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Wednesday, September 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Iron Goat Running Club is about challenges, the human spirit and beer

After their run through downtown Spokane and Kendall Yards, members of the Iron Goat Running Club enjoy a cold beer at Iron Goat Brewing on Wednesday, April 18, 2019. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
After their run through downtown Spokane and Kendall Yards, members of the Iron Goat Running Club enjoy a cold beer at Iron Goat Brewing on Wednesday, April 18, 2019. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
By Dave Cook For The Spokesman-Review

When you can lose a contact lens and $20 on the same run, and miraculously get them both back, you’ve found a new home on Wednesday evenings. But only if you like challenges, because this is a running club with as many ups and downs as its beer taps.

The Iron Goat Running Club formed in 2015 and is now led by Ben Bersagel and his assistant Olive. It’s a club aptly named, because you have to have some semblance of goat in you to traverse some of the trails. Just a guess, but Olive may be the only goat/dog hybrid in history.

Always starting at the welcoming home of the Iron Goat Brewing Co. just west of downtown Spokane, the courses are usually five or six miles in length, with options to shorten them. As you could imagine from that location, you see most of the best (and worst) of what Spokane has to offer.

And when they require a ketchup bottle of flour to be used to mark the runs, you know the “getting lost” factor is high. Bring along a flare gun to be safe, or, at the very least, believe in the buddy system.

On a tame day, you’ll run along the Centennial Trail. On another you’ll run on the trails on the South Bank of the Spokane River. Or the North Bank. Or up, up and up the South Hill. Or on the trails along Latah Creek below High Drive. Or in and through Finch Arboretum. Or in and through People’s Park (has the buddy system been mentioned yet?). Or in and through High Bridge Park (again, buddy system, but bring your Frisbee). Or through Browne’s Addition. Or Peaceful Valley. Or up and down steps – lots of them.

Most likely, you’ll end up running two or more of those landscapes on the same night. Some feel more like moonscapes, with the opposite of gravity working against your legs. And some feel like locations right out of the Jess Walter novel “Over Tumbled Graves,” in which the final scene takes place below the modern-day Kendall Yards. Jeepers, you’ll feel like you’re in a crime novel!

But truly, to see Spokane is to run or walk Spokane. And there’s no better club for that. Ben and his buddies have done a marvelous job of making sure that if you survive the 10 runs, earning the right to purchase a shirt, you’ve seen sights of the city few residents have.

If you follow the flour correctly, the post-run pleasures of the Iron Goat await. After all, the mission of the club is “To Drink Good Beer and Run.” Note the order there, people.

Owners Greg and Heather Brandt graciously give all runners $1 off pints … just show Tasha and her serving staff the sweat pouring off your brow ( NOT off your other body parts) and you’ll get the discount on some of the best craft beer in town.

But it’s the people who make the club, and the number of people who stopped at the top of the South Hill to help find a lost contact was heartwarming. Later in the same run, Ben found a $20 bill on the ground and figured it belonged to a runner. He’s only ridiculed the runner he returned it to a hundred thousand times since then, but it’s a story worth laughing about. And it was a lesson learned that a credit card is less likely to work its way out of your shoe than an Andrew Jackson.

It’s also a club of survivors, and the real inspiration in the group is Brad Thiessen, who overcame brain cancer to continue his passion of trail running. You’ve probably heard his story, but if not, it’s worth going to and seeing what the human spirit is all about.

It’s what the Iron Goat Running Club is all about, too.

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