At packet pick-up for this weekend’s Run n’ Mate 5K, runners will be taking home more than just a technical T-shirt and a bib. They’ll also be getting a buzz from the free drink (and 2-for-1 specials thereafter) — and maybe even a phone number.
Holding pre-race festivities at a bar instead of a running store is just one of the ways Zach Burstein, owner of Bolt Racing, is trying to turn his events into a weekend’s worth of fun. This summer, he’s introduced the concept with the Run n’ Mate series, three races sandwiched between Friday night happy hour packet pick-ups and Saturday nights out with more drinks.
“We think of it as kickball for runners,” says Burstein, who knows a lot of folks out there don’t want a 5K to end just because they’ve reached the finish line.
The first race in the series was slated for July 20 at National Harbor, but because of water main shut-off concerns, the running part was canceled. The packet pick-up, however, went on as scheduled at Buffalo Billiards in Dupont Circle.
That worked out well for Andrew Kearney, 23, who enjoyed nachos and beer with his friends without worrying about having to wake up early for the race the next morning.
“I’d probably have to set three alarms for myself,” said the Baltimore County resident. “The deals are so good, we keep going [up] to the bar.”
Kearney, who registered for the race with his girlfriend, was on the prowl for buddies only. And despite the “mate” part of the name, Burstein wants runners to know the events aren’t exclusively for singles.
“We’re creating opportunities for people to meet each other,” Burstein says. “You show up, get a wristband, know everyone is part of the event. It’s a natural ice breaker.”
Over by the pool tables, Lauren Taylor, 29, and Rahja Sharp, 24, realized they both had on the telltale yellow paper bracelets.
“I like to run, but I don’t do it often. This is non-threatening — with the people here, it doesn’t seem like I’m in a competition,” Taylor said. Sharp revealed that he’s new to both the city and the sport: “I knew this area was populated with runners.”
They’ve all gotten an extra month to train for this weekend’s 5K, which kicks off with happy hour packet pick-up at The Bungalow in Shirlington. The race itself is by the Eisenhower Avenue Metro Station in Alexandria on Saturday morning. The festivities continue that night at downtown’s Lima Lounge. (Cover and one drink ticket is included.)
Not into clubbing? The final Run n’ Mate of the year, on Sept. 21, has a completely different set of venues: Packet pick-up is at Whitlow’s on Wilson in Arlington, the run is in West Potomac Park and the afterparty is at a Nationals game.
“It could get stale to keep going to the same bar, and the same race course,” Burstein says.
The only relationships he’s looking to develop are between people.
Details: Register for Run n’ Mate events ($39 each) at runnmate5k.com. If you can’t make packet pick-up between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Friday at The Bungalow (2766 S. Arlington Mill Drive, Arlington), you can get your bib before the start of the 8 a.m. race on Saturday in Alexandria.