Building Community Through Sweat (And Beer) in North Carolina

What happens when ten dead whales walk into a bar?

It sounds like the beginning of an odd science joke but in reality, it’s just a normal Tuesday night in Raleigh.

Every week, a group of North Carolina Courage and North Carolina FC supporters meet at the London Bridge Pub as part of the Dead Whales Society Run Club.

The name, as odd as it may sound, is an ode to the history of North Carolina.

According to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh was once a burial site for whale bones. In the early 1900’s, local scientists and museum staff would travel to the North Carolina coast to help clean and transport the remains of beached whales found along the shores. When they brought them back, the bones would be buried and undergo a cleansing process of sand and manure. At first, this process took place at the State Fairgrounds, but they later moved the location to the outskirts of Raleigh. Today, that location is WakeMed Soccer Park, where North Carolina Courage and North Carolina FC call home.

So naturally, when this unique backstory was discovered, the supporters of North Carolina Courage and North Carolina FC decided to honor the region’s history in the best way they could think of.

Thus, the Dead Whales Society was born.

The Dead Whales Society is a collective of supporter groups that includes The Uproar (NC Courage) and Oak City Supporters (NCFC).

Among the long list of community initiatives and social events they host, the run club is one of the newest additions.

“It’s a really great way to spend time with my soccer family outside of a game” shared Geof Levine, run club founder and member of the Dead Whales Society.

Earlier in the 2021 season, Geof decided he wanted to get back into running. With the pandemic slowing and outdoor activity becoming safer, he knew it was time to lace up his running shoes, but he also didn’t want to do it alone. He figured there might be other people like him who were eager to burn off those extra calories gained during isolation.

After connecting with a few other interested members within the two supporters group, Geof mapped out a route in downtown Raleigh that intentionally included a stop by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences to pay homage to the original dead whale.

At first, one person showed up. The next week, two. As the 2021 season progressed, so did the number of people who joined the Tuesday night workout.

Now, nearly a dozen members of the Dead Whale Society meet at London Bridge Pub in downtown Raleigh before heading out for a run or walk around the city. Some people opt for a three mile loop, others prefer to walk together or run a shorter distance.

After walking and running, everyone comes back together at the bar to catch their breathes and share a beer or two.

“It just feels good,” said Jess Joyner, another member of the run club. “It’s a nice way to break up the week and get a serotonin boost, while also spending time with good people in the community.”