Wednesday Night Laundry Runners

If you stand anywhere near the finish line of Sunday’s Big Sur Marathon, one of the most frequent cheers you’ll overhear is “Go Laundry Runner!” The athletes receiving those cheers aren’t dry cleaners – they’re members of the Monterey Peninsula’s biggest running club.

Laundry Runners are the heart and soul of the Monterey and Salinas running community. The official name of the club is a strange one: the Monterey Bay Wednesday Night Laundry Runners – typically shortened to WNLR - and we are both long time members.

The club has almost 300 members, from all walks of life. Many have been running for decades, but there are also a large number of beginners. There are teenagers and septuagenarians. The percentages of men and women are roughly equal.

The only qualification to become a member is to have a love of running - but that’s not to say there aren’t some serious runners. Over the years, a few WNLRs have become Olympians, and many others compete in local, regional, and national competitions.

The club’s origins go back more than 40 years, to a group of runners who met on a weekly basis every Wednesday night. The meeting place was near the Pacific Grove High School track, across the street from the Mission Laundry office. (The club name makes perfect sense now, right?)

The club’s official newsletter, The Communique - with the apt slogan, “All of the news of the fit in print” – describes it this way: “a loosely organized running club was formed one August in the mid-1960’s after several runners ran as fast as they could through the Del Monte Forest for about an hour and then consumed large quantities of pizza and beverages.” With that, the Wednesday Night Laundry Run was born.

The Laundry Run continues to this day, and anyone is welcome to attend. The 7-mile route starts at 5:30PM, and newcomers are always welcome to join in. Feel free to follow the runners to a pizza joint or local pub afterwards.

There are group runs just about every day of the week, with the largest meeting on Saturdays at 7:15AM near the foot of Ocean Avenue in Carmel, or Sundays at 8:30AM at the Fishwife restaurant in Pacific Grove. The WNLRs also have a strong Salinas contingent, with runners meeting at the Toro Park shopping center at 6:30AM on Saturdays or Sundays. WNLRs can also be found on the track (in Monterey or Salinas) and the trails (Friday 6AM at Garland Park), and at just about every local race.
WNLRs also give back to the Central Coast community in various ways. They serve on race committees and volunteer at races, and donate money towards college scholarships for local high school senior distance runners.

Even if you’re not a marathon runner, there are many benefits to joining the club. It’s probably one of the best bargains in town.

For a mere $15 per year, you get a quarterly newsletter, invitations to free pizza parties and other social activities, and 20% off shoes at The Treadmill in Carmel or Fleet Feet in Monterey, which might offset your membership costs right away. You also receive e-mails announcing events in the running community, and you have access to great advice from fellow runners.
Best of all, you’ll improve your chances of getting in shape, and meet people who are interesting and fun. There are certainly worse ways to spend fifteen bucks.

Check out www.wnlr.org or contact us for more information about the Laundry Runners, and be sure to cheer for them when you see their racing shirts during Sunday’s marathon.

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