nearly 50 of my closest friends through the streets of this beautiful city.”

The runners meet at the bar before the race, where a waitress takes their names and orders. The course is then planned. “We make sure everyone is comfortable with it, and we all spread out and head out,” Valen said.

Groups of runners line up from the lead pack to the “sexy” back, and no one is left behind. “We always arrive together at the bar and our beers are lined up on the picnic tables, labeled with our names, and just as frosty as the moment they were poured,” said Valen.

The course varies, but it is always a 5k that begins and ends at Fastnet.

“We’ve run Goat Island, Rochambeau, Pond View and Cliff Walk to name a few [courses],” Valen said. “As much as I love planning out the course, I equally enjoy running a route someone else picks. It’s like you’re going on a run they envisioned and wanted to share with you. We even have a member that has created a run tracking app, "Live K," that can be used during our runs. It gives the route on your GPS and can rank your time amongst other members on a leaderboard.”

The club has a core group of 30 to 50 runners from all walks of life. They are bartenders, hairdressers, teachers, engineers, scientists, graphic designers and firefighters. “There is no one particular type,’” Valen said.

Erin Briskie joined Run and Chug two years ago. New to the area, she found the club on the Internet through Rhode Island running clubs. “How can you say no to an event where you meet at a bar, order your beer, do a quick 5K route, and when you return your drink is literally sitting there with your name on it?” she said.

Briskie said the best part about Run and Chug is that the group welcomes all levels of runners. “We will always wait until everyone finishes before we go back into the bar,” she said. “The club gave me an opportunity to meet other members of Newport’s active community, develop friendships, and learn about events happening around town.”

Her favorite run is the Halloween event. “Everyone [is] bombing down Thames Street dressed in costume, high-fiving people as we pass. It is definitely a sight,” she said.

To learn more about Run and Chug, visit their Facebook page.

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