Club spotlight: Pacific Beach Run Club members are loving their exercise opportunity and camaraderie
According to its website, the Pacific Beach Run Club is “not a run club,” but “a social club that likes to run.”
This attitude of inclusion and emphasis on socializing is an important part of the group’s goal. The idea is not to focus on your pace, or compare yourself to others in the group, but instead to meet people in Pacific Beach with similar interests and get some exercise in the process.
Todd Barnett created Pacific Beach Run Club when he moved to PB from Detroit in 2020.
“I always had the idea that once I move somewhere warm, I’ll start a run club,” Barnett said.
On Oct. 10, 2020, he did just that. But PBRC, as the members call it, would have been unrecognizable on that first day, as Barnett had only two of his apartment complex neighbors to join him. Nowadays, on average, there are 140 people participating in the biweekly runs on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings.
Want to join?
Pacific Beach Run Club
Where: Pacific Beach Recreation Center, 1405 Diamond Street.
When: Gather at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and 8:30 a.m. on Saturdays, rain or shine.
Good to know: The club can also be found on Instagram @pbrunclub and participants can download its app, Pacific Beach Run Club.
The runners gather at the Pacific Beach Recreation Center basketball courts before the run. New members have their picture taken and introduce themselves to the larger group. Each newcomer shares their name, where they’re from and answers a unique question to allow the group to get to know them better, depending on what Barnett decides to ask that day.
The 3- to 4-mile route is always the same. The group runs down Diamond Street, turns left at the boardwalk, runs on the boardwalk for about 1 mile, crosses over to Mission Bay for another mile or so, then takes Fanuel Street back towards the rec center.
As the runners complete the run, they form a tunnel. When each subsequent runner finishes, he or she runs through a tunnel of smiling, sweaty fellow runners, cheering and giving out high fives.
Club members range from those who have run professionally, to those that allegedly don’t even enjoy running but come for the social aspect. Some bring their dogs, someone brings speakers for music and Barnett runs alongside with a camera snapping photos the whole way.
Barnett makes the runs inclusive of all skill levels by having built-in stops along the way where everyone can catch up, which also provides more time to socialize.
“The barrier to entry is lower so as the group grows (in size), some people might go faster but they adhere to the stops,” Barnett said. This prevents the group from getting too spread out and it also creates the huge mob of people that one will see if trying to drive or walk down Diamond or Fanuel streets at the same time as the run.
After each run, participants have the option to either go to Tap Room (Wednesday nights) or The Mad Beet (Saturday mornings), where runners can get discounts and participate in a raffle for a gift card.
The club also holds other social events, such as a prom night in the fall.
“It’s as hilarious as it sounds,” exclaims Barnett.
There are also beach days when the weather is warm, a dodgeball tournament, and the club has even traveled to Yosemite for a half marathon, which members plan to do again this year.
In regards to the sheer number of participants in the club, Barnett said, “I didn’t set out to do that, this is just some silly idea I had in my head, my original goal was to have 20 people max. The role that (the club) has played in people’s lives has been really cool to see.”
He said it is fun to see the numbers of runners increase so much in the past couple of years, but the real benefit of his efforts is seeing how the club has improved so many people’s lives. People who were lonely, depressed, unsure about their decision to move to San Diego, have been able to find a sense of belonging.
While Barnett deserves a huge amount of credit for creating this thriving club, he is humble about it.
“At this point, this is all of us,” he said. “Everyone plays a role, whether they are reposting pictures, bringing a roommate, telling a coworker.” The group has gotten so large that Barnett is not able to greet every new member, so he entrusts the club to be welcoming and introduce themselves.
Anyone can join, there is no sign up necessary. The only requirements are a pair of running shoes and a willingness to meet new people.