Kourtney Thomas discovered Happy’s Running Club while living in Baton Rouge, La., where it has more than 1,000 members and weekly runs that draw anywhere from 200 to 500 people. Seeing potential in St. Louis, she recreated the club when she moved here last year. “Happy’s puts the fun part first. Running is just the way to bring us together.”

What brought you to St. Louis?

I originally moved to St. Louis in 2008 and lived here for a little over a year before my husband was relocated to Baton Rouge for work. It was there we were introduced to Happy’s Running Club. After about 18 months, my husband took a new job and we moved back to St. Louis. We’d gotten really involved in the fitness community in Baton Rouge, including running with Happy’s every Tuesday, and I was pretty sad to leave it.

What motivated you to recreate Happy’s here?

When we got back to St. Louis, I searched out some of the local social runs and really didn’t find a good fit. As a transplant, I found that the established clubs could be intimidating, perhaps giving a feel of exclusivity, and were mostly competitive, even if they talked about casual running on paper. The biggest component I found missing in St. Louis was that big-time fun factor. That’s when I decided I needed to bring Happy’s here.

What makes Happy’s different from other running clubs or groups?

Well, we meet at a bar! Happy’s is designed to bring people together socially around a beer, and sneak in the exercise part. We love being a club where new and old friends can come together every week, year round, rain or shine. We share common interests but learn about new ones, too. And everybody gets in some activity on an otherwise dull work night.

Describe a typical Happy’s run. What can attendees expect?

We meet at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays at The Royale. If it’s warm out, we’re on the back patio. If we can’t stand the cold, we’re inside. Everyone catches up for a few minutes, and I start announcements, including which route we’re doing that night. Then, everyone heads out for the three-mile run. We regroup at the start point before heading back to the bar, where we bring our sweaty selves to the bartenders to get our awesome beer specials and relax and have some fun. Attendees can expect a wide range of runners, from those who only run or walk on Tuesday nights, to those who compete in races regularly. Strollers and dogs are welcome. You can drink, or you don’t have to. But laughing is mandatory.

What are your goals and ambitions for the club?

Just one night a week has been a difference-maker for many of our members in the last year, forging friendships they wouldn’t have made, reaching goals they might not have pushed for, exploring new parts of town, and adding a little extra fun to their week. Happy’s is a huge part of the community in Baton Rouge, and I’d love for it to have the same prevalence here in St. Louis. We’d love to work with more local races, businesses, and organizations to encourage making running fun.

Happy’s Running Club