From the outdoor track season and the spring racing calendar to, yes, Global Running Day, the pace at America’s run specialty shops – as it is prone to do in winter’s wake – has accelerated across recent months. Running Insight senior writer Danny Smith recaps some lively and noteworthy activities at running stores across the U.S.

A Snail’s Pace invites kids to explore track and field

Showing its passion for getting kids active, A Snail’s Pace (ASP) in southern California offered a free four-week program introducing local kids ages 5-13 to track and field. With an assist from Hoka, ASP’s Youth Track Camp exposed kids to throws, jumps, sprints and relays over four weeknight sessions before a concluding track meet on June 15. The four-shop running store chain expanded its reach by hosting programs on both the north and south ends of Orange County. 

Spirit of Dick Pond Athletics’ founder lives on

Billing itself as the nation’s oldest run specialty shop, the 1969-founded Dick Pond Athletics in suburban Chicago recently gave a nod to its rich history and its colorful founder, who passed away in 1991 at the age of 52.

When Dick Pond wasn’t running or peddling shoes, he was fishing on his boat named Secret Weapon. Pond even sported a T-shirt bearing his beloved boat’s name: a brown tee with Secret Weapon emblazoned above a lateral lightning bolt in vivid yellow ink. Dick Pond Athletics recently recreated the “Secret Weapon” tee to honor its namesake and found an enthusiastic audience for the special-edition item sold in its five retail stores and online.

Paragon Sports brings in the funny

Accustomed to peddling running gear alongside products for tennis, camping, soccer and other activities, New York-based Paragon Sports peddled something else over two nights in May: comedy. With Underground Overground Comedy, Paragon turned its multi-level store into numerous “clubs” featuring sets from 24 comics on May 15-16.

Paragon CEO Zachary Blank, whose great-grandfather founded the business in 1908, told the New York Post that his shop is working hard “to create unique events that bring in new customers.” These shows certainly accomplished that, as all 1200 tickets for the two-day event sold out soon after their release on April 17. 

Picking up the tab for youth milers

To help everyone, particularly youth runners, experience the joy of running, Fleet Feet Harrisburg launched Kids Run HBG to eliminate obstacles to the sport and increase access to the YMCA Harrisburg Mile. In addition to offering a free youth entry into the annual Harrisburg Mile on July 17 for any family facing financial hardship, the store also developed a free training program to prepare participants for the 5280-foot race. 

“We love the idea of involving youth in this mile event because we feel it can be foundational for them,” says Fred Joslyn, co-owner of the Fleet Feet stores in Harrisburg and Mechanicsburg, PA. “If we can help provide a positive experience for kids here, we feel it’s something that could be lifelong.”

Running Niche promotes pet safety

On May 19, St. Louis-based Running Niche hosted Jenny Dove of Kennelwood Pet Resorts for a Pet Safety Seminar. The 90-minute program included a professional demo on pet CPR as well as an introduction to the fundamentals of pet first aid, such as checking vitals and bandaging techniques. Dove, a Team Running Niche member, also provided tips on safe running with dogs, how to respond if a loose dog approaches and warm weather safety for pets.

An event for walkers

On May 21, Fleet Feet Nashville hosted its inaugural Walk and Talk. Building off the store’s recently launched 5K training program aimed at walkers – the aptly named Positive Strides – Fleet Feet Nashville created Walk and Talk as a more casually paced alternative to the traditional group run. 

“While we regularly provide pace groups for walkers at our training groups and run clubs, we recognize those can still be intimidating spaces and we wanted to offer an alternative opportunity for folks who may not feel comfortable in a run group,” Fleet Feet Nashville marketing director Teri Akovenko says. 

Fleet Feet Nashville outfitter Bill Bailey, who also works as a guide for Nashville Walking Tours, led the two-mile stroll and provided nuggets on Nashville history along the way. After a successful debut, Akovenko says Fleet Feet Nashville has additional walking-specific events planned over the coming months.

True Grit Running Company celebrates ‘true grit’

On May 14, True Grit Running Company in Fort Smith, AR, partnered with the town’s local indie bookstore, Bookish, to host a program with Todd Arkyn Crush, author of From Beneath the Ice. Crush’s gripping story includes being abandoned at a church as an infant, enduring two decades of verbal abuse and neglect from his adoptive mother, battling PTSD and schizophrenia, and surviving a five-year backpacking trip into the wilderness. Sheer mental fortitude and an encouraging wife helped Crush triumph. So, too, did running. 

“He now speaks as a voice of hope, inspiration and education to all who encounter mental illness in any form,” True Grit said on Instagram to promote Crush’s visit to Bookish.

Running stores on the move

Florida-based Fit2Run continues its expansion march, recently introducing new stores in Orange Park, FL, and Altamonte Springs, FL. That’s now 34 stores – and counting – for the family-owned business.

In Kentucky, Running Soles added a store in downtown Campbellsville to its 11-year-old retail shop in Elizabethtown. Over in Arizona, meanwhile, Sole Sports launched its fourth store in metro Phoenix with a new shop in Gilbert, AZ. 

NEWSole moved into a new storefront in McDonough, GA, pairing its new space with a new nature-inspired mural, while RUNdetroit recently celebrated its move to Detroit’s Eastern Market neighborhood. The new RUNdetroit location is double the size of the store’s previous home and features a dedicated parking lot.

And on June 1, The Running Elements in Daytona Beach, FL, held a grand opening for its newly expanded storefront. The event included a footwear demo featuring nine brands, a family-friendly expo and a 2K course runners could run throughout the morning and early afternoon hours.

And one last thing: Running Insight is hunting for 2024 anniversaries

Last summer, Running Insight launched its first anniversary issue recognizing run specialty players who hit notable milestones in 2023. The festive issue returns for its second installment this summer. 

If you’re a run specialty store or brand celebrating a notable anniversary of 10-plus years in 2024 (ie. 10, 15, 20, 25 years, etc.), Running Insight wants to know. Drop a line to @runspecialtyinsider on Instagram or send brief note with the details to [email protected].

 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.