Northwest Beer Runners were joined by Elkins Park Beer Runners for a pre-Independence Day run to Chestnut Hill Brewing Company, 8221 Germantown Ave., on July 3, 2019. (Photo by Sue Ann Rybak)

by Sue Ann Rybak

It doesn’t matter who you are or how long you have been running. All faces and paces are welcome at Northwest Philadelphia Beer Runners club, an official chapter of Beer Runners, that meets every Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in front of the triangle at Mermaid Inn for a 3-5 mile run.

On July 10, this club is hosting a run to Pastorius Park in Chestnut Hill for Parks on Tap and the Pastorius Park Concerts featuring Beppe Gambetta. If the idea of a run sounds intimidating, don’t sweat it. No, seriously.

Mt. Airy resident Josh McNamarra, one of four co-captains of the club, said, “The ‘first rule’ is to get to the bar anyway possible. If you show up at the start, we’ll meet you at the bar. All faces and paces are welcome. So it doesn’t matter who you are or how long you have been running.”

He said there is always a “sweeper,” someone who run/walks with the last person to make sure no one gets hurt or feels unwelcome.

“We’re there to cheer everybody on,” he said. “If you are the last person who gets to the bar, everybody is waiting for you to kind of pat you on the back, pour you a water and order you a beer. Then we can catch up. Nobody is looking down on anyone.”

Northwest Beer Runners is based off the original Beer Runners (Fishtown Beer Runners), which was started by David April in 2007.

At the time, April was 42 years old and going through a divorce. He told the Local one night that “something compelled” him to run to the end of his block.

“I never ran in my life,” said April, of Fishtown. “I felt a little bit better, so I decided to run around the block.”

He started running and considered joining a running club, but said he couldn’t find any running clubs for “novice runners.”

With the help of his friend, Eric Fiedler, April decided to train for his first 5K. It was during one of their evening runs that Fiedler told him about a study by Dr. Manuel J. Castillo-Garzon, a professor of medical physiology at Granada University in Spain.

The study said that beer and water have similar rehydration effects under the conditions of his study, which compared a moderate amount of beer (22 ounces) to the same amount of water.

April decided to start the Fishtown Beer Runners Club as a way to bring people together and have fun. April said the club’s focus isn’t on beer, but rather what he calls “the transformative power of running.”

“When you run, you tend to feel a little bit better; then you meet other people that you have something in common with, and you end up building relationships,” he said. “That’s when the magic happens. You start going for runs outside of the weekly runs together and increase your goals.”

April said when he first started running, he could barely run a mile, but as of today, he has completed 16 marathons.

“I didn’t set out to market this,” he said. “I just enjoyed running and wanted to bring other people along. Twelve years later, there are chapters across the country, in Spain and several in Philadelphia.”

Besides running for science, each chapter of Beer Runners raises money for a charity. Last summer, Fishtown Beer Runners raised roughly $13,000 for the American Cancer Society.

When asked how Beer Runners has changed his life, April said it changed it dramatically.

“It was through running that I met my current wife,” he said. “Now, I am the stepdad of two kids, and it’s just been amazing.”

April isn’t the only one who met this wife through the Beer Runners. To date, the club has had ten Beer Runner weddings.

In fact, McNamarra met his wife, Elizabeth McDowell, who is also a co-captain of Northwest Philadelphia Beer Runners, through Fishtown Beer Runners.

“We had been running together and had never really met or laid eyes on each other for a couple of years somehow,” he said.

Despite having several friends in common, they never met before the day of the Philadelphia Marathon in 2015. He said his wife ran her first marathon that day, and he ran his second. They were both at the after party at 2nd Story Brewing Co., 117 Chestnut St., organized by the Fishtown Beer Runners when they first laid eyes on each other.

Chestnut Hill resident Kim Trinacria and Oreland resident Fred Melhuish, both of whom ran with the original Fishtown Beer Runners, Manayunk Beer Runners and Northeast Beer Runners, said they thought they needed to have a group in this area.

Trinacria and Melhuish, who are also co-captains, said the four them talked to April about opening a chapter in Northwest Philadelphia.

“It just made sense,” said Melhuish, who works as the director of Transportation for the Callowhill District at SEPTA.

He said his favorite thing about the Beer Runners organization is the relationships he has gained over the years.

“The friends I have developed over the last three years are probably some of the best friends I have ever had,” Melhuish said. “They are from all walks of life.”

He added that while Trinacria and him “don’t have the ideal look of a runner,” they get out there and enjoy it.

Recently, he ran the Philly Run Fest on June 2. He said it had a “really neat medal.”

“It was the Liberty Bell with a little scroll of the Declaration of Independence on it that said, ‘On this date on June 2, 2019, in the City of Philadelphia, it’s been established that All Runners are Created Equal.’”

For more information about Northwest Philadelphia Beer Runners, visit their public Facebook group. Sue Ann Rybak can be reached at sueann@chestnuthilllocal.com or 215- 248-8804.

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