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“To the Professor!” Fishtown Beer Runners Host Inaugural Beer Runners Summit

“To the professor!”

It has been the iconic three-word toast and rallying cry for the Fishtown Beer Runners for nearly a decade. The quirky running group ends each of their weekly runs with a frosty beverage and a salute to the man whose hydration research inspired them to combine their passion for responsible running and drinking in the interest of science.


/Shannon Sims for Bachrach Photography

For the first time, the professor was in Fishtown last month to share the toast with them as part of inaugural Beer Runners Summit sponsored by Jefferson University and the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center. Dr. Manuel Castillo of the University of Granada Medical School made his first ever trip to Philadelphia from Spain for the four-day event, which took place from April 19-22. He was given a rock star welcome to the City of Brotherly Love with beer runners and Mummers greeting him as he stepped off his plane at Philly International.

Throughout the week, Jefferson University hosted a number of panels and roundtable discussions centered on the positive effects of running on health and happiness. On Friday night there was a free screening of Beer Runners, Justin Wirtalla’s award-winning 2014 documentary that explores the group’s formation and rise to international prominence in the running world. On Saturday, April 22, Dr. Castillo followed a talk by author Chris McDougal with a presentation of his original research that inspired Fishtown’s David April to found the beer running club in 2007. The professor’s conclusion? Drinking a small amount of beer after moderate exercise has no deleterious effects on health and, in fact, may positively affect mood and social interactions.

Jefferson Un. Beer Runners Symposium 2017 -Bachrach-3935

“The Professor” speaks at a beer running symposium at Jefferson University on April 22nd. /Shannon Sims for Bachrach Photography

Between the university sponsored panels, the group showed Dr. Castillo the sights and sounds of Philadelphia. The professor joined hundreds of beer runners for their weekly run through the city on Thursday night, pausing for photo ops at the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Then there was an after party at Frankford Hall, complete with Electro Lyte, a custom beer created by the Philadelphia Brewing Company specifically for the event. The group even took part in the March for Science as part of an impromptu fun run through Center City on Saturday morning.

Over lunch (and a beer) at the end of an action-packed weekend, David April and the professor thought back on their chance correspondence nearly a decade ago and the global ramifications of their unlikely friendship. Since the founding of the Fishtown Beer Runners in 2007, chapters have sprung up across the United States, Canada and around the world.

The Beer Runners Summit welcomed chapters from as far away as Las Vegas, Nevada and Charleston, South Carolina as well as a number of closer chapters from Elkins Park, Manayunk and Chambersburg in Pennsylvania. Dr. Castillo ended his presentation with a recorded video message from more than two dozen beer runner chapters in his native Spain.

While April credits Dr. Castillo for the group’s success, the humble professor is quick to put the spotlight back on Mr. April.

“It’s so incredible. It’s his accomplishment. It’s not mine. It’s his way of doing things and organizing things,” said Castillo.

When asked their thoughts on the deep personal impact they’ve made on thousands of lives – people who have formed lasting friendships, relationships or even married fellow beer runners – the pair said that they are continually humbled by it all.

“It’s kind of mind-boggling. I never intended for this to happen…it just kind of spontaneously developed,” April said. “I’m a connector. When someone tells me they’re interested in something, my immediate reaction is to pair them up or introduce them to someone who also has a similar interest. I don’t know why. That’s just my natural inclination. I get a lot of satisfaction when I’m able to introduce people to people they don’t know and they’re able to share new experiences.”

Castillo again deflected credit to David April. “I am a humble scientist whose work does not interest anyone; only a few [other] scientists. Then suddenly there appears a connector who was able to connect science to the real people,” said Castillo. “It’s also connecting mentalities… that science can go out of the labs and scientific centers and go to the public. And that’s what he did. He’s changed the lives of people who have gotten married or maybe they just were a little lonely and they found him and now they have new relationships. That’s his merit.”

While Castillo stands by his work, he is a medical professional and is acutely aware of the negative impacts of excessive alcohol intake. He was careful to stress the importance of moderation in all aspects of life during his official presentations and in the interview with Spirit News.

“As Paracelsus the alchemist said, ‘The poison is in the dose.’ I defy you to find one single good thing that in excess continues to be a good thing. There is none, because the very definition of excess is too much,” Castillo said.

April echoed that sentiment. “There a lot of beer runners that are a part of the medical community — we have doctors, nurses, scientists that all support and understand that you practice what you preach — everything in moderation. And they recognize that there are some social and biological benefits to having a beer,” he added.


David April and Dr. Manuel Castillo. /Shannon Sims for Bachrach Photography

Before the two men parted ways with a photograph in front of the neon façade of McGillin’s Olde Ale House (at the professor’s Insistence), they pondered the future and the next steps for the beer runners.

“One aspect of the Summit is that we brought together the captains, leaders of each chapter to talk about the direction we’re heading in. I think you’re going to see a growth of more chapters coming online, but also a stronger sense of chapters supporting and promoting each other. The summit was really a catalyst to bring everyone together and to create this sense of reassurance and rededication that we’re all on the same page,” April said.

So, will there be another Beer Runners Summit in the future? “I think so. Maybe we’ll have to do this again in Spain,” April suggested.

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