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Ready, Set, Chug

Celebrating two of Tulsa’s favorite things — running and beer — the McNellie’s Pub Run offers plenty of challenges, running, wacky apparel and charitable goodwill.

Rob Harmon
September 28, 2019

We’re pretty sure it was Ernest Hemingway who said, “When you stop doing things for fun, you might as well be dead.” It’s with this spirit in mind that one of Tulsa’s most fun annual racing events has made its way back to the calendar. And it’s just as alive and well as ever, promising to be a whole lot more fun than any of the previous years (if that’s even possible).

The McNellie’s Pub Run is a light-hearted race that goes through downtown Tulsa and past many of the city’s iconic buildings. Starting in front of the Fleet Feet Blue Dome on Second Street and Frankfort Avenue, it weaves through a 4-mile downtown course, ending in front of McNellie’s Pub, where the party continues.

Those who take the infamous Guinness Challenge during the race know all about the good times that can be had during the Pub Run. All you have to do is finish three Guinness beers during the run. Sound insane? Need to be reminded of the earlier quote? It’s all for fun and a cause, with some of the proceeds of the run going to the Hearts of Steel Foundation, a Tulsa organization that supports families experiencing long-term hospital stays due to congenital heart defects.

Running enthusiasts Alicia and Joseph Evans do their best to be a part of the race every year. “It’s super fun,” says Alicia. “We always do the challenge, of course, but I’m a slow drinker. I was nervous the first time, never drinking and running an actual race at the same time. It turns out, it wasn’t that bad.”

Even the people who don’t do the challenge part of the annual race have a blast. It’s a carefree race with all sorts of runners wearing wacky costumes and other outlandish apparel, including Joseph, who, according to his Alicia, wore the most “disgusting” pair of Daisy Dukes during one race.

There are serious runners as well. But for the most part, Alicia says, it’s a big party that one can’t miss.

“It’s a fun, party vibe,” says Tim Dreiling, owner of Fleet Feet Tulsa, the organization that partners with McNellie’s to put on the event.

The idea for the Pub Run was hatched in the latter part of 2005 during lunch, not long after McNellie’s Pub opened. “As we enjoyed our lunch,” says Dreiling, “and perhaps a second beer, I presented an idea to Elliot [Nelson, McNellie’s Pub owner]. To make this thing interesting, we needed to have beer, or beers, during the race. Elliot, of course, thought that was a great idea. He figured he could get Guinness to sponsor the beer. And so, the Guinness Challenge was born.”

The first year of the Pub Run saw over 380 finishers who partied for hours in Tulsa’s then-burgeoning downtown. Fifteen years later, organizers expect close to 1,500 participants crossing the finish line, with over 1,100 accepting the Guinness Challenge. Of course, both Evans and Dreiling say that just because the race is over doesn’t mean the frivolity ends there. After all these years, runners still stick around as long as they can to enjoy Tulsa’s beautiful downtown scene and maybe a pint or two more of Guinness or one of the many amazing Oklahoma-based brews.

New in 2019 is a three-person relay option, where you and two friends can run as a team. The more, the merrier, right? Each team member runs a third of the race. At the end of each leg, the runner must finish a pint of Guinness before the next runner on the team can start their leg of the race.

A 1-mile fun run is available for runners who don’t want to make everyone else look bad.

McNellie’s Pub Run
Nov. 9