Ten years ago, a group of runners started meeting at the former Tir na nOg Irish Pub in downtown Raleigh to run and enjoy a pint of beer afterward. It became the nOg Run Club. Here, founder and president Elizabeth Pagano, 38, talks about how the club grew — and shrunk — and the $600,000 it has given to local charities.
Q: What made you start a running club?
A: My husband and I are both chiropractors, so we were self-employed and had moved to the area. I was reading a Runners’ World magazine about a run club that met at an Irish club in Colorado Springs, and at the time my brother owned Tir na nOg (which closed last year). I thought it would be a great way to meet people.
Q: How did you get the word out?
A: I went to Fleet Feet to get shoes, and they were on board and helped us promote the first one. It was successful from the start because there wasn’t anything like it at the time. We had 69 people at our first run and more than double at our second run, and it just kept going.
Q: How often do you meet, and how far do you run?
A: We meet every Monday; now we’re at the Raleigh Beer Garden (on Glenwood Avenue). We meet at 6:15 p.m.; that’s when the run starts. We get there at 5:30 but people get there earlier and start running. We’ve mapped out three-, four-, five- and six-mile runs on route cards, so if you’re new you can follow the routes. Some people make their own run.
Q: How many people do you get on a regular Monday night?
A: We have over 100 people who join us now. Back when we were at Tir na nOg, we had 400 people. We were much bigger back then, but now there are a lot more run clubs. We went from being the only one to there being multiple clubs (that meet) every night of the week.
Q: You’re coming up on your 10-year anniversary. How has the nOg Run Club changed?
A: We’re not just a run club; we’re a nonprofit now. The charity aspect is why we’re still going after 10 years.
Q: What do you do in the community?
A: We have three annual races. We do the St. Paddy’s Day 4 Miler; the Oktoberfest 4 Miler, and then we have our summer event. We’ve broken the Guinness World Record the last four years for the World’s Largest Flip Flop 1k Run/Walk.
Q: What made the club decide to attempt to break that record?
A: For three years we tried to beat the Guinness World Record for the Largest Kilt Race. We were unsuccessful for three years in a row. We started looking at other Guinness World Records we might be able to beat. We were friends with Mark Saad who’s with FeelGoodz (a local shoe company) so we said, let’s do the flip-flops.
Q: What organizations do you support?
A: We partner with one local charity for both four-milers. We donate a portion to the Multiple Sclerosis Society for the St. Paddys’ Day race; and we donate a portion to Wake Enterprises at our Oktoberfest race. The rest of the money we use to sponsor a different charity each month. We always donate backpacks to kids in the foster care system. We send care packages to deployed troops, and we send kids through the Wake County Holiday Cheer program.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about the club?
A: We still have people who are running with us from the beginning. People have met spouses and had kids. It’s cool to create something that people feel involved with and want to come to every Monday even 10 years later.
Elizabeth Pagano — Tar Heel of the Week
Born: Summersville, W.Va., on Nov. 26, 1979
Family: Husband, Rick Florez; dog, Chase
Education: Studied animal bioscience at Penn State
Organization: Nog Run Club (nogrunclub.com)
Fun fact: She has completed at least a half marathon in all 50 states.