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Sunday, September 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Share a beer, a joke and join a legendary running institution

Runners associated with the Flying Irish Run Club participate in a Thursday river route on April 18, 2019. The club, which boasts several hundred members, meets every Thursday at the Flour Mill in downtown Spokane. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
Runners associated with the Flying Irish Run Club participate in a Thursday river route on April 18, 2019. The club, which boasts several hundred members, meets every Thursday at the Flour Mill in downtown Spokane. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
By Dave Cook For The Spokesman-Review

If you want to be part of the in crowd in the Spokane running club scene, then think about photo bombing.

The Flying Irish Running Club began on Thursdays in 2006 at legendary O’Doherty’s Irish Grille in downtown Spokane. Eight people joined founder Peter Breach – aka Peter B … aaka Grand Poobah – on that first night on March 2, 2006. Five of them were from his own family. It was a humble beginning, but his friend and owner Tim O’Doherty is a humble man, and in no time the runners came in droves to his legendary pub.

The club grew large and fast, and by the end of the first year, 200 people were showing up. By year six, there were 2,500 runners coming each year with an average of 375 per week. As it grew, it became the world’s largest social running club.

It outgrew O’D’s and then spent part of its life at Ripples at the Red Lion River Inn where 633 people showed up on March 14, 2013. There is no doubt that at least 632 of the runners ended up at O’Doherty’s that night to get a head start on St. Patrick’s Day.

The club now congregates in the Flour Mill, down at the very bottom where the water of the Spokane River meets the land. And this time of year, the water does its own kind of running – over the banks a bit (or a lot).

Chateau Rive is the club’s home, and it’s more associated with weddings than sweaty, thirsty runners. But the building itself is an oasis of beverages and seating for post-run frivolity for the 300 or so members who gather each week.

This club is so big it even has a board of directors. They must have to “run for office.”

Since its inception, 11,293 runners have given it a go, and they even have an online store – be sure to check out the $11.49 thong. And be on the lookout for the return of the kilt.

The club meets outside in the grass area, and remember not to sit on “The” rock. That’s Peter’s perch where he gives the prerun instructions. Rookie mistake.

On this summer night, it was group photo night AND the club’s milestone 500th run, so there would be an intermission at the floating stage by the Opera House (yes, now the First Interstate Center for the Arts, but old habits die hard). It was a perfect opportunity to wear that red “Run EWU” shirt and get a little Eags representation among the pro-Gonzaga crowd.

Although it starts in March and ends in November, it’s most definitely a year-round club. If you like, you can just go December to February and enjoy the club’s regular Off-Season Brewery Tour, run optional. A year ago, Runner’s World magazine featured the club along with some of its favorite post-run brews, so these runners really know their hops.

During the year there are Pub Crawls too, a Festivus Run, a Turkey Trot at Manito Park on Thanksgiving and even legacy runs at O’Doherty’s and David’s Pizza. The first Thursday in December is the year-end party, as if the club hasn’t partied enough in the previous nine months.

For ambiance, O’Doherty’s is the best place to tell your Irish joke, a requirement to get your shirt after your sixth run. And while you are courageously standing atop the bar table and have finished hydrating with your 10th beer, go ahead and sing your favorite Irish song to get the opportunity to nail a dollar bill – your dollar bill, by the way – to the wall.

There are other milestones to be reached – 33, 200, 365, 400 … soon, 500 will be possible for some of the club’s most loyal runners. The phrase “Will Run for Beer” is alive and well in Spokane, and the club even had a beer named after it – Flying Irish Pale by Iron Goat Brewing, which now has a run club of its own on Wednesdays – the pre-func, if you will, for the Irish.

As usual, particularly with a group of runners that large, you run into – literally and figuratively – people you know. And the best part, like Bloomsday, is it will always feel like somebody is in front of you, so knowing the course is really not needed unless you are super fast or superslow.

There may be other clubs, but this one is the Grand Poobah, founded and run by the Grand Poobah himself based on a club he saw at an Irish pub in Florida. The Flying Irish formed with the concept that “runs should be fun.”

And you don’t need to wait for a photobomb opportunity to try it out.

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