Happy Run

Runners take off from Happy’s Irish Pub on 3rd Street in downtown Baton Rouge at the start of the weekly 5K run. (Credit: Haylie Navarre)
Runners take off from Happy’s Irish Pub on 3rd Street in downtown Baton Rouge at the start of the weekly 5K run. (Credit: Haylie Navarre)

By Haylie Navarre | LSU Student

After a long day, it can seem impossible to get off the couch and go for a run. But Baton Rouge resident Andre France manages to do it every Tuesday at 6 p.m. with two toddlers in tow.

France is a regular with Happy's Running Club, the capital city's unofficial social running club. Each week, he runs a 5K downtown while pushing a stroller with his daughter Amelie, 4, and son Max, 2.

France is just one of 100 to 150 people who meet Tuesday evenings, rain or shine, in front of Happy's Irish Pub on 3rd Street. The practice was launched in March of 2008 by Scott Higgins and Michael Lang. The races begin on 3rd Street in downtown Baton Rouge and routes vary. Runners use streets that are not barricaded or blocked by police.

Higgins said one day he was reading a story in Runner's World magazine about different running clubs across the country that hold regular 5Ks in their respective cities. It was something Baton Rouge could use, he thought. He wanted to give the club a social aspect, drawing participants with food and beer.

He approached Jack Warner and Brandon Landry, owners of area restaurants and bars such as Walk-Ons, Schlitz and Giggles, Roux House and Happy's Irish Pub. They liked the idea and two weeks later they had a plan.

In their initial outing, 15 people showed up. By the next week, the number doubled. The club has grown to be one of the largest running clubs in the South with more than 1,000 members.

Higgins described the club as the "Trojan horse of running."

"We get you down here with beer and pizza—next thing you know you're running marathons."

Baton Rouge resident J. C. Rawls, 46, is a regular. Rawls started about a year after the club was formed. He joined for the social aspect, but appreciates the fitness aspect as well. "You can meet up with your friends and other people of like interests."

Accountant with Honeywell in Baton Rouge, Dan Hubner, 22, began participating in the runs when he moved to Baton Rouge in September. He isn't an avid runner, but he said after his first run with the club he liked it enough to come back.

"This is the only running I do," said Hubner, "The crowd gets me motivated."

While the club encourages exercise, the go-at-your-own-pace attitude makes it accessible to people of all fitness levels. Higgins said the group ranges from former collegiate runners to walkers who have never done a 5K in their lives.

Running Club intern Jeanne-Claire White said it isn't about being the fastest runner. No one is judging. "You don't have to be a good runner or an active runner. You can walk it all."

Higgins, who does not consider himself to be an elite runner, said one of the most rewarding aspects of the club is to watch people progress, adapting with exercise and running on their own outside of the club. According to Higgins, the hardest part is getting started.

"We just need to get you out here and get you to be a part of it."