Step by step, mile by mile, they run. Up the Pinellas Trail. Down the Pinellas Trail. And then, they rehydrate: with Pale Ale, Apricot Peach Ale and Leonard Croon's Old Mean Stout.
The group Running for Brews meets every Thursday evening at the Dunedin Brewery, 937 Douglas Ave., to run, socialize and drink craft beers.
"I'll take the lightest thing you have," one runner tells a bartender after returning from a several-mile run.
Group founder Kevin Bupp, 32, of Clearwater has loved beer since before he was legally able to drink it. But his wife, 30-year-old Joanna Bupp, isn't as enthusiastic about the beverage.
So last September, Bupp created Running for Brews on Meetup.com, a website that organizes get-togethers. It was a way to meet other runners and entice his wife, who has been running since she was in middle school, to join him at the bar.
About eight people showed up to the first running event, then hosted at the Dunedin House of Beer.
"After we had the one in Dunedin up and going, we thought it would be a cool idea to get started all over Florida, all over the country, so wherever I go I can find a good beer bar and go running," he said.
Running for Brews now has gatherings in Westchase, South Tampa, Lakeland, Wesley Chapel and, as of June 30, St. Petersburg. Although about 15 people showed up on a rainy Thursday last week in Dunedin, the group usually draws at least 20 people each week, Bupp said.
The runners leave the brewery at 7 p.m. every Thursday and follow the Pinellas Trail. Before leaving, Bupp announces turnaround points for those interested in running different distances.
Once the group hits the trail, the runners break off into groups, with Joanna Bupp toward the front, several cyclists racing ahead and Kevin Bupp circling behind to check on the other runners.
"A lot of running groups I've seen in the past were more hard-core runners and a smaller, tighter group," Bupp said. "They're not really welcoming and warm for people who just want to come run a mile."
Runners' experience levels range from beginners to those who have completed an Ironman triathlon, an event consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride and 26.2-mile run.
Eve Barrett of Dunedin, whom the other members call "Iron Mom," joined the group in November and completed an Ironman in Nice, France, in June.
"These guys have been so supportive of me, they were all waiting for me when I got off the plane from France," said Barrett, 40. "It's like a family."
Outfitted in shirts with slogans such as "It's funner with a runner" and "In my dreams, I'm a Kenyan," runners stick around the brewery talking and eating for one or two hours after they run. The brewery offers specials on beer and other drinks for the runners.
Some runners, including Barrett and Joanna Bupp, prefer water or soda to beer once they return to the brewery. The group is more of a social event rather than serious training or drinking, Joanna Bupp said.
Mary Coughlan, 29, of Safety Harbor ran with the group for the first time Thursday and ordered a Leonard Croon's Old Mean Stout afterward. Coughlan has been running regularly for eight months and wanted to meet other runners, she said.
"I don't know anyone that runs," she said. "It's a cool concept. You go out running, come back and have a laugh and a beer."
And does beer do anything for runners?
"Beer has carbohydrates in it, which some people say is good for recovery," Bupp said. "I don't know. I like the taste."
Scott Jessup, 34, of Clearwater has another theory.
"It numbs the pain afterward," he joked.
Katie Park can be reached at (727) 445-4154 or email@example.com.