Many people say that women really do run this business, so the editors of Running Insight took a look at who the women are who are making the most impact in the world of run specialty these days. This list of 25 Women to Watch in Run Specialty in 2022 includes retailers, brand executives, athletes, influencers and entrepreneurs — and one pair of sisters. These remarkable women – and dozens more like them – really do influence the business of run specialty as well as the lives of millions of people.
Burke Beck • Stephanie and Carrie Blozy • Christine Bowen • Jen Brummitt • Anne Cavassa • Kathy Dalby • Alison Désir • Monica DeVrees • Martha Garcia • Kara Goucher • Christina Henderson • Gina Lucrezi • Bekah Metzdorff • Catherine Moloznik • Kelly O’Cadiz • Britt Olson • Nicole Otto • Cathy Pugsley • Megan Searfoss • Molly Seidel • Dawna Stone • Keri Straughn • Shannon Woods • Wendy Yang
AFter a 2021 highlighted by a bronze medal in the Olympic marathon and a 2:24 finish in New York City, what might Seidel do for an encore? She has a yet-to-be-determined spring marathon on her radar as well as donning the USA singlet at the 2022 World Championships marathon in Eugene this summer. The affable Notre Dame alum also has hopes of making pro running “more relatable” to the general running community, including removing the intimidation factor that seems to hinder everyday folks from embracing the sport.
On being a key figure in Puma’s running renaissance: “I’m going to continue to demonstrate to people that Puma is back in the running scene in a big way and excited to show what this is. Aside from obviously racing and training in Puma gear, I’m always happy to be testing innovations with their product and innovation teams. This includes also being able to use a new race day shoe, the Fast-R, which I’ve been really excited about for a long time now. I can’t wait to run a marathon in that.”
CEO and Partner
Now in her 20th year with Washington, D.C.-based Pacers Running, Dalby touts 2022 as “our year.” After spending much of 2021 investing in and building the infrastructure necessary to propel Pacers Runnings’ best-in-class ambitions, Dalby is steering Pacers Runnings’ energized charge into the future. The six-location retailer has employees across all divisions sprinkled coast-to-coast, inclusive storytelling ready to roll, deep product inventory and the necessary tech solutions to support its vision of national service alongside local brick-and-mortar retail.
On run specialty’s future: “We are an industry of helpers who believe in healthy communities and if we continue with our north star of helping as many people as possible through running, we can enact some real and positive change in the lives of our employees and our customers.”
General Manager, North America
Olsen’s top priorities for 2022 include advancing On’s efforts in performance, design, sustainability, culture and impact. She teases upcoming moves from the Swiss brand “around social and environmental impact” and touts the potential of “Right to Run,” On’s upstart program dedicated to bringing safety, access, awareness and inclusion to marginalized groups across many circles of oppression.
Lessons from the pandemic: “Prioritizing the health of your team should always be top of mind, even when we aren’t in a pandemic. A happy, healthy team is willing and able to find a solution to any problem. They are eager to collaborate and they thrive with agility.”
DeVreese, who is also the co-owner of California’s Santa Barbara Running Co., continues steering rabbit’s impressive growth. In the coming year, the apparel brand will unveil partnerships in the sustainability and women’s empowerment sectors. The company will also be involved with the Silo District Marathon in Waco, TX, an April event armed with the star power of HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines, to support the cancer-fighting efforts of the Brave Like Gabe Foundation.
One change she hopes to see in the business world: “We recently partnered with Women-Led Wednesday to support, promote and empower women in leadership, both in the run specialty marketplace and other industries. This speaks to a broader goal of ours, which is to see a strong female voice in business, philanthropy, leadership roles and much more. By shining a light on women in the workplace, we hope to usher in a more gender-balanced economy in the future.”
Ridgefield Running Company and Darien Running Company
Since COVID-19 infiltrated American life, Searfoss took her business online, switched her POS system, embraced iPads on the sales floor, launched a second store in nearby Darien, CT, and opened a pop-up shop catering to high school athletes. She calls 2022 a “year of refinement,” which includes maximizing every inch of space at her 1500-square-foot stores, overcoming supply chain challenges and continuing her hunt for talent while still exploring new growth opportunities.
What she enjoys most about run specialty: “We are all fortunate that run specialty is a very sharing community. It is easy to pick up the phone and talk to another owner to gain insight and share ideas.”
Alison Mariella Désir
Director of Sports Advocacy, Oiselle
Co-chair of the RIDC
While her work on building inclusive communities realized success virtually, Désir is looking forward to seeing what will be possible with in-person events in 2022. Her book, “Running While Black,” will be out in October – her goal is to make the New York Times Bestseller list – while her second apparel collection with Oiselle will be available in Fall 2022, giving her a unique double impact on the running community. Meanwhile, RIDC plans to hire its first executive director this year, deepening its impact through collaboration, education, research and reporting.
A message to the running industry: “Racial justice must be part of how you do business. For companies just beginning to consider how to embed a racial justice framework into your business, mistakes and discomfort are par for the course; however, remaining authentic and transparent about where you are in your journey and what your struggles are as well as holding yourself accountable to your commitments will keep you on the path moving forward.”
Cavassa calls 2022 a “big year” for Saucony, a brand that continues to see explosive global growth fueled by key footwear franchises like the Triumph as well as the ballyhooed Endorphin Collection, which will welcome version 3s of the Speed, Shift and Pro in addition to adding a much-anticipated new trail offering with the Endorphin Edge this year. The brand will also expand its retail footprint in China, jumping to about 100 Saucony stores in operation across the Asian country by year’s end, and introducing a stunning brand flagship store in Milan.
One change she hopes to see in run specialty: “I wouldn’t change a thing, but rather look to enhance the unique strengths of what run specialty has to offer. Run shops exceed expectations of what independent retailers can do because they are so committed to their communities and I would want to double down on that. As brands, we need to do our part and support our retail partners with fresh product so they can continue to create connections with their local communities.”
Potomac River Running/PR Training
After what she describes as “one foot in and one foot out” for the past year – a time when PRR in the Washington, D.C./Virginia area didn’t see the rebound some parts of the country already had – Pugsley is anxious for a return to live events in 2022. But she does believe that COVID emphasized the adage, “when a door closes, a window opens,” because the tough retail environment allowed her to negotiate favorable lease terms in some of her stores. Reduced foot traffic forced Pugsley and her team to elevate their online game — an investment she feels will continue to pay dividends in 2022. An upgrade in its website and online store, along with an investment in FitStations, will allow one of the country’s leading run specialty shops to standardize the buying experience.
Lessons from the pandemic: “We are working hard to determine what motivates the running store staff so that we can holistically reward and compensate them for a job well done, which means looking beyond typical paycheck compensation.”
Carrie Blozy and Stephanie Blozy
Fleet Feet Hartford
For the Blozy sisters, 2022 is about opportunity. A major renovation to their Hartford building will bring apartments above their retail store and a parking garage underneath. While that renovation will stir some upheaval – including a potential move to a temporary space – the sisters will soon have a “blank slate” to design their new store. The fresh physical space combined with applying the lessons they learned during the pandemic, namely a devout willingness to embrace change, underscores the Blozys’ commitment to creating a dynamic, evolving business and, yes, seizing opportunity.
One change Stephanie hopes to see in the run specialty world: “I would like to see that our staffs are customer service intensive similar to a hair stylist or high-end restaurant wait staff. Customers should be encouraged to tip for good service – even a few dollars would mean a huge difference to our staff’s bank accounts and make working the sales floor more attractive. We tip coffee baristas and bartenders for much less interaction and service.”
Yang says Hoka will continue to build brand momentum in 2022. This includes rolling out a reimagined brand expression, unleashing ambitious efforts to elevate Hoka’s positioning with new customers and introducing superior products rooted in performance and innovation like the new Mach Supersonic and Tecton X, a trail shoe featuring dual carbon plates. Under Yang’s leadership, this and more should help Hoka propel more individuals across finish lines, including marquee races in the UTMB series for which Hoka is now the premier technical footwear and apparel sponsor.
A source of inspiration in her career: “Growing up as a competitive athlete, I learned that you need to work incredibly hard to win. Not just physically, but mentally. At the same time, competition has taught me the importance of being ready and able to pivot, assessing and shifting strategies as needed. This has never been more important than in this incredibly dynamic time that we live in.”
Chief Operating Officer
Last fall, O’Cadiz, a 13-year Pacers Runnings employee, was elevated from senior purchasing director to chief operating officer at the six-store, Washington, D.C.-based retail chain. Tasked to execute Pacers Runnings’ ambitious organizational strategy, O’Cadiz hopes to bring “cohesive clarity to the workplace” by streamlining workflows and encouraging deeper collaboration among the retailer’s swelling enterprise.
Lessons from the pandemic: “Modernize your critical processes now. COVID threw many curveballs … and taught us we cannot be caught flatfooted. With the threat of COVID still lingering, your business needs to be prepared for the unexpected. Streamlining and adopting more automated processes is key to building a more resilient business.”
Founder and Owner
Eager to increase women’s participation and confidence in trail running, Lucrezi looks to continue shepherding Trail Sisters’ explosive growth. With its new mobile app, Trail Sisters arms women with an accessible tool to connect with and join more than 140 Trail Sisters groups around the U.S., while free educational courses aim to help members feel more prepared and empowered on the trail. Lucrezi, meanwhile, is taking the reins as race director of the heralded Lake Sonoma 50, which has introduced a marathon to its 2022 slate.
Lessons from the pandemic: “I’d say the biggest takeaway is making sure people are being approached with patience and grace. The pandemic affected everyone and I think we all need to have a bit of patience for each other and to provide each other some grace as we are all trying to find our way.”
Palmetto Running Company
Back at The Running Event 2019 Straughn and Palmetto Running won the inaugural Big Pitch for their Eco Initiative and just recently at TRE21 it received the Impact Award from On Running for its ongoing environmental commitment. Straughn, with her easily recognizable blue hair, plans to keep that momentum going with the launch of The Low Impact Alliance, born out of her belief that all businesses have the duty and responsibility to operate in an environmentally responsible manner. Oh, and in 2021 she and her family launched a second busi-ness (Runner’s High Coffee Co.) and tripled the size of their Hilton Head location.
Lessons from the pandemic: “2020 taught us about the importance of speaking up. As business owners we are taught to keep our opinions to ourselves and focus on selling, but after the events of these past two years we knew we had to make a change. Runners want to purchase from brands that they feel good about — a place that has a soul and a purpose.”
Senior Director of Purchasing
With Fleet Feet’s December 2021 acquisition of nearly 60 JackRabbit stores across 15 states, Moloznik has more on her shoulders than ever before. She’ll be leading efforts to fold the JackRabbit stores into Fleet Feet’s corporate-owned portfolio, which jumped from 40 to almost 100 with the headline-grabbing deal. This means leveraging technology and data to make informed, disciplined decisions and bringing a “hyperlocal at scale purchasing model” to life for both company-owned stores as well as operating partners.
One change she hopes to see in run specialty: “Introduce newness and innovation to our marketplaces faster. We need to keep the customer engaged and coming back into our stores. In addition, we need to attract the new, younger consumer, so understanding their needs and catering to that experience through innovative products and unique experiences in-store will be key – and something we will need our vendor partners’ support with.”
I Am Collective
Garcia does not believe in gatekeeping knowledge. She does believe in the power of a collective group and hopes to achieve this by building a community of passionate marketers who see, hear and value each other’s perspectives. Her I Am Collective agency plans to nudge running brands to be the leading example of inclusive marketing and she is energized by the opportunity to provide education and mentorship through storytelling, utilizing the lessons learned throughout her career working for private and corporate brands. The aim: Sharing her story and perspective in an effort to empower individuals to achieve their personal and professional goals.
Lessons from the pandemic: “I’ve learned to pause and reflect. Life moves very fast and when I started I Am Collective I promised myself to be present for every single moment — from the first rejection to paying taxes.”
Mill City Running and Saint City Running
Metzdorff, who owns and operates the two Minneapolis area running stores with her husband, Jeff, is geeked about two things on her 2022 agenda: first, plotting a significant space refresh at Mill City Running; and second, deepening her relationships with the stores’ race team members, including a February trip to Sedona, AZ. Thereafter, Metzdorff wants to continue empowering staff to activate creative, smart ideas to propel the business while also developing new ways to make both Mill City and Saint City more accessible and welcoming environments.
Lessons from the pandemic: “We are all so interconnected, to our customers, to the brands we work with, to the factories those brands get their product from, to the people that transport the product and on and on. We can do hard things together and we should consider everyone involved in the decisions we make.”
With a mission to grow the sport of running, the Running USA team is developing several initiatives centered around DEIA, sustainability and industry best practices for 2022, along with the beginning stages of developing a campaign to get more Americans running. Stone keeps a huge white board in her office where she is constantly adding future initiatives and goals and one in particular is front and center — although she is not ready to unveil the project, she hints that its overarching mission will be to educate and inspire a new and inclusive generation of runners.
Lessons from the pandemic: “Individuals in the running industry are resilient. We are not only used to working really hard, but we also love what we do and are an extremely passionate group. Just like when running a race, we have good days and bad days, but that doesn’t stop us. We move on and persevere and this was more important than ever during the pandemic.”
Along with several new ideas up their sleeves to expand Running USA’s membership and provide high-value benefits and education, Bowen is looking forward to continuing to help both their event and vendor members recover from the challenges of the past two years. The idea of being able to head back out on the road to connect with events and bring education to local markets has her incredibly invigorated, as does a focus on DEIA in 2022. Bowen knows there is an opportunity for Running USA to help its events create more inclusive environments for participants, which will require her and the team to lean in, listen and put their plans into action.
Lessons from the pandemic: “Be adaptable and practice patience. I’ve learned that there is always a way, but it’s not always the way things have been done before.”
Senior Manager Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Brooks’ DEI efforts go well beyond creating opportunities to grow its workforce and for women and Black, Indigenous and People of Color and Woods is making sure the company continues to make progress towards its 2025 DEI goals. A key component in 2022 will be building the Brooks internship program, charged with creating a talent pipeline through the educational and work experience that exemplifies Brooks’ inclusive, creative and innovative culture. To be successful, Woods is setting DEI goals and resources to reduce barriers to participation and create accessibility for all. All the while Brooks has also been refining how it creates product and marketing partnerships.
Thoughts on DEI … “The work of diversity, equity and inclusion takes perseverance and patience, but most importantly it’s about people. Building authentic relationships with my team members, with our customers and with our business partners is one of the most significant attributes to achieving diversity, equity and inclusion.”
The Running Event and Running Insight
Henderson believes in the power of events and under her watch The Running Event uses that power to bring minds and passions together to collectively produce something valuable. After enduring a one-year COVID hiatus and then organizing a successful return of TRE in 2021, this year she plans push to find new ways to support the run specialty industry. Her focus will be on being a leader for industry initiatives — not merely on how many attendees she can get to The Running Event 2022, but rather on creating new runners and supporting the industry in a way to have those runners support run specialty.
Lessons from the pandemic: “Relationships are everything. We took for granted being able to gather, to meet people, to brainstorm and build. The past 19 months, for me, reinforced that we need each other. It could have been a very isolating time, and it was unavoidable at times, but I’m confident that the strength of our industry relationships got our businesses through it.”
Red Coyote Running and Fitness
The word “innovate” remains top of mind for Beck and she is actively brainstorming and plotting new initiatives for Red Coyote, the two-store, Oklahoma City-based run shop she guides with her husband, Jon. Beck says Red Coyote has “plans for expansion in 2022” as well as some “brand innovation projects that will focus on introducing Red Coyote to new audiences” while also allowing current customers fresh ways to connect with the retailer. Beck, who co-founded the empowerun group alongside Pacers Runnings’ CEO Kathy Dalby to amplify the female point of view in the running industry, is also challenging her team to create actionable goals around diversity.
Lessons from the pandemic: “COVID-19 created a profound pivot in both my personal and business life. I learned to relinquish control and trust my team. They showed immense resilience and adaptability and with each new challenge we grew together.”
Brummitt, who ascended to Michigan-based Gazelle’s CEO seat last summer, will oversee some big moves in 2022. Gazelle will open a new store, its sixth location, in downtown Grand Rapids this summer and rebrand its largest signature event from Gazelle Girl to SHE RUNS Grand Rapids. Thereafter, Brummitt looks to inspire and empower her team to connect, listen, support and service Gazelle’s customers and community partners.
A source of inspiration in her career: “I love Brené Brown. My copy of ‘Dare to Lead’ has been my go-to leadership book the last several years. Also, my daughters, Caroline and Kate, who are incredible sources of inspiration and motivation for me on the good days and really hard days of leadership.”
Global Brand President
The North Face
After 16 years at at Nike, where she served as VP of Nike Direct North America, overseeing the brand’s North American inline and factory stores as well as the company’s digital experiences, Otto, named to the post earlier this month, brings a different vibe to TNF. With its Vectiv line making waves in the trail category, she will undoubtedly continue to focus on forging deep connections with consumers and with her retail experience at Nike that included expanding the Nike Live concept into the New York City and Los Angeles markets, a greater retail emphasis for the VF Corp. unit could emerge.
On why she joined The North Face: “Few brands in the world have earned truly iconic status like The North Face and I couldn’t be more excited to be joining the brand at this time. I look forward to working closely with The North Face leadership team in addition to VF leadership to drive the next phase of growth for this beloved global brand and all that it represents.”
While Goucher has plans to complete a 50-mile run in 2022, albeit not an effort surrounded by massive hoopla, the former Olympian is most looking forward to her turn on the mic when the World Championships visit Eugene, OR, this July, that global event’s first trip to U.S. soil. As an analyst for NBC’s broadcast of key distance events, Goucher looks forward to helping audiences understand racing nuance and celebrating world-class performances, including the competitive efforts of American athletes striving for top finishes.
One change she would like to see in the running world: “Results are important, but I hope we can put more focus and appreciation on individual storylines and humanizing athletes, both from the United States and internationally. There are mothers and wives, fathers and sons competing. They’re not just athletes, but individuals with compelling human stories.”