In the running specialty channel, we know better. This is who we are. This is our DNA. This is how we connect and earn business. From fun runs and in-store events to community programs and spirited competitions, running shops across the U.S. continue unveiling clever and noble-minded ideas underscoring the dynamic energy that dominates our world. It's these efforts that separate us from the rest - the Amazons and Zappos, the big-box chains and the discount monoliths.

In an effort to spark continued innovation and ingenuity across the channel (read: to inspire your brainstorming sessions and subsequent marketing efforts), Running Insight presents 50 creative, fun and generous ways running stores are connecting with their communities and their customers to deliver authentic, distinct and memorable experiences.

In no particular order of awesomeness:

  1. "It's not how fast you go, but how well you know your pace." That's the tagline of Bull City Running Co.'s Shot in the Dark Prediction Run, in which participants predict their 6K-race time at a Durham, NC, trail.
  2. Women Who Workout and Wine is a unique, lively and wine-filled fundraising event hosted by Montana's Bozeman Running Co. each October. With proceeds benefiting Cancer Support Community Montana, the event features a running fashion show, a bachelor auction and live auctions from the best of Bozeman's small businesses.
  3. The multi-unit Big Peach Running Co. in Atlanta hosts a "run with your dog clinic" with a certified dog trainer.
  4. Fleet Feet Sports in Fort Wayne, IN turns the city's downtown into a spirited stampede of ghastly holiday sweaters each winter with its annual Ugly Sweater Run.
  5. For more than three weeks in December, the Big River Running Company in St. Louis leads runners down "Candy Cane Lane," a residential neighborhood filled with more than a few Clark Griswolds.
  6. The Black Dog Running Company in Myrtle Beach, SC, hosts an annual September 11th commemorative run designed to encourage folks to "respect, remember and resume."
  7. Hundreds of jingle-belled runners decked in elf hats, Santa costumes and other holiday garb pounce through the streets of West Reading, PA at A Running Start's, Run Santa Run event. The event raises money for the local community revitalization foundation.
  8. At Lousiana-based Varsity Sports' Brides Run in June, runners come dress as - what else? - brides. Prizes are awarded to the best wedding attired runners.
  9. When Run With Us in Pasadena, CA, learned six local kids from a local group home were training for an upcoming 5K race, the store's manager visited the group home to provide a free shoe fitting and running clinic.
  10. Born on a sushi house napkin in 2013, Rush Running Company's Square to Square Marathon is a loosely organized 26.2-mile run from Bentonville to Fayetteville, AR. The grassroots event has spurred pop-up aid stations and cheering sections, while the store supplies a t-shirt listing all finishers' names.
  11. Wine and cocktail tastings. An expansive buffet. In Flint, MI, Complete Runner has earned a fanatical following for its annual Run4Wine four-mile run/walk. All proceeds benefit the Old News Boys of Flint, an organization that provides everyday essentials to local children in need.
  12. Dick Pond Athletics is a sponsor of the Daily Herald newspaper's Fittest Loser Challenge, in which a select group of contestants receive personal training and nutrition advice similar to the popular TV show. The five-store Chicago area running store chain provides each contestant with complimentary footwear and inserts.