Making Friends & Influencing People: The L.A. Craft Runners
At the end of a run, a cold beer is as good as a medal, because while winning is good, with this running community, it’s the turning up that counts.
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It’s nice to have a reward at the end of a run. It’s a tangible target to aim for at the end of your exertions. For serious athletes, that’s a podium finish, but for 99% of us running one of the numerous 5k or 10k races on any given weekend, that is a souvenir medal.
For those who run with the Los Angeles Craft Runners every Tuesday from a different L.A. craft brewery, it’s a cold pint of beer with friends. With the 6th anniversary of the run club coming up, I talk to the husband-and-wife founders, Edgar Corral and Liz Quick-Corral.
When Edgar and Liz met, a decade ago in Orange County, it was running that they bonded over. Liz was running most days and Edgar was running 30 to 40 miles a week. They started running with the O.C. Craft Runners every Monday. When they moved to Los Angeles together in 2016, they took the idea and started their own chapter.
“We kind of started it for selfish reasons,” says Liz. “We wanted to find friends who liked beer and liked running and it was a good way to explore a lot of the beer places within Los Angeles.”
“Edgar and I always thought there's gonna be a day where it's just us but ever since we started the club, there's always been people showing up, and I think that's a testament to the model of a casual social connection.”
Making friends in a new city is as difficult as it is expensive. Running clubs are a great way of meeting people (if you’re into running) with no purchase necessary. The beauty of it is how there are different running clubs for every type of running personality. There are different groups for track nights, trail runs, beach runs, marathon training, anything you want.
If you’re already into craft beer tourism but maybe just be dipping your toes into running for the first time, the Craft Runners are a wonderful entry point to the sport.
If the L.A. Craft Runners’ tagline is “Beer drinkers with a running problem,” the group becomes even more accessible with the revelation that the founders have a deeper enjoyment for swimming and playing basketball than they do for running.
Liz started running more in 2011 when a 14-year swimming career was curtailed by a shoulder injury.
“I hated running growing up. When I was in high school, we'd do biathlons and I would hate the running portion. I was like, ‘This is so stupid. Running is dumb!’”
“Even in swimming, I was a distance person. I've never been a quote-unquote fast runner. The fastest I ever was was 8.30 min/mile (5.15 min/km) pace, now I run at 9-10 min/mile. I think this translates into the group for people who are just getting into it and worried about not being fast or not being able to keep up.”
Edgar, on the other hand, can easily skin a Tuesday evening 5k at a 7 min/mile (4.20 min/km) pace. This comes from a life of conditioning gifted to him by his father.
“My dad was an obsessive runner. He would get home, Monday through Friday, and go run for an hour and a half. He’d get home after and his shirt was just drenched. I remember vividly he would either toss it at me or wring it out in the backyard.”
“My dad said to me, ‘I know you're not going to be a professional athlete, but I'm gonna make sure you're better than all your friends at every sport.’ Dad wasn't a tennis player, for instance, but we’d go out and play tennis on the weekend.”
“Running was a big part of it. I really like to play basketball and he said he wanted to make sure that I’m never tired. I still play in an adult basketball league and that's the one thing I know I do have - I don't get tired.”
Both Edgar and Liz talk about how important accessibility and inclusivity is to them. All paces are welcome is the most important and frequent message you’ll get from them at any point. If you’re concerned about being too slow for the group, remember how Liz very happily runs a 10 min/mile pace. I run with her when I run with the group.
Liz also talks about being careful to select routes that are well lit, well paved, and have good foot traffic.
“Safety is really important to me as a woman in this space. We only run at some places during certain times of the year, to be mindful of the light and the things that come with that. I think that's a different perspective that we bring.”
Being a female-led running group is certainly one way to help with such issues that face women while running. 4 of the 5 active Craft Runners groups across the country (Orange County, South Orange County, Riverside, and Denver) are either led or co-led by women, which certainly bucks the trend of the male-dominated craft beer-adjacent activities.
Important note: Liz also supplied major encouragement to long-time Craft Runner Sean Johnson to form the L.A. Cinephile Run Club. Read more about them here:
LACR also tries to help people looking to do less mileage. It’s important to remember that 3 miles seemed intimidating to everybody at some point along their running journey.
“If you want to go to a running club where there's community and drinking involved afterwards, this is a good place to start,” says Edgar.
Indeed, it is. During my first runs with the group back in 2017, I noted one guy walking the route. Over time he started increasing his pace and improving. Now? Miguel’s run more marathons than me. That’s testament to the gentle atmosphere that LACR fosters.
“I think we figured out our identity a year and a half into the group,” recalls Edgar. “We were like, ‘This is who we are. Come out and have fun.’”
As Edgar, Liz and I conclude our chat - as if we needed some tangible results of six years of building a community of beer drinkers with a running problem - Matt, a Los Angeles Craft Runners regular sees us and waves from across the patio at the Hermosillo.
You can join the L.A. Craft Runners for the exercise and the beer, but you’ll stay for the friends you make along the way.
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Sorry, no coaching tip this week because I’m very short on time because of my wedding anniversary (9 not out!) and the 4th of July holiday. If you’ve got any questions or requests, please leave them in a comment below or email me!