1.7: Champion Brewing’s Weekly Run Club Named Best of the Blue Ridge
For more than three years, the members of Paavo’s Apostles, Champion’s Wednesday night running crew, have been gathering outside the taproom, running through the streets of Charlottesville, and recovering post-run with Shower Beer, Missile, and (when it’s in season) the Face Eater Gose. When the weather’s favorable, Champion regularly hosts over 100 runners per week, making the taproom as lively on Wednesday as it is on the busiest weekend nights. Despite its location in a small university town, the club has become so successful that it has garnered regional recognition; the readers of Blue Ridge Outdoors have voted Champion’s run club as the “Best Outdoor Club” in its annual “Best of the Blue Ridge” reader’s poll!
The club started in August of 2015 after Melissa Moody, a Champion regular and avid distance runner, proposed the idea to Champion’s owner Hunter Smith. Moody had read about the popularity of running crews that gathered for beer after midweek runs. Knowing that Charlottesville is both run-crazy and a burgeoning craft brewing hub, Hunter was intrigued by the idea and proposed the idea to his friend James Walsh, an avid runner himself, to see if he’d be willing to take on organizing the weekly runs.
Walsh agreed, and the club grew slowly and steadily over the course of the fall and winter of 2015 and 2016. But when the weather turned in the spring of 2016, Champion started seeing people come out in droves. To keep the club manageable, Walsh started breaking the group up into mileage corrals. Today the club hosts group runs of 5,000 meters, 4 miles, 5 miles, and 10,000 meters. Runners pay a one-time fee of $5 to join the club, and receive $1 off beer post run. They also log their miles in a digital tracking application built by professional web developer and long-time Apostle David Brear. Brear came up with the idea for the app when he saw Walsh tracking everyone’s miles in physical log books, a process that was becoming untenable with the club’s numbers growing by the week and the email list starting to number in the hundreds.
The 500 Club
Runners earn performance apparel from the club when they hit certain mileage benchmarks, and when they hit 500 miles they earn a stein with their name and the date they crossed 500 miles on it. Currently four runners have hit the 500 mark, with two set to do it on their next run (Melissa, whose idea launched the club, is one of them.)
Paavo’s Apostles meet, run, and drink every Wednesday at 6:00 PM at Champion’s Charlottesville taproom, 324 6th Street Southeast, rain or shine, winter or summer. Champion is also in the process of getting a chapter of The Apostles going at its Richmond location, 401 East Grace Street. Group runs take place starting at 6:00 PM there every Thursday, with routes that circumnavigate the VCU area and Belle Isle.