The day Jesus Jimenez returned from a year in Iraq, he slept. The next day, he ran.
It was a Tuesday and, for Jimenez, Tuesday means Jack Quinn’s Running Club. He’s far, far from alone in his commitment to the weekly 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) run that begins at its namesake downtown bar and restaurant and winds north through Monument Park to Uintah Street before looping back.
The free, 3-year-old running club now attracts nearly 1,000 runners on a typical night and will sign up its 10,000th runner in the next week couple weeks — it’s at 9,805 members now and roughly a hundred new runners sign up every week. More than 2,800 of those runners have completed the 10 runs required to earn a free club T-shirt.
The crowd outside Jack Quinn’s fills half a block before the 6 p.m. start time and runners are packed like sweaty sardines in the restaurant’s upstairs banquet room after finishing.
It’s almost absurd that this low-key, loosely organized fun run has become one of the biggest regular events in the entire city.
“A thousand (runners) is crazy,” said Kerry Page, who founded the club with Ryan Shininger.
Shininger, who has since moved to Boulder, participated in a similar club in Pensacola, Fla., and wanted to continue the tradition after moving to the Springs.
“I didn’t want to tell him I didn’t think anyone would show up,” Page said.
Seventy runners came the first night. Then more. And more. Soon, Page said, they needed more than one clipboard to get people signed up. Then Quinn’s bartenders needed to prepour the $2.50 beers served after the run. Now only the fastest runners make it back in time to partake in the free spaghetti and salad Quinn’s provides.
Why has this particular activity taken hold in the Springs? Why do soldiers and soccer moms and sheriff’s deputies and securities analysts all share this common endeavor?
Karen Evers, the club’s president, thinks the run’s relaxed atmosphere is the key.
“It’s really not that intimidating,” she said. “It’s amazing how many children and families we get. I can’t even tell you how many dogs are out there.”
Meghan Roberson was pushing her two children, 2½-year-old Haley and 1-year-old Kale, in a double stroller at a recent run.
“It’s setting a good example for them,” she said. “I want them to grow up and be active.”
Jimenez said he joined the club because he wanted to get back in shape. He ran two half-marathons while serving as a captain in Iraq and plans to run his first full marathon in January. He’s also one of the volunteers that keeps the club going.
“They got me with a free beer card if I volunteered three times in a row,” Jimenez said. “They suckered me in.”
The run is also known to set hearts racing for reasons besides the pace. It’s fostered a number of relationships.
“There are things to look at while you’re running besides the mountains,” said Lukas Kaliszewski.
How big can the run grow? Hard to say — no one dreamed it would get as big as it has. Every fall, new Colorado College students hear about the club and show up, Evers said, and new soldiers are assigned to Fort Carson and come to run, and there seems to be dozens of folks every week who hear about it from a friend.
“I keep saying, ‘How many people don’t know about us (already)?’” Evers said.
Not everyone who runs drinks afterwards. Quinn’s can’t contain the multitudes, for one thing.
“The majority of people just run it and go,” said Ivette Gallegos, Jack Quinn’s general manager.
She’s not complaining. The run has turned one of Quinn’s slowest nights into a couple hours of pandemonium. Nor is the run’s effect limited to its host restaurant.
“I don’t have a dollar figure impact, but it’s great,” said Ron Butlin, executive director of the Downtown Partnership, who said the run was terrific advertising for downtown.
Luke Travins, co-owner of the Ritz Grill and other downtown restaurants, said the direct impact isn’t huge — a few extra customers on the patio — but he agrees that the club is good for everyone.
“Even though Jack Quinn’s is a competitor of mine, I think their running club is fantastic for downtown,” he said.
Evers says the club’s handful of sponsors provide the shirts, subsidize the beer and cover the insurance. There’s no need and not much appetite to expand the club or make it more organized, she said.
Others, though, are trying to capture the same mobile magic. Salsa Brava sponsors a weekly run, also on Tuesday nights, at both its Rockrimmon and Briargate locations. The crowds are smaller — about 110 runners a week between the two locations, said Sarah Lewis, Salsa Brava Rockrimmon’s general manager, but the goal is the same: Get out and run... then have a drink.
“We were thinking of it as a way to build more of a community feel up here in Rockrimmon and Briargate,” Lewis said. “Some of (our runners) have done the Jack Quinn’s, but they live up here, so they have a choice.”
Good Company Bar and Restaurant in Briargate and Indigo Joe’s Sports Pub near Barnes Road and Powers Boulevard also sponsor weekly runs. Quinn’s members have also served as missionaries, starting clubs elsewhere after they leave the Springs.
“Our founder (Shininger) tried to do one in Boulder and it hasn’t taken off at all,” Evers said. “I think we’re a rare breed here.”
COLORADO SPRINGS RUNNING CLUBS
1.Jack Quinn’s Running Club
When: 6 p.m. Tuesdays
Where: Jack Quinn Irish Alehouse and Pub, 21 S. Tejon St., 385-0766
More info: jackquinnsrunners.com
2. Nacho Ordinary Running Club
When: 6 p.m. Tuesdays
Where: Salsa Brava Fresh Mexican Grill
802 Village Center Dr., 266-9244
9420 Briar Village Point, 955-6650
More info: salsabravaonline.com
3. Good Company Running Club
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursdays
Where: Good Company Bar and Restaurant, 7625 N. Union Blvd., 528-8877,
More info: goodcompanybar.com
5. Indigo Joe’s Running Club
When: 6 p.m. Thursdays
Where: Indigo Joe’s Sports Pub, 6120 Barnes Rd., 302-0969
More info: lqarteam.com/running_club