Rogue events offer fun, fitness without hassles

Grassroots fitness events rely on social media and other forms of free promotion to get the word out on events.

Among the growing fitness trends in the United States,made possible by social media, is rogueish, under-the-radar cycling and running events that are typically free or inexpensive and less about competition and more about communion.

The events, which are smaller and not driven by money or sponsors, are a stark contrast to highly organized events, from the monstrous Cooper River Bridge Run and Walk to mud runs and color runs, the latter of which are charging between $50 and $100 for an event that often is no longer than 3.1 miles.

Beer seems to be a theme in these events. Among them are the Pacers & Pints monthly group runs, periodic "Brew to Brew" runs between local breweries and the Pint Pedal, a low-key (and speed) bike ride from Palmetto Brewing in Charleston to Coast Brewing in North Charleston that was held in June. The fee for the latter was $5 and it quickly reached its 125-person cap.

Other bike rides this year were the Halloween-themed "Night of the Riding Dead" and the much more civilized Tweed Ryde, where participants were asked to wear proper attire, including tweed, during a slow tour of downtown Charleston.

Perhaps the most organized of these un-organized events has been a series of low-key running events put on by OnShore Racing, the brainchild of running buddies Rocky Cundari and Virginia Wininger.

OnShore's tagline description is "a quixotic running experience."

Cundari and Wininger definitely have thrown out the formula when it comes to holding events, starting with the first one. The May Day Marathon and Half Marathon was held on May 1 and followed what I believe to be Charleston's ideal marathon route: Isle of Palms to Folly Beach via downtown Charleston. About 35 people did the event and not one cop was needed to control traffic.

They also held a Spooky Skyline Shuffle on Oct. 27 that started at one downtown parking garage and ended at another.

OnShore will hold a Winter Solstice 5K at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, timed with the regular closure of Hampton Park's Mary Murray Boulevard to traffic on Saturday mornings.

Winter Solstice will kick off OnShore's Follow the Sun Series, followed by a Spring Equinox 10K on March 22, Summer Solstice 5K on June 21 and Fall Equinox 10K on Sept. 20. The fee for the Winter run is $11.

Other plans for 2014 include another May Day Marathon and Half, again on May 1, and a Valentine's Day "couples run" (singles can show up and be paired with someone).

Cundari and Wininger are adopting the time frame of the now-defunct Daniel Island race series. The series, held on Thursdays, will now be the Thirsty Thursday Summer Series and will have dates that won't conflict with the Race the Landing 5K Series. OnShore's Thirsty Thursday events will be May 29, June 26, July 24 and Aug. 28.

Wininger says they don't want OnShore to compete with other running events. There's plenty of that already.

And whatever nominal fee they may charge will cover the costs of refreshments and a donation to charity, notably the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

But she still thinks there is a hunger for people getting together to exercise for "fun, fitness and philanthropy." And I think it's great that people want to get together without all the logistical hubbub that requires police, halted cars and portable toilets.