Leslie Ballantyne simply wanted to meet other runners when she moved to Portland in 2014. So she created a running club on Facebook modeled after one she ran with in New Hamsphire.

Old Port Pub Run has no membership, no cost and no scorecard. People show up and run – anywhere from 20 to 50 on a given week – then share stories over drinks at Liquid Riot in Portland.

But for the regulars, many of them millenials, the club is unusual in its old-fashioned ideals that suggest we treat others with kindness, slow down and take time to listen to those around us.

At a time when many interact largely on social media, Pub Run runners say this gathering offers a more human connection. And they said the group’s spirit comes from Ballantyne, 34.

“I came a year ago after my boyfriend dumped me,” said Shelby Kaplan, 32. “I knew I needed to get out of my apartment and be with others. I felt like, ‘Who will I talk to? Who will I run with?’ I was so nervous the first day. By the end, I knew I’d be back. It is the highlight of my week.”

After moving from Boston, Alex Denniston planned to try Pub Run six to 10 times to see if he liked it, but it didn’t take that long. He was instantly hooked.


“I told myself it might take me time before I get to know people and talk to them,” said Denniston, 32. “It took of all of 90 seconds before Leslie came over to me and said, ‘You’re a new person,’ and was super welcoming and kind. She welcomes everyone. That’s a huge piece of it. And everyone follows her lead. But it is her lead. She’s positive. And if she sees someone running alone she runs with them. Running is a solo sport. The support here is massive.”

Ballantyne ran in high school and college and finished the Boston Marathon in 3 hours, 10 minutes, a swift 7:15 pace. But Pub Run isn’t about running fast. Among its tribe, the unspoken goal is to be kind and pay it forward, just like the Pub Run founder.

“I enjoy connecting people,” Ballantyne said. “I’m blown away by what it’s become.”

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