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Monday, July 13, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sometimes you just have to show up and run

By Dave Cook For The Spokesman-Review

Sometimes you just show up and run. Even those who have just donated a kidney.

Besides the Tuesday through Thursday gatherings of the Birds, Lanterneers, Goats and Irish, there are several other runners clubs in Spokane. Some clubs have beer and food readily at hand (maybe a doughnut or two as well), others are a little more serious, and others even add a dose of yoga and physical therapy to the mix.

If you have a hankering to run on Mondays, you can take in the So-Hi Running Club (out of Miguel’s Mexican Restaurant on 29th on the South Hill), or head to the Monkey Bar for the Spokane Valley Running Club weekly gatherings. You can end the week with a run at beautiful Palisades Park on Fridays in northwest Spokane.

The Liberty Lake Running Club, established in 2010, is just getting started for the new year at Liberty Lake Physical Therapy. They have bounced around to a couple of restaurants and a coffee shop before giving the nod to therapy in lieu of beer. Hmm, isn’t beer already therapeutic?

Speaking of beer, the Beer and Blisters Running Group has the most fitting name of all; it usually has runs Sundays at 10 a.m. from My Fresh Basket at Kendall Yards. They go long and hard, but also have a “JV” that runs less. If you really, really, really want to be in shape for Bloomsday, this is the group for you.

Need more? Fleet Feet Sports has various running clubs and races it offers during the year. The Bloomsday Road Runners Club mostly sponsors races now, but also does training runs – some out of Manito Park – and, of course, once a year on Sunday their namesake takes over Spokane.

For more serious runners, the Swifts are a group of mostly former college runners who aren’t just swift, but downright fast. Prior to Bloomsday, they meet downtown at Lululemon on Saturdays and invite the public for a run at 7 a.m. Post-run beer perhaps for breakfast? Nope, post-run yoga at 8:30 a.m.

The counterpart to the Swifts for men is the Spokane Distance Project (with the catchy acronym SDP). It’s a group so hardcore that some of its members once did a run of the Grand Canyon – first down to the Colorado River and then back up to the rim. Like the Swifts, they compete at a serious and high level, including the USA Track and Field Cross Country Championships, which roll through Spokane from time to time – 2018 included.

But back to beer. Out in Post Falls, the Downdraft Running Club was alive and well until this year when the brewery shut down. Hard to tell if the runners are more disappointed or the beer drinkers. Down South, the Palouse Road Runners Club has a variety of runs for members, and even a book club as an added twist.

There is even a group of neighborly moms (and a few token dads) in southwest Spokane who call themselves the Ridge Runners and run regularly in the mornings and together at races. There are no doubt countless other groups like them, and at least one that likes to meet and run on weekends out of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts in Spokane Valley.

Green Bluff, High Drive Highlanders, Palouse Falls Beer Chasers, The Monterey Cafe, Nike+, Heritage – the list goes on, gosh, is there really room on the roads for so many runners? And no running club scene would be complete without the Sunday Slugs, who meet at Manito Park, but an 8 a.m. start certainly seems ludicrously early for a bunch of slugs.

On one late Saturday afternoon earlier this month, SVRC used the Millwood Brewery as the home base for some hill training in preparation for Bloomsday … come on, what kind of training really occurs at a brewery at happy hour? That brewery is also home to the Millwood Miler club, and their normal days to meet are Thursdays. Hopefully there are no turf wars at play over brewery rights.

On this Monday night in the valley, though, it was all about just showing up and running. The message from a fellow runner was plain and simple, “Spokane Valley Running Club, 6 p.m., Monkey Bar.”

Knowing only the location ahead of time, everything else was a mystery, including the distance, terrain of the course and friendliness to strangers of the club in which members call themselves the Bison, which is a word in itself that raises hairs on the backs of Eagles in these parts.

However, Eastern Washington University football fans can take comfort in knowing this group says Bison with an “S” and not a “Z” like their football rivals at North Dakota State are so adamant (if not downright nasty) about.

Formed in 2015 with four members, this club is run by David Blythe, who on Feb. 5 donated one of his kidneys to his 25-year-old son. Being fit as a fiddle was a prerequisite to being able to donate, and he was out on the 6-mile course barely two months later soaking in the early evening Spokane sunshine.

There were some familiar faces of course, including renowned Spokane club-hoppers Bob and Wayne. These guys make the rounds, including the SVRC’s own Winter White Bison runs, in which chains are required at most outings (actually, it requires spikes and lots of illumination in the runner’s world).

The Bison are particularly welcoming to newcomers (thankfully, they don’t call us virgins as the Flying Irish do), and they invite everybody for a pre-race group photo and a “shoey.” The shoey occurs when you play the hokey-pokey and say, “put your right foot in” and then stop right there and take a photo.

The 6-mile course included a lot of long stretches, and eventually you can barely see the runner ahead of you as the gathering of 14 stretched out (count the shoes in the “shoey”). Those long stretches are just fine when running along with Dan+Shay – of course, gotta get prepped for the concert the next day.

There was one hill – Mamer Street, which is steep enough to give your heart a murmur, as Dave explains. It’s like Seattle dropped one of its downtown hills in the middle of the valley. It seemed appropriate that just before the hill we ran by the Steinway Gallery, because it indeed felt like we were running uphill with a piano on our backs.

Fortunately, the way back to the Monkey Bar felt like only a primate was on our backs. After being told the run was actually only 5.96 miles and a quick lap around the parking lot was necessary to run the entire six, we settled in to enjoy the post-race beverage we all had earned.

It took Dave a while to return, but running 6 miles two months after donating a kidney? That is certainly the spirit of a runner.

Yes, sometimes you just show up and run.

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