This is a big year for The Running Event. Not only does 2021 bring the return of America’s largest running specialty trade show after a COVID-derailed 2020, but this post-Thanksgiving gathering in Austin, TX, marks the 15th anniversary of The Running Event. 

Yes, it was in 2006 that The Running Event was born with an ambitious plan to assemble the industry’s vendors, retailers and other partners in one location for a dynamic, multi-day event designed to connect, engage and educate. Over the years, TRE has evolved into a can’t-miss industry event filled with spirit, energy and collegiality.

“Running stores talk a lot about community and we tried to mirror that community aspect with high-quality personal service, social events and adapting the show as the market evolved,” says Mark Sullivan, one-fourth of TRE’s founding quartet, Formula4 Media, which sold TRE – and Running Insight – to its current owner, Diversified Communications, in 2018.

“As we celebrate the 15th anniversary of The Running Event this year, we look forward to an even brighter future for the run specialty community that we serve,” adds Christina Henderson, TRE show director and publisher of Running Insight. “We are proud to play our part in the success of this very special industry by facilitating connections and growth at The Running Event.”

On the heels of a pandemic-plagued 2020, TRE’s return is reason enough to raise a glass; that 2021 also marks TRE’s 15th birthday adds extra punch. 

But TRE isn’t the only one celebrating a milestone birthday in 2021.

Runner’s Edge Goes Big for #20

One of the grandest birthday celebrations of all happened in Missoula, MT, where Runner’s Edge, a past Best Running Store in America honoree, marked its 20th birthday with a festive event at Big Sky Brewery on July 13. The free party included the store’s ballyhooed Treadmill Challenge – rescheduled from its typical winter date due to COVID-19 – alongside Big Sky refreshments, Big Dipper ice cream and KornUtopia popcorn. The store also distributed commemorative Runner’s Edge T-shirts.

The event also raised money for Youth Homes, a local non-profit that cares for children facing abuse, neglect, emotional trauma and substance abuse problems. Powered by some large raffle prizes, including a Missoula Staycation package anchored by a downtown Airbnb stay, the Runner’s Edge exceeded its $20,000 target for Youth Homes.

During the event, store leadership also brought current and past employees to the stage and introduced them to the gathered crowd. 

“It was really important for us to celebrate our customers, the community and anybody who played a role at the shop over the last 20 years,” Runner’s Edge owner Anders Brooker says. “We feel so lucky to be part of this community and we wanted to celebrate our customers and our team.” 

Altra Celebrates A Decade

Admittedly, Brian Beckstead wondered if Altra would ever get here. When he and high school cross-country pal Golden Harper launched Altra in 2011, Beckstead says the duo “unequivocally knew their disruptive footwear concept would be successful.” Still, some anxiety lingered.

“Our biggest concern early on was if we could get big fast enough before the major brands copied us,” Beckstead says. 

Altra, of course, did get “big” and the VF Corporation-owned brand is now a prominent name in the performance run marketplace. Its footwear is sold in some 6000 retail shops across more than 50 countries, a decade-long run of growth that offered reason for celebration as Altra’s 10th birthday approached in 2021.

To commemorate reaching double digits, Altra launched a special edition of the Lone Peak, its signature trail shoe that debuted in 2011. The Lone Peak 5 model features detailing, colorways and throwback upper materials inspired by the original Lone Peak, including the “Run On The Earth & With The Earth” mantra gracing the shoe’s lateral side.

“With the original Lone Peak, we did it our way,” Beckstead says. “[The Lone Peak 5 10th Anniversary edition] was a way for us to celebrate how an idea like ours could make it.”

Embracing Their History

Other run brands achieved notable milestones in 2021 as well.

Mizuno, which recognized the 25th edition of the Wave Rider, one of the most successful franchises in running shoe history, by sending out more than 4000 Wave Rider 25 tees to running store staff and customers. The gray T-shirts showcased the Wave Rider’s illustrious history by chronologically featuring images of every Wave Rider model 1-25.

Or how about Nike, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Swoosh in 2021? In 1971, Portland State University graphic design student Carolyn Davidson designed the logo for a modest $35. Today, the Swoosh is one of the world’s most recognizable symbols.

Or Saucony, which marked the 40th anniversary of its legendary Jazz running shoe with a special collection bringing old-school aesthetics to five of its top performance running shoe models? Featuring retro typography, vintage logos and a classic navy-and-silver color scheme, the Saucony Icon Pack found an enthusiastic audience upon its February drop. 

“As a challenger brand, we need to be opportunistic and nimble and we couldn’t let the 40th birthday of the Jazz pass without celebrating it in a big way,” Saucony VP– global product Shawn Hoy told Running Insight earlier this year. “Product is at its best when it creates an emotive connection with the people who buy it and we felt there was a great origin story to be told here.”

Fleet Feet Parties for #45

As the United States hailed its 200th birthday in 1976, two entrepreneurial twenty-something women, Sally Edwards and Elizabeth Jansen, opened the first Fleet Feet store in Sacramento. Now, 45 years later, the company serves more than 1.2 million customers annually. And that was before the recently announced JackRabbit acquisition.

Fleet Feet stores across the country marked the North Carolina-based chain’s 45th birthday with celebratory events. In Sacramento, for instance, the local Fleet Feet outlet paired a fun run through the brand’s birthplace city with post-run refreshments and small bites at a local establishment. 

The company also released a limited-edition lifestyle apparel collection honoring Edwards and Jansen. The Heritage Collection featured retro-inspired designs, iconic images and moments from the brand’s past on tees, sweatshirts and tanks.

Fleet Feet senior director of merchandising Catherine Moloznik says the brand’s 45th anniversary offered a worthy opportunity to reflect and celebrate. 

“Our brand story started in a very special way with two entrepreneur women opening up a running specialty store when the sport of running wasn’t as accepted for women,” Moloznik says. “To not only have them open a business in a male-dominated industry – from ownership to those participating in the sport – but to have it live on today successfully is worth us pausing and acknowledging internally as well as with our customers.”

Many Ways To Celebrate

In Nebraska’s capital city, the Lincoln Running Company marked its 45th anniversary one February weekend by giving shoe-buying customers a free cookie voucher to The Cookie Co., a beloved neighboring business in downtown Lincoln. 

“This was during a tough COVID time here in Lincoln, so we really couldn’t celebrate by bringing a ton of people in the store. Instead, we took the party to The Cookie Co. and supported a local small business as a celebration,” Lincoln Running Company manager Ann Ringlein says.

The Keystone Running Company in Allentown, PA, and The Running Shop in Tucson, AZ, both marked special anniversaries in 2021 as well. 

• In a nod to its 40th, The Running Shop posted historical photos of its store – 1980s-styled pink walls and all – and invited customers to share their favorite memories of the long-time Tucson staple.

• In Michigan, the Hansons Running Shop celebrated its 30th birthday with vendors and customers. Over three October weekdays, the store hosted vendors and group runs at its Royal Oak store. 

• Big River Running in St. Louis marked 15 years in business this year. Big River’s West County store hosted an Anniversary Sale that included free tacos from the Mission Taco Truck alongside drinks, music and games. Big River also created a RunSTL tee with a “15” on the sleeve to commemorate its decade-and-a-half run as a vibrant part of the city’s running scene. 

• Due to COVID-19, Wisconsin-based Performance Running Outfitters “kept it pretty low key,” for its 15th anniversary, says Trae Hoepner, who owns the five-store running store chain with his wife, Jessica. The Hoepners rented out a bar, hired a DJ and hosted a viewing party during the Milwaukee Bucks run to the NBA Championship in July. That event included bringing former and current PRO employees together to celebrate the store’s 15-year ascent.

• Over Memorial Day weekend, South Carolina-based Palmetto Running Company paired its 10th anniversary party with a grand “re-opening” event for its expanded location in Hilton Head, SC.  n