Running Insight senior writer Danny Smith highlights creative and spirited acts from the nation’s run specialty stores.

The final months of the calendar year always deliver a flurry of activity for run specialty stores. 

The close of the cross-country season and fall marathons. Turkey trots and food drives. Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. And, of course, Best Running Stores nods and The Running Event, the industry’s annual gathering and a celebration of its collective enthusiasm to propel human movement.

Amid the end-of-year rush, the nation’s running stores never stop moving and remain a beacon of positive energy. Running Insight senior writer Danny Smith spotlights a few spirited acts from the nation’s running retailers.

Mill City Running collects free advertising

In a brilliant marketing twist, Minneapolis-based Mill City Running – a 2023 Best Running Stores finalist – invited its friends, followers and fans to feature Mill City Running gear in their holiday cards. Mill City co-owner Jeff Metzdorff concocted the idea after receiving a few holiday cards in 2022 in which individuals were sporting Mill City Running gear.

 “In that moment, I thought I should give them a store credit for all this free advertising,” Metzdorff says.

 In 2023, he turned the tongue-in-cheek idea into reality. On Nov. 9, Metzdorff took to Instagram and pledged a $10 store credit to those repping Mill City Running in their holiday card. 

“The creative ways we’re starting to see this come to life is pretty incredible,” Metzdorff says.

Dick Pond feeds the needy

On Nov. 18, dozens of members of the Dick Pond Athletics Running Club in St. Charles, IL, ventured to the local Aldi grocery store, where they purchased more than $5000 in food to donate to the Salvation Army.

It’s the continuation of a 13-year-old tradition fueled by the club’s curiosity, philanthropic energy and enterprising spirit. Throughout the year, members donate money they find on runs, redeem aluminum cans for cash and sell firewood from a member’s eight-acre property to feed the club’s charitable coffer and fuel the annual Aldi trip. 

“Because we have so many people looking for ways to contribute, we reached an all-time record in 2023,” Dick Pond Athletics manager Glen Kamps says.

 Lively Athletics celebrates 10 years of GOvember

Over the last decade, November has turned into GOvember in Oak Park, IL, thanks to Lively Athletics. The female-first running boutique prints out maps of history-rich Oak Park and challenges patrons to run every street in Oak Park throughout the month. 

The 2023 edition of GOvember featured tiered levels like The Ernest Hemingway (a 40-ish mile adventure down the village’s east/west streets), The Betty White (a 70-ish mile journey covering the town’s north/south streets) and The Ludacris, which covers every street for a grand total of about 140 miles.

Throughout the month, Lively also hosted mini-challenges for those who completed tasks like taking a photo with a dog or running a 10k for 10 consecutive days. The store awarded prizes from vendors as well as other local businesses.

Commonwealth Running Company dresses up its outside

In October, Commonwealth Running Company gave its Evanston, IL, storefront an artistic spin. Owner Matt Abitbol commissioned local artist Emma Moss to turn a cement column at the store’s entryway into a stunning visual to help Commonwealth stand out on a busy retail strip and elevate the four-year-old store’s exterior. Moss’s eye-catching creation leans into Commonwealth’s tiger logo with bold striping and put a flame under a runner’s forward stride.

“People still come in and say some version of, ‘I had no idea this was here,’ … so I wanted to do something to grab people’s attention,” Abitbol says, adding that he also thought a unique piece of art at the entrance would elevate the shop’s cool factor. “And even if no one else liked it, I knew I would.”

Big River Running goes chili hunting

Finding the best chili in St. Louis is the aim of a new video series – “The Chili Chase” – from Big River Running Company, as hosts Kaden and Connor are visiting chili-serving spots around the Gateway to the West. The duo began their journey on Oct. 25 by soliciting suggestions from Big River Running fans on social media and stopped at four different eateries over the series’ first month.

Reno Running Company works to keep high school championship races local

With the threat of Nevada’s high school cross-country championship meet abandoning historic Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno, NV, Matt Balzer of Reno Running Company stepped in to help. 

To raise the $10,000 needed for the park to host championship races in 2024, Reno Running Company promised a dollar-for-dollar match on community contributions. While the community committed $3355 to the effort, including a $1,000 donation from Red Rock Running Company in Las Vegas, Reno went beyond its initial plans and devoted $5000 to bring the total to $8,355. 

“Basically, our way of taking a sport that doesn’t get the budget or fan love it deserves and making it as special as possible,” Balzer says

New stores, moves and more

  • Three’s a charm at Pace Yourself Running Company, which introduced its third North Carolina store in November. The new PYRC shop in Wendell, NC, complements the company’s existing locations in Holly Springs and Southern Pines.
  • In Georgia, Big Peach Running Co. hit the double-digit mark with its tenth storefront. Peach Partners Alex and Stephanie Rodriguez will own and operate the shop in Dawsonville, GA.
  • Fit2Run continued its rapid expansion with the opening of a fourth store in Orlando as well as its sixth store in Puerto Rico. The Florida-based chain now boasts 32 locations.
  • Fleet Feet upped its store count, too, including the opening of Fleet Feet Jefferson City in Missouri. As 2023 closes, the company is nearing 300 U.S. stores.
  • In Maryland, Charm City Run shifted its original Timonium location to Lutherville, MD, while also moving its Annapolis location to a new spot across the street.
  • Next door in Virginia, =PR= Run & Walk, formerly Potomac River Running, moved its One Loudoun location to a bigger location next door.
  • Meanwhile, Classic Running + Fitness, formerly called Classic City Running, completed an expansion and remodel of its Buford, GA, storefront just in time for the holiday shopping season.
  • And it was a busy fourth quarter for Fleet Feet Nashville owner Christi Beth Adams, who doubled her unit count from three to six in a matter of weeks. Adams acquired Fleet Feet Mt. Juliet and Fleet Feet Murfreesboro from Krista Dugosh, while also debuting a store on Cool Springs Blvd. in Franklin, TN. 

Have a compelling event, project or initiative to propose for a future Running Spirit column? Contact Running Insight senior writer Danny Smith at [email protected] with details. You can also follow Danny on Instagram @runspecialtyinsider.