To a passing motorist, the semiweekly gatherings at Oak City Brewing Company might look like something out of a college memory.
But those folks in runner’s garb aren’t a bunch of 20-somethings competing in beer Olympics. They’re people of all ages who like to be physically active; some of them like a cold beer, too.
“You run before you drink the beer,” said Ben McDonald, who started the Beer Run at Oak City Brewing, a running club, not long after Oak City opened about a year ago.
Beyond offering its members a run and a beer, the club aims to do something useful for the Knightdale community. A big fan of community service, McDonald said he keeps his eye out for opportunities for the running club to get involved.
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“I love Knightdale and am looking for ways to support the people who are around us,” said McDonald, a social studies teacher at Martin Middle School and member of Knightdale’s Land Use Review Board.
In January, 49 runners showed up for a Saturday morning litter sweep along a club route covering Old Town, Smithfield Road and the environmental park behind Town Hall.
The club and the brewery are now holding a drive to support Community Helpers Service Center, a nearby nonprofit that helps low-income families in a variety of ways.
“They do a lot of good work,” McDonald said of Community Helpers. “They’re one of the largest food distributors in Wake County, and they’re right there. We’ve got a lot of energy in run club for things like this, and we’re trying to figure out how to channel it. People are just looking for ways to give back to the community.”
Through Feb. 18, the brewery is a drop-off site for donations of nonperishable foods, personal items and money. The running club will celebrate its one-year anniversary that morning with a party and presentation to Community Helpers.
Participation has grown considerably since Beer Run began.
McDonald got the idea for the running club from one at Raleigh Brewing Company and was excited to pitch the idea to Matt Keeler and Blake Cone as they opened Oak City.
“I kept hitting them up on Facebook and showed up a couple times and was persistent until they said, ‘Yeah, we want to do this,’ ” McDonald said. “It was a good excuse to hang out with some of my good friends – do something active and get to hang out with good folk.”
Cone said it was good to add the running club since other breweries have them. He’s thankful for McDonald’s leadership and Art Harris’ help with the club.
“We’ve got a hundred other things going on, and they stay on top of it,” Cone said. “It’s not a small undertaking, because there’s a lot of moving parts and scheduling and keeping up with the run club members.”
Cone welcomes the charitable direction the running club has taken. “You invite that many more people into seeing something,” he said. “It brings that much bigger of an audience into (a need) they might not have known about.”
Runner turnout spiked around Thanksgiving and has pretty much stayed there. A recent Wednesday night run drew nearly 90 people to front porch at the brewery.
“The only thing that really happened, that we can figure out, is we got our T-shirts from the brewery,” McDonald said, suggesting the shirts helped advertise the club.
Beer Run is dog and stroller friendly and open to family members of all ages. It meets at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 11:30 a.m. Saturdays at Oak City, 616 N. First Ave.
For more information on the running club, visit nando.com/4ic.
Send in your support
People who prefer to donate money are asked to mail a check to: Community Helpers Service Center, 111 N. First Ave., Knightdale. Write “Beer Run Food Drive” on the memo line.