Meg Brooker grew up in New Jersey playing soccer but transitioned to cross-country when she fell in love with the sport in the 9th grade — and she has been running ever since. Meg ran competitively in college and then moved West, where she was fortunate enough to run post-collegiately for a women’s team in Montana called Mountain West Track Club. When she moved to Montana in 2006 she began working for Runners Edge and in her time there has worked the sales floor, cleaned shoes, helped with its races, and created a few in-store events. She is currently the footwear buyer and operations manager. “I absolutely love it,” she tells Running Insight+.
Tell us a little about Runner’s Edge …
The Runner’s Edge was started in 2001 by my now-husband, Anders Brooker, and I love the story of how it started. Anders wasn’t interested in pursuing a college degree, so he decided to drop out and opened up a small run specialty store in Missoula, MT. We’ve always just had one door, but have moved around to different locations as our shop grew.
And what is your typical day like in 2022?
We have an almost-three-year-old so I don’t even set an alarm anymore; Will is great at wake-up calls. I try to run a few miles, get ready and then drop off Will at daycare before heading into work at 8 a.m. I am at the store until 5 p.m. then head out to grab our son, home to make dinner and relax before bed.
That is certainly a full day. So what is your favorite part of your job — what gets you going in the morning, other than Will waking you up?
I love working with our team. They are some of the best people I know and I enjoy getting to hang with them daily. I also love talking to customers about injuries. I’m not a physical therapist but I’ve been injured enough to give somewhat good advice on strengthening exercises. I also enjoy creating and helping with in-store events in ways that are engaging for our customers.
What is your personal running routine like?
It’s a little different from what it used to be. I love being competitive with fairly high mileage training. I’m a fan of the track and road racing 5K, 10K and half marathons. Right now I’m doing a little strength training and running just a few days a week, with most runs topping out at four miles.
What makes your local running community unique?
The views. When I first moved to Missoula, I couldn’t get over all of the scenery you could get in just one run. From mountain tops to trails following a river running through town, you can’t help but fall in love. Whether you run trail or road, Missoula has a personality for every runner.
How has the past year been for you and The Runner’s Edge in dealing with the pandemic?
We’ve been lucky. Montana was impacted by COVID, but not to the degree that other states were. Due to a city mandate, The Runners Edge did have to shut down for a month in 2020, but other than that we’ve been able to stay open. It forced us to start an online shop and to get creative with servicing customers.
How about personally?
It’s helped me to become more organized due to the constant change of footwear distribution release dates.
Here’s a question that gets various responses: Do you view yourself as a woman in the run specialty business or simply a professional in the run specialty business?
A professional. My husband and I own the store and he empowers me to lead. With that being said, I lead it with a female perspective.
Many people feel that run specialty is actually more equal in gender participation than many other businesses. Just look around The Running Event and see how many women were walking the aisles and working in the booths. Do you agree with this
I think runners are a different breed. Running is such an open, inviting space and most of all, flexible. Whether you’re a man or woman, most have the ability to go for a 10-minute jog or a 10-mile run. You can be a mom of three and go for a short run in the morning before work. I believe this is why we see more women in our industry — it’s open, inviting, and flexible.
Do you think having a woman in the business has helped your store reach more female customers?
Definitely. Being a female, you naturally want to be there for other women. Runners Edge Ladies Night, an event I founded, went on for nine years before COVID hit. We’ve had over 100 women at this event with all proceeds going to a local non-profit.
How about similar events in 2022?
I am in the process of setting up a similar event with more of a health-specific theme. We’ve also had bra events and women’s after-hours shopping nights. Women tend to be social, so to have events that bring ladies together is something that I truly enjoy.
What advice would you give to other run specialty retailers about reaching out and merchandising to female runners?
Make sure to have lifestyle brands in your shop. Vuori, Goodr, and Girlfriend Collective are all brands that help women feel athletic without looking like an athlete. I think this helps women feel inclusive rather than traditional spandex and a technical top.
What advice would you give to any young (or older) women considering following a similar career path in the run business?
Love what you do. And be willing to come in early and stay late. It shows your true character when you’re there when others are not. It’s always worth it.
Finally, what are you expecting for you and your store going into 2022 and what is it going to take to achieve that?
To continue to live out our mission by “enhancing lives by building community, developing relationships, and having fun.” I love where I work and want to make sure we are empowering not just our team, but our community as well.