People who push their bodies to endure miles upon miles are pretty crazy, but there are some benefits to hanging out with them. When a locally-owned running store recently had its grand opening, I camped out with hundreds of other runners and waited for the doors to open. I was the third runner to arrive, and the two people in front of me (read crazier than me) ran seven miles to the store. We huddle under blankets on the sidewalks and shared running stories and upcoming race plans. For being among the earliest and most enthusiastic runners, we received gift cards for the running store and a technical T-shirts.
Today is Small Business Saturday, an American Express-declared holiday to promote shopping locally during the holiday season. For every $100 spent at a locally-owned business, about $68 stays in the local economy. Whereas the same $100 spent at a national chain retailer keeps only about $43 in your community.
I prefer to shop at small, locally-owned, running-specific shops over the larger multi-sport chains because of the customer service and camaraderie. Many local running shops offer training programs and discounts to repeat customers. They are staffed by people who eat, breathe and sleep running, who will remember your face and your last race.
Running-specific stores not only have specialty shoes you won’t find at sporting good stores and larger chain retailers, but their employees also are athletes and often have the training and knowledge to help you find the gear that will best fit your stride.
They also offer training programs and group runs, often with discounted or free merchandise. When I paid $60 for a 10-week winter speed session program with Fleet Feet earlier this year, they gave all the participants a pair of Saucony ViziPro Ultimate Mitts. The mittens equipped with a removable LED light and stash pocket, retailed for $50.
Since running stores are all about running and run by runners, they are in-the-know about local races and race directors often give them discount race registration codes to ensure there are runners on their start lines.
They also will bring sports medicine experts and coaches into the store for free clinics on running form, recovery and health. Before my first triathlon, I attended a “Try a Tri” workshop at a local running store. And earlier this month, I meet blogger and author Matt Frazier of No Meat Athlete when a local running store hosted his book signing.
I hope this Saturday, or the next time you’re in need of running gear, you’ll support your local running shop. Use this store finder to locate locally-owned running shops in your area.
Question of the Week: Where do you purchase your running gear?