Run specialty stores closed out 2023 with a bang and marched into 2024 with determined energy. There were lively holiday celebrations (I see you in Montana, Runner’s Edge), group runs to ring in the new year, profiles of local athletes competing in the U.S. Marathon Trials and store-hosted watch parties of the race for Paris.

Running Insight senior writer Danny Smith spotlights a few creative and spirited acts from running retailers. 

Fleet Feet Roanoke asks ‘Why?’

On December 17, Fleet Feet Roanoke owner Matt Thompson received a call that a patron trying to donate shoes to the shop’s charity bin after hours had mistakenly driven their car through the store’s facade. Employees past and present as well as other local small business owners jumped into action and built a temporary wall made of the finest particle board found at the neighborhood Lowes.

Eager to further spin a positive out of the challenging situation, Thompson and his team gathered their minds, positive attitude and a few colored markers to create the “Why Wall.”

Instead of asking why something like this happened to us, we decided to share our purpose, our why – why we get out of bed, why we run miles or why we do just about anything,” Thompson explains.

Fleet Feet Roanoke then invited the community to come by and share their why, turning the brown particle board into a colorful array of purpose and inspiration. 

Portland Running Company celebrates owner’s 15-year run streak

On Jan. 1, 2009, Paula Harkin set a goal of running at least one continuous mile every single day – and she hasn’t missed a beat since.

Harkin, who owns the Portland Running Company in Oregon alongside her husband, Dave, celebrated the remarkable feat with her PRC community on New Year’s Eve with a group run. Dozens joined her on the road with a run from PRC’s Raleigh Street shop.

“This group has been running with me for as long as my streak is alive and many of them are streakers as well,” Harkin says. “It has been so rewarding sharing my love of running and what it can do for people and the community.”

Harkin has averaged more than six miles per day over the last 15 years and logged nearly 34,000 miles since her 2009 pledge. 

Iowa Running Company goes gaming – 1980s style

Forget the wrath of a Midwestern winter! “Track & Field is now a year-round sport” at the Iowa Running Company. That’s because the Cedar Rapids store recently installed the Track & Field arcade video game from Konami. The Olympic-themed game, which debuted in 1983 in advance of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, now sits in the showroom of IRC’s renovated shop.

“I had my eye on this for about three years,” IRC co-owner Clifton Trebil-Smith says of the retro Track & Field game, which he grabbed from a business in St. Louis specializing in vintage arcade games.

A German run shop helps grant wishes

This one comes from the other side of the pond.

 When Jost Wiebelhaus, owner of the Frankfurter Laufshop, an independent running store in Frankfurt, Germany, received a single pair of the Adidas adizero Pro Evo 1 in a men’s size 10, he decided he’d put the ballyhooed and tough-to-come-by shoes up for auction. He also decided he’d push the money toward a noble cause: the Wünschewagen of the ASB Hessen, a “wish wagon” that transports terminally ill individuals to a “last wish” event. 

Though a local man won the December-long auction with his bid of 600 Euros ($647 USD), he elected not to take the shoes. So, Wiebelhaus offered the model to the auction’s runner-up for 500 Euros ($539 USD), a 2:48 marathoner aiming for a new PR in Berlin this September. When that man accepted the shoe, Wiebelhaus put another 400 Euros toward the cause, raising the shop’s total Wünschewagen contribution to 1500 Euros ($1617 USD).

Fleet Feet Longmeadow customizes kicks

Fleet Feet Longmeadow in Massachusetts teamed with On for a D.I.Y. Shoe Night. For a $75 registration fee, participants received their own pair of all-white On sneakers along with crafting materials to customize their new kicks at the January 16th event.

The event was such a success – eight of the 10 attendees said they’d come to a similar event in the future – that Fleet Feet Longmeadow leadership has plans to team with a different brand for another shoe decorating event in the coming months.

News and notes from the running retail front

The run specialty market continues to grow and add doors, a wonderful sign of optimism for the road ahead.

Red Rock Running Company celebrated the opening of its fourth Las Vegas storefront on February 12.

Eleven days prior, South Carolina-based Run In opened a new store in downtown Anderson, the third shop for the Run In crew.

Fleet Feet, meanwhile, has opened new outlets over recent months in Jefferson City, MO, Youngstown, OH, Nampa, ID, and Louisville. Fleet Feet CEO Joey Pointer sure wasn’t kidding about those ambitious growth plans. The North Carolina-based retail chain is closing in on 300 locations.

At the start of 2024, Iowa-based Fitness Sports purchased We Run. Led by the husband-and-wife team of Jordan and Lindsey Andrews, Fitness Sports now boasts six locations across the Hawkeye State.

And in Maryland, Feet First Sports recently completed its acquisition and rebrand of Tri Sport Junction in Sykesville, MD. Feet First at the Junction opened for business on February 2. 

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.