DOWNTOWN — While it may not be the ideal situation in which to meet a future love interest or your next employer, fitness fanatics are falling for Function Runs, networking events that unite bring the gym and the nightclub together for one sweaty night of conversation.

It’s not networking, it’s sweatworking.

Instead of the stale mixers featuring cold appetizers and watered-down drinks, the marketing minds at Equinox gym and Function, the makers of alternative energy drinks, have created a new way to mingle that incorporates a 2-and-a-half mile jog through Palisades Park along with the bar experience — all while promoting their products.

Every Wednesday evening at 6:30, those interested in shrinking their waste lines while expanding their social circles gather in front of Equinox to stretch and chat before a brisk jog supervised by trainers from the fitness club. Along the way, strangers interact and possibly continue their discussions at The Yard bar and restaurant, which offers drink specials and food for the famished.

Following the runs, PUMA raffles off prizes while offering tips on the right equipment to wear while working out. Function provides samples of their various drinks, from the Urban Detox to Shock Sports. The drinks are designed by doctors and incorporate all-natural ingredients used to treat patients.

“[The runs are] very much in tune with our work hard, play hard mentality,” said Josh Simon, co-founder and marketing director of Function, which was created in 2004 in an apartments in Santa Monica and West Hollywood by three friends.

“We are always looking for fun ways to promote the drinks and I think one of the things we try to focus on is combining the functionality of the drinks with our healthy, active consumer base,” Simon said.

And for the sweaty bodies packed in a bar after the runs, Simon said, “I feel that is what life is like at a bar on any given night. It’s not that different.”

On a recent Wednesday around 25 people showed up at Equinox, with runners ranging from trained triathletes to couch potatoes looking to get back in shape.

Engineer Hari Iyer, 28, of Culver City, considers himself somewhere in between. He is training for a mini marathon in Santa Barbara in May and wanted to vary his routine. He found out about the Function Runs through Yelp.com, a Function partner.

“I need to run and this is a way to get me out of my chair and my legs moving,” he said as she stretched his legs amongst the chatter of fellow joggers. “It’s a cool group of young people who are for the most part like-minded. … It helps you create another circle of friends who are interested in working out and being healthy.”

Diana Lee wasn’t as interested in mingling as she was in shedding a few pounds. The 29-year-old Brentwood resident saw the Function Runs on Yelp.com and decided to check it out last week, her first run. She liked the idea of working out with a group, feeling the more people involved the more motivated she would be to run.

“Sometimes it’s hard to exercise, especially during the middle of the week. You start to feel a bit lazy,” Lee said as she fiddled with her iPod. “I wouldn’t mind making a new exercise partner.”

Those participating said the runs are good marketing tools for all involved. Function gets to promote its new drinks, and hand out free samples, while Equinox, PUMA and The Yard are able to introduce themselves to those who may be unfamiliar with them.

“We are participating because we like to expand the experience of our members,” said Erica Gomez, membership director of Equinox. “Some of our members miss running outdoors. This lets them know that we are not just a gym, but rather a wellness facility that is about running, hiking, surfing. We are more of a lifestyle brand and we show members that we have interesting, unique ideas.”

The run itself is designed for all fitness levels. Some run full speed for the entire 2 miles while others walk, hoping to build their strength during the eight week program, which ends May 6.

“I think a lot of people who participate are there to find other people or other resources in the fitness industry, or just a cool hangout. It really attracts all kinds,” Gomez said. “I think we’re really past the fact that we’re sweaty and yucky. After a long day at work, people just want to enjoy the run and have fun at night.”

kevinh@smdp.com