Brian O'Neill's Irish Pub (5555 Morningside), the eight-year-old favorite hangout of Rice-area residents and Medical Center folk, has the typical Irish pub fixings.
There are, of course, lots of wooden accents, leather lounging furniture and heavy-looking doors. The pub offers nearly 60 different types of whiskeys and vodkas, televisions to watch sports on and a kitchen that serves up pub fare.
But O'Neill's has one thing you wouldn't expect to find there, or any other bar, for that matter: its own running club.
Brian O'Neill's Irish Pub
Every Tuesday since October 2008, masses of individuals have gathered early in the evening to participate in what's aptly been dubbed Brian O'Neill's Running Club. Essentially, people filter in beginning around 5:30 p.m., stretch a bit, run a 5K section of the track that circles a portion of Rice University behind the pub, then regroup at the bar for free beer, pasta and salad.
What started as a modest group of about 25 runners, organized by David Lee, CEO of the biotechnology company Nano3D Biosciences, has grown to include more than 2,200 members. Between 200 and 400 show up each Tuesday.
"We did almost no marketing," says Lee of the club's expansion. "It's all been word-of-mouth. People really enjoy how low-key everything is. They're really surprised by everything. We get everything from first-time runners to some really elite runners. Every Tuesday we're seeing anywhere from 20 to 60 new runners."
Last Tuesday was no different. By about 5:45 p.m., hordes of short-shorted people were fluttering around Brian O'Neill's front section, both regular runners waiting to sign in — after so many runs, you get free shirts, glass mugs, etc. — and newbies waiting to sign up (you have to sign a waiver when you first start; that way you can't sue them if you die). Everyone was exchanging pleasantries with one another.
"I've been coming since August and have met a lot of good people," says Adam Johnson, a 35-year-old former Army Ranger and current marathoner who speeds the entire distance like his legs are on loan from a superhero. "It's a great place to network and socialize and make new friends."
Theresa Torres, who was a regular marathon runner in the early '80s but stopped when her son was born, says the running club has helped rekindle her love of running over the past two years. Now she shows up every Tuesday.
"I went once when it was cold, rainy and sleeting a little," says Torres. "I ran with a plastic raincoat on, one of those ones you get from the 99-cent store. I saw others with running jackets on. Quite a few people showed up, even with the bad weather."
Lee says that although there certainly are pockets of Houston where people regularly practice healthy lifestyle habits, there aren't nearly as many as there could be. Still, he's happy to be doing his part to help.
"It's not something I started to make money," he says. "We do work with different philanthropies occasionally. We actually just hosted a fund-raiser that raised $8,000 for the Ronald McDonald House. It's something that a lot of people enjoy."
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Indeed they do. Oh, and one helpful tip: Drinking beer after you run is a great idea. Drinking beer before you run, however, will not work out well for you.
More changes are afoot at Wired Live (1503 Chartres). Mike Kelley, who has been the general manager and talent buyer at the former Meridian since the new owners bought the club and changed the name last year, told the Press last week that he is leaving the club next month and reopening the old Engine Room (1515 Pease) as The Warsaw. The first show scheduled is May 22 with Jeffree Star and Brokencyde, and Kelley's On Stage Events will continue booking occasional shows at Wired Live, as well as Mango's (403 Westheimer), Rudyard's (2010 Waugh), Walter's on Washington (4215 Washington) and Warehouse Live (813 St. Emanuel). On Stage has also taken over booking live music at Numbers (300 Westheimer), and Kelley plans to book two or three shows a week at the 850-capacity Montrose venue after some basic renovations including new lighting and sound systems. See a complete list of upcoming On Stage shows at www.myonstageevents.com.