A hot spot on the Baton Rouge running scene is coming to downtown New Orleans. Happy’s Running Club, the popular running, social and drinking club, which was founded in 2008 at Happy’s Irish Pub in downtown Baton Rouge, will meet for the first time at Happy’s Irish Pub in New Orleans on Wednesday, August 8, at 6 p.m., with the group run starting at 6:15 p.m.
Ever since Happy’s Irish Pub opened about a year ago in New Orleans, runners in the area have anticipated the founding of a New Orleans chapter of the club. “There was lots of talk about doing something down here (in New Orleans),” said Mark Berger, a managing partner at Varsity Sports in New Orleans, who has been instrumental in organizing Happy’s Running Club in New Orleans.
Berger, who lives in New Orleans, was one of the original 17 members of Happy’s Running Club when he lived in Baton Rouge. He worked with Scott Higgins, who along with business partner Michael Lang started Happy’s Running Club in Baton Rouge, to bring the club to New Orleans.
Higgins said he and Lang originally partnered with the Happy’s Irish Pub owners Jack Warner and Brandon Landry to start the club. “We met with Jack and presented the idea. He loved it and (the club) really grew from there. The concept was pretty simple just to have a running club that was much more social,” Higgins explained.
Though the New Orleans club has yet to meet, Berger says more than 200 people have said, through Facebook, they plan to attend the first meeting on Wednesday. “The people who moved from Baton Rouge to New Orleans whether it was for school or just other job opportunities were kind of looking for something like that where it’s like an all-inclusive running group for New Orleans. Obviously, they had probably been with Happy’s down in Baton Rouge as well,” Berger said.
Higgins said a group from Happy’s in Baton Rouge will be heading to New Orleans for the inaugural meeting of Happy’s in New Orleans to show its support for the newly formed group. “We’ll bring roughly 30 people from Baton Rouge. We’ve got a limo bus with about 25, 26 people, and I’ve already talked to several that already going to be in New Orleans for work or whatever reason or just want to drive down themselves,” Higgins said.
Berger stressed that the club is not just for “elite runners” but for anyone 21 years of age or older who wants to join. “It’s really more of a fun a run and not a race. It’s for people to socialize, get some exercise,” Berger said.
Berger also cautions anyone planning to attend the club in New Orleans that safety is more of a concern compared to Baton Rouge because of heavier traffic. He said those attending should remember to obey traffic laws. “Pedestrians don’t always have the right of way. Just follow those kinds of things,” Berger said.
Happy’s Running Club in New Orleans will also partner with charitable organizations including the campaign for a smoke-free Louisiana, Berger said.
Higgins said he and Lang originally started Happy’s Running Club in downtown Baton Rouge to try to revitalize the downtown area. “We both really believe in downtowns and getting people downtown so the downtown portion of it made a lot of sense,” Higgins said. Higgins said the Baton Rouge club now regularly draws 200 to 300 people each week.
For anyone in the Baton Rouge area who has yet to check out Happy’s Running Club there, the club meets every Tuesday at 6 p.m. with the group beginning at 6:15 p.m. at Happy’s Irish Pub in downtown Baton Rouge.