RAISE A PINT LADS. The Flying Irish Running Club is at it again. On March 6th, just a wee bit before St Patrick’s Day, the soon-to-be world famous Spokane running club will commence their third season, rain or shine, in front of O’Doherty’s Irish Grille.

For sure, the Flying Irish title is misleading. You don’t need to be Irish to join. No dues, no penalties, no age minimums or maximums, and no ivy green uniforms. You don’t even need to run. Basically, the Flying Irish creed centers on these three elements: 1.) We run every Thursday. Meet at 5:45 PM and run at 6:00 PM. Walk, jog, slog, or fly for about three miles. 2.) Show-up six times and you are awarded, via some sort of pseudo-ritualistic ceremony, the world famous Flying Irish Running Club Shirt. 3.) The coveted shirt is good for O’Doherty’s food and drink specials after the run.

The club founder, Peter Breach, credits the idea to an Irish running club in Pensacola, Florida, which in turn spawned other Irish running clubs across the country. Peter ducks praise, and dutifully points to the generous sponsors that make the Flying Irish possible. However, most participants agree that his genius has taken the friendly gathering to a whole other level.
Avid participant Chris Wells points out one of the most appreciated adjustments, “These aren’t just cotton T-shirts. Runners have dresser drawers FULL of cotton t-shirts from road races. This is a real, technical fabric, wicking t-shirt that a real runner would wear.”

Peter also deserves credit for pinpointing the best location possible. O’Doherty’s sits right across the street from the south side of Riverfront Park and the treasured Centennial Trail. It also falls midway between the fitness-minded Spokane Club and the athlete/athlete-enthusiasts of Gonzaga and the other U-District campuses. Best of all, Spokane’s leading runner-focused retailer, the Runners Soul, is barely a block away.

The success of the Flying Irish Running Club focuses on four aspects that attract over a hundred runners each week. First, the location plays a significant role, not just in convenience and demographics, but also in promoting Downtown Spokane and paying tribute to the beloved running statues on the southwest corner of Riverfront Park. Second, the exercise benefits are a no-brainer; who can argue with a modest 5k outing? Third, the social factor is a huge part of the club. Many of the Flying Irish train for additional races, marathons or even team relays throughout the year – and this gathering easily lends itself to pooling information, finding training partners, or unwinding a little bit before the weekend kicks off. Fourth, there’s no denying the tangible incentives -a FREE shirt, great beer and great food specials, and all the Irish jokes you can take.

Peter reiterates, “The most common question I get is ‘Does it cost anything’? and I always tell people ‘It only costs time. You show up six times and you earn a free shirt. What other exercise club offers free clothing, half-price food & drink, and a chance to make new friends at no monetary cost?”

So far, over 800 people have shown up, and with 100 plus runners and walkers a week over 250 have been ‘shirted’. The club is roughly 60% female, by ‘shirts’ and by sign up. Roughly half the people participate for a shirt and then fade away, but that doesn’t bother Peter one bit. So long as people sign a waiver, and they’re respectful to other runners, the fun is endless. Just check out their website for the photo galleries of costumes and holiday celebrations. You’ll find them at www.flyingirish.org

No doubt, the Flying Irish exhibits every fitness level imaginable from walking, to jogging with a stroller, to guys flat-out racing each other. Routinely, The Flying Irish give away entries to Bloomsday Road Runner Club (BRRC) events and they work with the BRRC to promote long-distance running across the area. Breach adds. “We have walkers who’ve started running and runners who have used our group to step up and run their first marathons.”

All in all, the Flying Irish Running Club is 50% running and 50% Tom Foolery. No shamrocks or coveted luck necessary, just your running shoes and a smile. Hope to see you March 6th.