If you go down to the beach today you’re sure to find a surprise. Well, Thursday evenings to be exact. The current vogue for combining a good run with a glass of beer and convivial banter with sweaty friends afterwards is gathering momentum in South Florida. So called beer runs are popping up everywhere…but, for some organizers the question has become: how do you do something different and grow a loyal attendance? How do you differentiate?
Bruce Roy, General Manager of the Westin Resort on Fort Lauderdale Beach thinks he has hit on a winning formula. Roy went to Running Wild to buy new running shoes a few months back and found himself talking to Running Wild owner, Don Wennerstrom. The result of the discussion was a plan to inject life into the store Thursday run that was flagging a bit, support local businesses, provide a truly enjoyable Thursday night experience and bring a diverse band of runners together under the banner of the Westin Resort and its fitness policy. Subsequent discussions saw Bruce and Don agree the logistics of the run and devise a concept that really stands out. Don suggested offering a free glass of beer, which appealed to Bruce, that has become a hugely successful attraction. In keeping with the event being reflective of local businesses, Bruce was able to link up with Fort Lauderdale Brewery Funky Buddha to ensure a supply of excellent cool, draft local ales. The Funky Fun run was born.
Roy has been an athlete all his life, he identifies Hockey as his passion on his business card. He has also played soccer and baseball but openly admits that running was always the weakest part of his activities. This said, he reflects on the beauty of running, in saying, ‘I have learned to love it for the workout, solitude (when you want it), challenge, camaraderie and the fact that you can do it almost anywhere with very little equipment’. Frankly, I could not have put this better myself. He has managed to fit 5 marathons and 2 half marathons into his busy schedule which makes him a runner in anyone’s eyes!!!
His tenure as General Manager at the Westin saw him move from Minneapolis to Fort Lauderdale in 2014. He quickly saw the potential for great runs along the Fort Lauderdale ocean front on A1A! The scenery was beautiful, he noted, and the running routes well set out. It was at this point he needed to get new shoes. Fast forward to the Running Wild store and meeting Don.
The idea of offering a 5K run as a minimum (I tend to run 4 miles) followed by a poolside reception at The Westin Resort has proven to be very popular. Indeed The Westin Resort has, as part of its operational policy, a commitment to the health and fitness of its customers. This dovetailed nicely with the idea of providing a regular weekly run that would excite locals too. At first 30 showed, then 40 or 50 and sometimes up to 70 runners came along. The fun does not end there. With the enthusiastic support of Bruce, The Westin was able to use its bar license to serve the free glass of beer and provide a fresh fruit buffet to the hot and exhausted runners alongside the pool at the beach front resort. It is a beautiful way to end a run. When the evening draws to a close a free shuttle is provided to anyone wanting a lift back to the Running Wild store where participants park prior to the run. Thus a complete experience is offered that leaves no detail unexamined.
On any Thursday top local athletes rub shoulders with runners of all abilities as well as Westin customers from all over the USA. The post run photographs, that everyone wants to be in, prove what a joyful and well supported event this run has become. Future plans include making T shirts available to those wishing to tell the world about this brilliant weekly fun run.
As noted above, Westin Resort customers are encouraged to participate as part of the Move well, Play Well principles that underpin the Westin’s approach to fitness. The run is advertised in the lobby of the hotel. There is even a gear lending program sponsored by New Balance that provides shoes and gear, though they get to keep the socks. No excuses for anyone. Nothing is left to chance.
The atmosphere of fun continues when the run is complete as the photographs taken are made available at the store for people to look at before each run and keep, if they wish. Don admits it is ‘old tech’ to do it this way in these days of social media and photo sharing, but he feels that it adds another unique feature to what is already a remarkable run. He enthusiastically suggests that the Funky Fun Run is different in that it is a non-denominational event with runners from many local clubs coming along to enjoy the ocean breeze, a beer, easy paced conversation and new running friendships. You might say, ‘there is no fee, just camaraderie!’ Runners from The Mermaid Club, The Front Runners, Hollywood Run Club, GFLRRC and Northwest Broward RRC all regularly attend.
So. What’s not to like in this increasingly successful addition to the local running calendar? The Thursday Funky Fun Run is the evening run ‘with no fee, It’s just free!!!’ What more can be said? Now, that really makes sense