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Ross Carr shields his eyes from the sun as he looks at the runners assembled outside the bar. “I can’t believe so many people have turned up. Seriously, who paid you guys to be here?” he jokes.
It’s a sunny and chilly Saturday morning just before noon, and outside the Underdog pub, where the outskirts of Temple Bar meet Dame Street, a group of around 20 people have gathered.
At first glance, it might be put down to overenthusiasm for a favourite watering hole. But it’s actually the first meeting of Dublin’s chapter of a beer and running club.
The Mikkeller Running Club was founded by Danish brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergsø as a way to stay fit and healthy while indulging in his passion for beer.
Just as Mikkeller beer has gained cult status, so too has the running club, becoming an overwhelmingly positive PR-spinner for the Mikkeller brand. There are now more than 170 chapters worldwide, according to the club’s website.
Carr, who works in insurance, and his friend Wesley Forsythe, a secondary-school English teacher, had heard about the running clubs in other cities through word-of-mouth and on their travels, particularly in Copenhagen, where the first one was formed.
They were disappointed to discover that the Dublin chapter was defunct, and decided to get it going again.
“We thought the idea of a running club with a craft-beer focus was incredible,” says Carr, who only started running about a year ago. He’s now signed up to run the Dublin marathon in October.
“It was very easy to set up,” he says. They emailed Mikkeller about their intentions, and got some materials back explaining the club’s ethos and how to get a chapter started in Dublin.
Earlier on Saturday morning, Carr and Forsythe had been worried about turnout. “Even our friends and colleagues were hard to pin down, so we thought if we had around 12 people here today we’d be doing well,” says Forsythe.
Speaking after the run he said, “To say it was a surprise to meet so many people with our level of enthusiasm for the idea was brilliant.”
There’s time for a quick group photo before Forsythe gets the run started, leading the group uphill towards Christ Church Cathedral before winding down onto the quays for a short stretch.
The route takes them onto Thomas Street, and up Vicar Street then onwards past the bustling market stalls of Meath Street.
Some chat along the way about an upcoming summer beer festival. Others compare notes on runs around the city.
Some are newer to running, others are old-feet.
Deirdre Quinn says she came with a friend Conor Sheehan, but they separated at the start of the 5-kilometre run.
“I prefer to run a bit slower than him,” says Quinn, a marketing executive, who’s been running for five years on and off. “Personal bests and distance don’t really matter to me, it’s more about getting out there and getting it done.”
Sheehan texts her later in the run: “Sorry I ran ahead, I’m a bad friend.”
Some people splinter off along the route and head home or onwards to other Saturday activities. But Carr and Forsythe bookend the group for the run, to make sure everyone’s comfortable and safe.
At the bottom of Meath Street, the group takes a left and it’s a straight run back to Stephen’s Green, and onto Leeson Street and then a loop around back onto Baggot Street.
They slow as they dodge through throngs of weekend shoppers and tourists on the approach to Kildare Street, some tiring, and others hitting their stride.
The column jog, warming down now, onto Nassau Street and College Green. Before long they’re back where they started.
Getting a craft beer bar onboard for sponsorship is one of the club’s rules and essential to starting a Mikkeller Running Club. Carr and Forsythe asked Underdog to do the honours.
“We both love to come here,” said Carr. They’ve a great selection of beers and it’s handy in the centre of town, he says.
Paddy Delahunty, who runs Underdog, says he’s a keen runner himself.
He had to sit out today’s run because of flu. But he opened the bar three hours early to give runners somewhere to stretch, change and leave their belongings while out on the road.
“It’s an idea I’ve been thinking about for a few months now, getting a running club going,” says Delahunty, a he lays out today’s free beers – bottles of Mikkeller’s Blueberry Sour and Vanilla Maple Cocoa Stout. “It’s a concept that really fits the bar and the attitude to craft beer that we have here, which is that it’s something to be savoured and enjoyed in a social setting.”
That this run was paired with two Mikkeller beers is coincidence, says Delahunty. But that won’t always be the case. For future runs, he’ll serve beers that are landing around the same time, so runners get a first taste.
On Saturday, some runners chose to pack up their beer for later. Others perch along the bar and enjoy their reward for the morning’s run.
“I can see how people might view running and drinking as contradictory, but we don’t see this as a strict running club. It’s more about trying to build up a community of people who share these two interests. The run is very laid back,” says Forsythe.
Carr nods along and adds, “You go at your own pace so there’s no pressure to keep up. It’s non-committal, so you can show up whenever you want. There’s no signing-up and it’s completely free, with a free beer at the end! We just want everyone to finish the run in their own time and then come back to Underdog for a chat.”
For now, Carr and Forsythe plan to keep the meet-up monthly while they gauge interest. But they might add weekday-evening runs during the summer if the demand is there, they say.
As well as varying the route each time, they might add other bells and whistles – from inviting guest brewers into Underdog to introduce the beer paired with the run, to theming runs around beer festivals and weekends away.
“It’ll be down to whatever suits the consensus,” says Forsythe. “The main goal is to have fun.”