Joan Benoit Samuelson provides insight into the remarkable growth of women in running in America. Page 4
THE NEWSMAGAZINE FOR RUNNING SPECIALTY RETAILERS / RUNNINGINSIGHT.COM THE NEWSMAGAZINE FOR RUNNING SPECIALTY RETAILERS / RUNNINGINSIGHT.COM
MARCH 16, 2020 JANUARY 5, 2021
EMPOWERED Kathy Dalby and Burke Beck and The Women Who Run This Business Share Their Secrets of Success
Anne Cavassa Saucony • Robyn Goby Fleet Feet • Shannon Woods Brooks Running • Anne & Kate Pezalla Lively Tanya Pictor Balega • Holly Wiese 3Dots Design • Martha Garcia and Mayuko Shimada Hoka One One Bekha Metzdorff Mill City Running • Betsy Hughes Track Shack Orlando • Jenni Peters Varsity Sports
PRAISE FOR THE WOMEN
WHO RUN THIS BUSINESS Welcome to our first issue of 2021! Here at Running Insight, we are kicking off the year with a feature that is near and precious to my heart. The last work trip I took in 2020 was to the empowerun event in Santa Barbara in early March. At the time, this terrible thing called COVID-19 was just emerging, well before the full impact of a pandemic-ravaged year was to be felt. Looking back, I’m so grateful I spent those last days of normalcy (as we knew it) connecting and learning with the incredible women of empowerun. Christina Henderson Executive Director The Running Event
empowerun is all about giving women in our industry ways to connect and learn in an engaging environment and I think back fondly to that time when an energetic and eclectic collection of women in the business of running got together for days of education, networking, empowerment and friendship. The event, created by Kathy Dalby of Pacers Running and Burke Beck of Red Coyote, retains such a powerful place in my mind and heart — not only because they were the last days I was able to be out on the road, but mostly because they affirmed the knowledge and strength that women in our world of running possess. (We provide an update on empowerun on page 42 of this issue.) With all of us unable to gather in person until sometime later this year, we have brought together in these pages of this special “Women Who Run this Business” issue of Running Insight many of the women who make this business so remarkable. I’ve been so excited to see this issue come together. The only struggle was that with all the incredible women in the industry, it easily could have been 300 pages long. This is an on-going initiative and we will continue to amplify the voices of the women of the industry throughout the year. This issue of Running Insight is dedicated to the women who do, indeed, run this business — and the men who support them. We strive for the running industry to have a place for all at the table, executive board and starting and finish lines. Christina Henderson Excutive Director, The Running Event • firstname.lastname@example.org
RUNNING INSIGHT ® is a registered trademark of Diversified Communications. © 2021 all rights reserved. Running Insight is published monthly, is edited for owners and top executives at running specialty stores and available only via email.The opinions by authors and contributors to Running Insight are not necessarily those of the editors or publishers. Articles appearing in Running Insight may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express permission of the publisher. Divesified Communications, 121 Free St, Portland, ME 04101; (207) 842-5500.
Christina Henderson.........................................chenderson@Divcom.com Daemon Filson....................................................... dfilson@Divcom.com Glenn Dulberg.....................................................gdulberg@Divcom.com Mark Sullivan.................................................... msullivan@Divcom.com
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Women Who Run This Business
The First Lady of Running Joan Benoit Samuelson pushed women’s running from the margins to the mainstream. / By Daniel P. Smith
n 2016, The Wall Street Journal proclaimed, “Women and girls, not long ago an afterthought in distance running, now own it.” Joan Benoit Samuelson is a premier reason why. In 1984, Samuelson, already a two-time Boston Marathon champion, jumped onto American television screens – and into American hearts – when she captured the first women’s Olympic marathon at the Summer Games in Los Angeles. A monumental event in women’s running, many credit Samuelson’s victory for pushing women’s running from the margins to the mainstream and inspiring a new generation of female athletes. But Samuelson’s contributions to the sport did not stop there, as she has remained a consistent and uplifting presence in the sport. She founded one of the nation’s premier road races in the TD Beach to Beacon 10K and inspired again and again in competition, including an age-defying 3:04 finish at the 2019 Boston Marathon that came one month shy of her 62nd birthday. Samuelson admits it took some time to understand the influential role she played in the growth of women’s running. Back in 1984, her foremost goal was to compete for the gold medal. “I only did what I did to see how fast I could run, but I happened to be in the right place at the right time.” 4
In 1983, one year before capturing America’s heart by winning Gold in the first women’s Olympic marathon, Joan Benoit Samuelson earned her second Boston Marathon title. She first won the race in 1979.
© 2021 Diversified Communications
Joan Benoit Samuelson (continued) Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, she began to recognize and appreciate the change her victory – alongside the pioneering steps of women like Kathrine Switzer, Wilma Rudolph and Mary Slaney – helped stir. “When I started running, there were very few people out on the roads, let alone women, but I started to see more and more women out, even when the elements turned in a place like Maine. If I gave the gift of inspiration to anyone, especially as it relates to their health and well-being, that’s a powerful gift I’m glad to have given.” In 1998, Samuelson founded the Beach to Beacon 10K in her hometown of Cape Elizabeth, ME. “When I went into the tunnel in Los Angeles, I wasn’t sure I could pass through the darkness and make it into the light. When it happened, I wondered if I was capable of carrying that mantle. Could I figure out ways to give back to the sport? Beach to Beacon was one way to do that. The idea was to bring a world-class event to Cape Elizabeth with the mission of shining a light on kids.”
Forty years after her first Boston Marathon victory in 1979, Joan Benoit Samuelson returned to the starting line in Hopkinton. She finished in 3:04 at age 61. 6
In its inaugural year, 2408 runners completed Beach to Beacon. The following year, it became the first road race in Maine history to top 3000 finishers. The 2019 event – the most recent to be held given the race’s 2020 cancellation due to COVID-19 – hosted nearly 6500 finishers from nine countries and 42 states. “A lot of people have destination races on their bucket list and Beach to Beacon has became one of those signature events for people.” © 2021 Diversified Communications
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Joan Benoit Samuelson (continued)
Joan Benoit Samuelson has remained an ardent champion of running, including founding the TD Beach to Beacon 10K in her hometown of Cape Elizabeth, ME.
Women participants have certainly fueled the growth of Beach to Beacon as well as road races across the U.S. In 1990, women represented only one out of every four road race finishers. These days, women are the clear majority. “Women today have an opportunity that wasn’t afforded to most in previous generations and they’re eager to do it all — to lead balanced lives that tie together family, social, professional and personal health. Running is an affordable and accessible outlet for them to do just that.” But it’s not just road races that stir Samuelson’s excitement 8
a b o u t w o m e n ’s r u n n i n g . Outdoor track and field now boasts more female participants at the high school level than any other scholastic sport in the U.S. — approximately 220,000 girls par ticipated in cross-country in the last school year, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. Programs like Girls on the Run, meanwhile, are introducing a new generation of young women to the sport. “It’s a new frontier for women and not just in our sport, but in so many others as well. Running is really a
lifestyle and people like to run, which they can do anywhere, anytime, without needing a lot of special equipment.” Yet more, Samuelson is excited to see more women holding prominent positions in the sport. She notes female executives at some of the industry’s major footwear players as well as a surging number of women owning run specialty stores. “The more the merrier, as they say. Having new perspectives is important and the balance of perspectives among the genders is certainly a piece of that. These women are bringing
a balance to the sport that is important for its success and long-term health.” For running brands and retailers eager to better connect with and engage female consumers, Samuelson offers a single word: Listen. “These are educated consumers who know what they need, so listen to them. It’s much like the athlete-coach relationship. A coach can make helpful suggestions, but, ultimately, the coach is not inside the head of the athlete. Listen and pay attention to feedback because that’s how you can achieve improved results together.” n © 2021 Diversified Communications
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Women Who Run This Business
Talkin’ Running Running Insight sits down with four female owners of run specialty stores to find out what’s happening as we head into 2021.
hen you want to know the state of women in running, the best thing to do is simply go out and ask the Women Who Run This Business. So Running Insight did just that. As 2020 drew to a close we reached out to four women who own and operate independent run specialty stores – Bekah Metzdorff, Mill City Running; Betsy Hughes, Track Shack of Orlando; Burke Beck, Red Coyote; and Jenni Peters, Varsity Sports – to get their insight into their careers, the impact of the pandemic on them personally and professionally and their outlook for the future. These are their stories, in their own words. So, how have you personally been coping with the COVID-19 pandemic? Bekah Metzdorff: At first I felt very lost and pretty scared. My feelings were jumping all over the place. I felt like I had
to hold it together or at least put on a good face even amidst all the unknowns in hopes of easing the anxiety of our staff. As we have progressed throughout the year I have become a little better at accepting that one can be grateful and joyful for the many beautiful things in life, but feel sorrow and grief for disparities and injustice happening in the world at the same time. Betsy Hughes: We discovered Netflix and have watched some shows we never heard of and are currently enjoying “The Crown.” Jon and I made sure we kept to our same schedule each morning, starting with a run or a walk. We saw neighbors we didn’t even know since everyone was exercising. Our biggest personal challenge during the pandemic was keeping our three parents safe and healthy. We are their only caregivers; unfortunately Jon’s parents did end up getting COVID and we now need round-the-clock care for them.
Burke Beck: The pandemic has been like a magnifying glass for life and our business. Obviously it has been extremely stressful managing the changing landscape, and the most challenging part for me has been the responsibility of taking care of our team at Red Coyote and taking care of my family at home. It has felt like an incredible burden to feel responsible for some many people’s livelihoods and expectations. The pandemic also provided a chance for me to spend more time with my young kids during virtual school, which was challenging and fun. Jenni Peters: I was sitting on my front steps with a friend and a glass of wine during the Spring, and she asked me, “Jenni, did you know this many people ran in this neighborhood?” I said that I don’t think this many people knew they ran. But a real personal disappointment to me is the political divide and how it has trickled down to the floor of a little running store. This is very concerning to me personally.
Burke Beck, Co-Owner (with her husband, Jon), Red Coyote Running and Fitness, Oklahoma City, OK “We have two locations and we have been in business since 2010. Jon and I met while working for Road Runner Sports in San Diego and moved back to my hometown of Oklahoma City in 2010 to open Red Coyote. Red Coyote is named after our dog, Pancho, who is part coyote and still loves to run at 15 years old.”
How has the pandemic changed the way you run your store? Metzdorff: We are missing the feeling of the clubhouse and running central without our regular group runs and events, but we have been able to take advantage of focused interaction with each customer that is in the store. There is a general feeling of gratefulness at Mill City Running. We are touched by how our community has supported us and gone out of their way to shop with us in different ways. It has been a huge internal struggle not to bring people together and see the synergy of connection and training together culminate in joyful days participating in races together. Beck: Like everyone else we have
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Talkin’ Running (continued) shifted resources to become more omnichannel focused. The pandemic forced us to think about new opportunities to connect with the customer digitally through virtual fittings, training programs and events. Hughes: We closed the store on March 17 and cancelled or postponed all of our events until fall. We have 35 full-time, salaried employees and Jon and I worked tirelessly to make sure we could continue to pay them the rest of the year. We attended Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting to figure out a new business model. We started making videos to give weekly updates to our staff and honestly we never worked harder in our lives. We started, with our son’s expertise, our first online store and started curbside pickup as well. We re-opened in May and have totally rearranged the store for social distancing. We literally had a line around the store when we first opened again and to this day we have a
door person managing capacity. We also have a new product that sells really well — Track Shack, RunOrlando face masks. Peters: Like everyone in our industry you hear the buzz words – adapt and pivot – but that is what we all have had to do. We enhanced our online store like so many others. But our store biz is still the key element. So we have to run a safe and clean store — masks mandatory, capacity restrictions, UV wands, alcohol spray after each try-on. I tell the customers that I smell like a three-martini lunch by mid-afternoon with all the alcohol spray Enough of the pandemic: Are you glad to be turning the calendar to 2021? Metzdorff: The start of a new year is always full of hope for me. Especially this one — there will be joy when it becomes safe to move from virtual interaction to full-on hugs. I am also very hopeful that we all can
take the things we learned this year to create positive change in our personal lives and our communities. Peters: Misplaced reasoning or not, I have never wanted to believe in bad luck. It’s something from my grandmother at some point when I was a kid. My lucky number and probably part of zillions of my passwords is “13.” That same grandmother was born on the 13th. I don’t want to write off 2020 as an entirely misfortunate year, but please don’t think that diminishes the sadness, loss and challenges we have seen this year. Beck: 2021 will bring much of the uncertainty that 2020 brought around shifting sales trends, events, marketing and staffing. The difference is we will be better prepared to tackle the uncertainty and challenges. Hughes: My Ch r istmas cards all started with “I can’t wait to turn the calendar to 2021!” I hope we aren’t getting ahead of ourselves, but Betsy Hughes, Co-Owner (with her husband Jon), Track Shack of Orlando, Orlando, FL ”I started working part-time there as a senior in high school. Jon was the manager and became a partner in 1978 and we bought out his two silent partners after getting married in 1983. I began running when I was 14 and although I’m done running long distances now at 59, I still love the miles I can run. We have two children we raised while running the store and producing events — our daughter, Emma, a Latin teacher and mom to our 3-year-old granddaughter, and our son, Chris, who now helps manage the retail side.
all of us believe next year can only be better. Honestly, we’ve been so fortunate in that we are very established after 43 years and only having to close our doors for seven weeks was a godsend. It was heartbreaking to be on a Zoom call with our running store friends from around the country – thanks to The Running Event – and hear their stories. We didn’t have the rent issue many had or even the financial struggles, but no one ever wants another year like 2020. Do you view yourself as a woman in the run specialty business or simply a person who is in the run specialty business? Beck: I see myself as a woman in the run specialty business. I network differently than my male colleagues and I bring a different perspective to leadership. Metzdorff: I may be taking the easy way out of this question, but my answer is both. I feel like I can relate to people in general by shared experiences as a person and runner and identify with other women that come into Mill City Running because of some of the specific things women experience. Hughes: It never occurred to me that being a woman made any difference in our business, it was just being a woman that made a difference running a business early on in the ’80s and ’90s. I thought once I turned 30 years old people would actually take me seriously. Those pats on the head, and I’m not kidding, were awkward and embarrassing. Thank goodness society has changed in that respect. Back then, I really only knew two or three other women in our business. © 2021 Diversified Communications
MAKE LIGHT OF LONG RUNS.
Talkin’ Running (continued) Peters: Absolutely a person in the run specialty business. Perhaps because I cut my teeth in an academic environment where none of my peers or students related to me by gender — I never thought of myself as “women professor.” I honestly don’t think the majority of the people that I work with think of me as a woman. I don’t know what that says about me. Ha ha. When you look around The Running Event you can see how many women are there. Does that sort of show that run specialty is actually more equal in gender participation than many other businesses? Beck: That is an interesting perspective. I think many women in the industry would have a different opinion. The interesting part about the running industry is how women under-index in positions of leadership, yet women are the majority of the running industry customer base. I often find myself in a room full of white
men who are making the decisions. In the past few years it has been encouraging to see more women moving into leadership positions and I am really looking forward to working with the Running Industry Diversity Coalition to increase BIPOC participation in the running industry. If we don’t increase diversity we will be left behind. Hughes: We have a poster in our store from an advertisement in the Racing South running mag from the early ’80s asking runners to help fund Operation Boot Strap so women would be allowed to race longer than 800 meters in the Olympic Games. It wasn’t until 1984 when those new distances and, of course, the marathon were held for women as well as men. Go, Joanie, go! Thankfully now gender participation is more than equal in our running world. Peters: Retail in general has historically been more of a profession for women, but you didn’t always see as many in upper management and
ownership as you do today. Metzdorff: I do get a sense that run specialty is inclusive and generally wants to be. We still have work to be done to gain more equal representation at all levels when it comes to gender and diversity. This industry wants to be inclusive, but we cannot be passive. That is why I am very thankful to those that have created empowerun and the Running Industry Diversity Coalition. What are the particular challenges, if any, of being a female in run specialty retail? Metzdorff: Since there are less women at higher levels in the industry I think it might be harder for a woman to imagine herself in one of those positions, that she belongs there, and have the confidence to step up. Over the past few years I do feel like there has been progress. I can now easily come up with a list of women I look up to in run specialty, where three years ago I would have had a harder time. Bekah Metzdorff, Co-Owner, Mill City Running, Minneapolis, MN “Daily I am grateful to get to interact with coworkers and runners or people that claim they are not a runner and that I have the opportunity to encourage them each day. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family that had a love of endurance sports, which led me to the run specialty business. What motivates me to do what I do? I have hopes of helping people run and offering a deep and full experience of running.”
Peters: I can’t really think of a specific challenge that I have encountered just because I was a women. The challenges are mostly the same for us all. But then again, I can flip the script to say that some of the guys are having to adapt to roles traditionally unfamiliar to them, like buying apparel and bras for their large number of female customers. Hughes: These days I’m not sure there are many challenges. We are now taken seriously as business owners in most all industries. But we are, in fact, different. We have children to raise and, sure, dads can do that too, but in my world I’m handling more duties at home than my husband. And I’m okay with that and was 30 years ago when our kids were little. Beck: Women in the running industry have to work harder to have their opinions and perspectives heard. In the beginning of the business I was often referred to as “Jon’s wife.” I have worked hard to carve my own identity in the industry, but I do not think men face this challenge. What do you think you bring differently to your job than a man does? Metzdorff: I guess, my life experience as a woman — identifying as a woman and being identified as a woman. I have pretty stereotypical female biology, so I have the need for a good running bra and a monthly cycle of hormones to manage. I can make sure that Mill City Running considers the experience a woman will have when she comes to shop or to a group run. Hughes: We do bring more to the table than our male counterparts do. Fitting bras, © 2021 Diversified Communications
Jenni Peters, Owner, Varsity Running, Baton Rouge, LA “I was fairly competitive runner starting in the early ’80s and my career was as a professor of marketing at LSU, which I fell into mostly because it allowed me the flexibility to train along with a job that I adored. Along the way, in 2000, we were at a crossroads with what do with a T-shirt screenprinting business I co-owned. It was a really successful business that originated in 1984. We had bought a great little house in the Garden District of Baton Rouge and we discovered it was zoned C-1, which allowed it to be converted to commercial/retail use. So the little house as a running store began. It’s now a key part of our brand identity. All of our stores are in cozy houses. So the short story is that I formed an LLC and got 20 investors to put up $5000 each and raised $100,000 in start-up money in a week. I am the majority owner in all of the stores. And luckily I was able to combine the fact that I was a runner with a business background.”
for instance. Or talking with a customer who’s expecting a baby soon and is anxious to get back her fitness. Or understanding how menopause can make a difference in a runner’s career. Don’t kill me for this, but we are different emotionally and leading as a woman can be more difficult for some. We tend to want to explain things more — does that make sense? Beck: Women lead differently and bring different perspectives to leadership and all aspects of the business. Peters: One of the classes I taught in the 25 years at L S U w a s “ B u ye r S e l l e r Communication.” And one of the pieces of research revealed that women are often better salespeople than men because, first, they listen better and, second, are more empathetic. As I said then to my students that I still say to my staff now, 15
people don’t care how much you know ... until they know how much you care. I am not taking a single thing away from any of the wonderful guys in this industry, but I think women just do a better job at showing empathy and care for customers. Any advice for other women considering a career in the run business? Hughes: For sure, go for it, but be prepared to give up some of your own running time. You can’t be selfish, you must be honest to yourself and others always. Pack a lunch, every minute counts. And know you want to run your business, want to be there. If possible don’t have partners – other than a spouse, it sure has worked for Jon and me – and have money in the bank, a good reserve because after this year most know the
necessity of that. Beck: Find other women to align yourself with and seek advice and guidance. Do not get discouraged if you are the only woman in the room. Share your opinions and thoughts because they are important to the success of the industry. Metzdorff: Have confidence in yourself. Don’t forget to ask for help from others in the industry. Collaboration and more perspective is huge and so fun. Peters: If I was having the come to Jesus talk – meaning being perfectly frank – I would say that it is an incredibly rewarding career, but it will always take more energy, more time and more money than you ever think it will. Finally, what‘s 2021 going to look like for you personally and professionally?
Hughes: We are anticipating getting back to our old normal with more creativity than ever. As races come back and communities open again, people more than ever will want to keep their business local and support small businesses more than ever. Beck: We are going to have to work harder and remain adaptable. That has been one of the biggest challenges of 2020 — no day looks the same and nothing goes as planned. Peters: If one of the blessi ng s t o c o m e o ut of t h e pandemic is a new boom of walkers and r unners, then we need to continue to find ways to keep them engaged. They are coming to us for help and advice, so there are great opportunities to build customers for life. We opened a new store in New Orleans in the middle of the pandemic — it was a great opportunity at the wrong time, but we went for it. That will take careful attention as we continue to navigate the continuing restrictions and community spread in that city. Metzdorff: We will continue to pursue our mission a nd v ision. Ru n n i ng ca n change lives. We exist to grow the sport at all levels and to surprise and delight our customers each time they enter our doors. We hope to provide a space where all are welcome and there are no barriers to running. We will continue to build a diverse staff and look for ways to make our spaces welcoming and accessible to the diverse population in the Twin Cities. What will it take? Full hearts, open minds and the willingness to be vulnerable and put in the work. n © 2021 Diversified Communications
Women Who Run This Business
Running The Show
An insightful conversation with Saucony president Anne Cavassa. / By Daniel P. Smith
nne Cavassa won’t out a former male counterpart, but she remembers his biting words. “He told me I couldn’t lead a performance sports brand as a woman,” Cavassa recalls of the comment suggesting that women could not be as competitive as men. Cavassa, of course, continues proving that prediction wrong. The president of Saucony since 2018, Cavassa leads one of the globe’s top performance running brands, directing an enterprise that battles the sport’s powerbrokers for market share with a mix of innovative product, savvy marketing and, in a nod to Cavassa’s leadership, unified purpose. “Competitive nature is genderless,” Cavassa says. “I lean into competition and enjoy it.” Before joining Saucony, Cavassa led consumer-facing functions such as design and merchandising at outfits that include Eddie Bauer, Eastern Mountain Sports and Nike, as well as marketing and general management roles at Reebok and Ibex. And well before that, it’s worth noting, she learned the frontline efforts of the retail trade while working in the Savvy Department at the Nordstrom in Bellevue, WA. “Employee number 1177989,” she beams. In 2013, Cavassa, who holds a degree in psychology from Loyola Marymount University, entered the running ranks when 16
As head of Saucony since 2018, Anne Cavassa believes strongly in leaning into the challenges and opportunities as a women heading one of the running industry’s leading brands.
© 2021 Diversified Communications
The president of Saucony since 2018, Cavassa leads one of the globe’s top performance running brands. directing an enterprise that battles the sport’s powerbrokers for market share with a mix of innovative product, savvy marketing and unified purpose.
she joined Brooks as VP–global apparel before becoming the brand’s chief customer experience officer. A mother of two children, ages 10 and eight, Cavassa reflects on her journey as a female in the business world, her role at Saucony and how performance running brands and retailers alike can better connect with female consumers. On finding female mentors as she climbed the corporate ladder … “I had the benefit of strong female leaders on the HR side, but it was a challenge to find female business mentors since I’m of the age where most of the leaders above me were male. So, what I did was find male leaders I had high respect for from a business and personal integrity standpoint – individuals like [former Smartwool and Lucy president] Mark Bryden – and I sought out those individuals for thoughts on team leadership, inspiration and authentic leadership.” On the challenges female business leaders face … “Female business leaders sometimes feel the pressure to be perfect, to not 17
make mistakes, but really we need to be ourselves and use our strengths to chart our own path. Then, there’s those who feel women leaders have higher standards, that they demand more of their teams. But shouldn’t the bar be high for everyone? Shouldn’t we all be trying to achieve great things?” On how female business leaders can excel … “There’s thinking out there that women are more emotional as leaders, but my experience tells me that people tend to be more uncomfortable with our emotion, which we are more willing to sit with. I actually see this as an advantage and an opportunity because people need to feel valued and know you are thoughtfully considering their perspective and needs. Listening, being present and showing emotion are important parts of being a people-oriented leader.” On how being a women and mother informs her work … “I feel I’ve had success as a professional because of empathetic leadership. Being connected to people is important to me. Finding balance, a rhythm with my team and openness are all things I value. At home, I find myself trying to apply many of those same principles as a parent: to be open in the moment and to understand what’s happening so I can provide the proper guidance and support. It’s often about understanding where the angst is on something and working through the elements to find the right path forward.” On women who aspire to lead
Cavassa realizes that if she is successful as a female leader at Saucony then she will be helping to pave the way for women leaders behind her.
running brands … “The sports industry has traditionally been a tight boys’ club, though that’s changing, especially in running. That’s a positive. I’d tell others with high aspirations in our industry to be deliberate about where you want to go and focus on those building blocks. Be focused on building a plan, follow your passion and become an expert in it. And don’t sell yourself short. Give yourself the credit you deserve. I believe women’s confidence comes through experience, but you must gain confidence in your expertise and be willing to push yourself to higher levels.” On the responsibility she feels as a female heading a prominent running brand … “At Saucony, I’m aware that if I’m able to be successful as a female leader it paves the way for female leaders behind me. I understand that and don’t run from it.”
On marketing product to women runners and engaging female consumers … “We’ve had this conversation going on for a long time at Saucony and [head of public relations] Sharon Barbano created the ‘10 C’ checklist on how brands like us can better connect with women. It starts with credibility and communications, listening and responding to her. Community means creating women-specific opportunities. Then, there’s giving her choice and convenience, which has become incredibly important during COVID, and having a standard for goodness by being aligned with causes she cares about. Consistency is key as is understanding the consumer journey, which is definitely omnichannel for her. Finally, there’s customization and connection. Together, these all ladder up to being present for and responsive to her.” n © 2021 Diversified Communications
Women Who Run This Business
Hoka One One A ‘conversation’ between two female executives leading the brand charge at Hoka. / By Daniel P. Smith
t Hoka One One, a brand led by a female president in Wendy Yang, female executives like Martha Garcia and Mayuko Shimada help steer Hoka’s global brand strategy. Running Insight contributor Daniel P. Smith recently connected with Garcia, Hoka’s director of global brand creative and communications, and Shimada, the company’s director of global brand marketing, to explore the value of diverse perspectives, the opportunities and challenges that exist for women in the running industry and the benefits of allyship at Hoka. Smith: How does being a woman inform or weave into your work at Hoka?
Garcia: I really pride myself on holding all my identities. I’m cisgender, a woman of color, an immigrant from Mexico and a U.S. citizen as well as a daughter, mother and spouse. My superpower is being able to hear people and understand the importance of all their identities, which helps to make me a more empathetic storyteller.
Shimada: I am a mother, daughter and sister, but being born and raised in Japan, I think I bring an international perspective in addition to the female perspective.
With initiatives like the Running Industry Diversity Coalition, our industry is recognizing the value of diverse perspectives — and that includes women.
That’s something I appreciate about working with you. Though our global office is based in the U.S., you’ve done an amazing job reminding us to think about other regions and perspectives.
I hope our industry at large continues being intentional about having those different perspectives and valuing those because representation is so important. Though our industry has become more diverse, it’s still male dominated.
How would you characterize the opportunity for women in the run industry? What about the challenges?
Women should be CEOs, presidents and executives. They should be able to see themselves in any position and have a place in our industry.
I hope we develop career paths so women can see opportunities and find mentorship and begin to see themselves in leadership positions more often. There’s still an issue of women feeling their voices are not heard enough, especially in a conservative, male-driven culture like the one I came from in Japan.
© 2021 Diversified Communications
With female leadership that starts with president Wendy Yang and continues through the ranks with leaders such as Mayuko Shimada (left) and Martha Garcia, Hoka One One is creating cutting-edge innovations such as the new Mach 4. It is a product of a unique collaboration culture driven by a diverse workforce.
Chiming in during a meeting is a rude act for me and I remember the energy of my first Hoka meeting in the U.S. I kept waiting for people to stop, but it never happened. Over time, I’ve learned how to use my voice, which was helped by having other women at the table with me. That’s something we should be grateful for at Hoka. That allyship helps, as we all call each other into the conversation. There’s been so much individual confidence built because we have women on the leadership team here. 19
Yes, we do a good job of listening to one another and, even more, listening to our female consumers through focus groups and insights. I know that helps me gain deeper understanding.
That also leads to us being more intentional with our communications with female consumers and inviting them into the brand. We recognize women find running intimidating, so we’re trying to amplify voices and hit on the representation piece, but to do that in an authentic way.
Your team does a wonderful job here of sharing real stories for women.
That all comes back to having women in roles where they can make decisions, especially in areas like social media and PR. Because of that we can create more authentic connections.
What advice do you have for other women hoping to rise in the ranks of run specialty?
As you’re climbing the ladder, know that you’re opening doors for others. Lift her up so she can be beside you.
I echo that. Women can chart their own path in our industry now. Be an ally to other women and support one another.
© 2021 Diversified Communications
Women Who Run This Business
Step Lively A formula for success — a female-only running shop owned by two sisters is setting the pace in Illinois.
nyone looking for perhaps the best current-day example of Women Who Run This Business need look no further than a little shop in Oak Park, IL, owned by a pair of sisters, Anne Pezalla and Kate Pezalla Marlin,
that caters solely to the female runner and athlete. Six years ago the two siblings, who admittedly would have both been voted as “Least Athletic” back in their high school days, took their recently-found passion for running and turned it into Lively Athletics,
the ultimate for-women-only running shop. But the path has not always been straight or smooth — and the COVID-19 pandemic certainly has not made the past year any easier. But that never seemed to deter the two entrepreneurs, although being two
Sisters Anne Pezalla (left) and Kate Pezalla Marlin have turned Lively Athletics into the ultimate for-women-only running shop.
© 2021 Diversified Communications
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Step Lively (continued) women in the run business did have its own unique set of challenges. They recall that back in 2014 when they were writing their business plan for Lively they were frequently and benignly called “girls.” It was the state of business at the time. (Today they pose their own question: Reach out to Phil Knight and ask him the last time, if ever, someone called him “boy” in a business setting. They guess the answer is “never.”) But they have learned to embrace the term and, in fact, when asked a question that is often fraught with controversy, they unhesitatingly refer to themselves as “women business owners.” It is in their DNA, and is embedded in the Lively Athletics mantra. “We are women in the run specialty business,” says Kate. “Casual and systemic sexism aside, being a woman in business is amazing,” emphasizes Anne. Opening a women’s-only running store that effectively disregarded half of the potential market was never a concern for the sisters. And they have succeeded in building a strong community in Oak Park, with an all-female running group that has championed the store and female-dominated social media that has allowed Lively to grow exponentially. At The Beginning … Lively Athletics was born six years ago when the sisters – both of whom admittedly came to running later in life – were both going through some upheaval in their lives. Anne had young kids at home 22
and was slowly figuring out that her lifelong dream of being a stay-at-home mom just wasn’t for her. Kate was working as an editor, but feeling ready for a new adventure. It occurred to them that all they both wanted to do was run, talk about running, hang out with runners and, most importantly, only wear running clothes for the rest of their lives. So Anne called Kate to pitch the idea of a women’s running store in their hometown and the response was immediate and positive. “She said yes probably a little too fast for such a risky proposition,” Anne recalls. So in 2014 Lively opened as Lively Running, a name that lasted only a few months once they realized it was going to be much more than a store for just runners. Admittedly, the lack of experience from the duo of a stay-at-home mom/English as a Foreign Language teacher and a medical editor who didn’t have a lot of business experience didn’t work in their favor, to put it mildly. But their enthusiasm and passion more than made up for their lack of acumen. “We’ve been lucky to make smart friends and have great opportunities over the years, but we’ve also made our share of mistakes,” Anne admits. The two figured out pretty quickly that Kate was strongest at merchandising, buying and all things fashion, while Anne loves a spreadsheet and nothing makes her happier than over-posting about the store on social media. So they’ve kind of naturally divided the store where Kate is the buyer and Anne handles the marketing/ finances.
Anne loves a spreadsheet and social media and handles those chores at Lively.
Kate and Anne admit they never even considered opening anything but a women’s-only running store. The focus on women’s apparel and needs was germane to the idea. So while developing their business plan they scoped out every running store in Chicago. They found that there were skinny male high school track stars working the floor, male mannequins and a sort of masculine soundtrack playing at all of them. This cemented their business concept. “We had a different vision,” recalls Anne. “We wanted to create a community-centered space for women of every athletic level.” And indeed they have. The 2000-square-foot store carries running gear, of course, but it also has a gorgeous jewelry and artisanal bath product selection. Uniquely in the running space, 2020 was the first year its shoe department outsold its
apparel department. Being more of a boutique for women and children has also allowed it to capitalize on the holiday gifting season, back-to-school shopping and even Mother’s Day. The Sister Connection Being sisters is certainly a unique feature of Lively and the two siblings have adopted their own strategies for managing both their professional and personal lives while working closely together. In fact, it is often a conversation starter. “When we get new customers in the store and we mention we are sister-owned, we get one of two reactions,” says Kate. Some women are like, “Oh! I love it! My sister and I always talk about opening an antique shop in Michigan!” And other women? Their eyes widen and they say, “Oh, I love my sister, but I could never, ever work with her.” © 2021 Diversified Communications
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Step Lively (continued)
Kate handles purchasing and merchandising along with all things fashion.
Fortunately, Kate and Anne still fall in that first camp and share a very clear vision for the store while balancing each other well. Anne is the big ideas person, but admittedly terrible at execution. Kate excels at details and planning. “We have certainly had fights for sure and are constantly negotiating what it means to be partners,” says Anne. For example, when Kate took her maternity leaves, Anne recalls never having worked harder at maintaining her balance. The sister in her wanted to drop off lasagnas and tell her to never come back to Lively until her kids were five. But the business partner wanted her to just take two hours off and then hire a full-time nanny and get back to work. “I think this is something that will always be a struggle for us, especially since we both hate conflict so much,” she says. 24
What they have found helps is regular meetings and hiring an amazing manager, Ellen Maliff. “Also, our dad’s eyes do glaze over if I start talking about P&L statements at the dinner table, so that helps keep the lines clear on when we’re sisters versus business partners.” The Female Touch Undeniably, Lively Athletics has found its niche because of its female ownership and focus on all things related to female runners — and while the sisters embrace that difference and the challenges it brings, they know they have their hands on something special and unique. “Some of our favorite local stores are owned by men and we love them and they do a great job, but as women we have a unique perspective on community,” says Anne. “Let’s be honest here, almost 99 percent of our goods could be purchased
online from another retailer. “So when women come into our store, it’s for expertise, conversation and, above all, community. We’re good at sitting women down and talking to them, making them feel heard and understood,” she adds. Indeed, a customer told Anne recently that “your store is much more welcoming to newbies and women who may be just starting out on a fitness journey. Also, it’s much more comfortable to discuss bras and boobs with a lady. There’s no shame in wanting athletic clothing to be functional and cute and I am not sure a male owner/buyer would be able to strike that balance the way you and Kate do.” Now that’s customer feedback any store owner – man or woman – would welcome. “The sad truth is, women have a complicated relationship with their bodies and that spills over into the way they talk about themselves,” Anne says. “We hear so many customers say things like ‘Oh, I’m not a real runner,’ even when they’re training for their third marathon, and the way they buy clothes. We can help navigate the fraught process of picking shoes and apparel, having grown up with these same pressures and body ideals.” That doesn’t mean that all of the obstacles in the way of women owning a running store have been overcome. In fact, Anne recalls that just last month she was discussing some of her ideas for expanding Lively with a woman in the business who she respects. That woman gave her a long talk about how tough it would be to expand given the age of her
children and her responsibilities as a mom. The conversation set Anne back a bit. “I guarantee that my husband, who travels constantly, never has people check in with how his ambitions are matching with his fathering responsibilities,” she responds. “I think you’d have to be blind to think that women aren’t bearing the brunt of childcare during the pandemic. “We’re still doing just as much work as we ever did, but now I’m also learning how to troubleshoot the 17 apps needed for the school day and answering 37 emails (all lovely) from teachers every week.” The COVID-19 Impact Ahh, the pandemic. The last nine months have impacted Lively Athletics the same as most other retailers in America and the sisters have struggled through it while learning how to adapt and, in many cases, thrive. “I remember March 16th so clearly,” says Anne — it was the day it became clear that Governor Pritzker was going to shut down the state of Illinois. She recalls going home, turning on the news, laying on the couch and crying and and feeling sorry for herself for the rest of the afternoon. But then she went back to work. “After the misery, stress and panic of that afternoon there is no way I could have expected that, nine months later, I’d be looking back on 2020 almost fondly,” she says now. Kate attributes their ability to navigate the COVID challenge to the community they had built in Oak Park, where she says the residents understood instantly that they needed to support any © 2021 Diversified Communications
Step Lively (continued) store that they wanted to still be around when the pandemic was over. But since Lively didn’t have e-commerce at the time, any customer that wanted to order from them had to find their phone number and their store hours, call them and spend 20 minutes telling them what they wanted to buy. Then the staff would deliver and they’d call back and pay for what they liked and arrange pick-up of what they didn’t. “The hoops people were willing to jump through for us were insane,” says Anne. “I have never been so touched or full of gratitude as I was in April, when our sales were still holding strong and customers were still jumping through hoops.” Lively even had one customer purchase an $1100 gift card, with no intention of ever redeeming it. She just wanted to support the store. When it became clear last spring that the pandemic wasn’t ending any time soon, Anne, Kate and Maliff got serious about adding e-commerce. “It has been so much work. So much work. Like, a lot of work,” Kate says. “In short, professionally this year has been busy, exhilarating and never, ever boring.” A Lively Future In 2021 Lively remains as it was at the start – a store for female runners and athletes, with all that entails and, at the same time, limits. And it appears that focus will remain for the foreseeable future. “We do think about whether to expand to selling men’s products, Kate and I talk about it 26
every year and keep pushing it off for another year,” says Anne. The store has grown by selling kids’ shoes and tennis apparel and expanding into e-commerce and the sisters haven’t felt the need to add men’s goods quite yet, although they frequently get requests to do so. “I just don’t see how we could maintain the feel of our space while selling to men and Kate has made it clear she doesn’t know the first thing about what men want from their apparel,” says Anne. She does admit to harboring plans for a pop-up shop next year, specializing in men’s gear, shoes and gifts, but the timing remains unclear. Anne and Kate remain committed to run specialty and revel in the fact that the business is actually more equal in gender participation than many other businesses. “It’s because running is the best sport and runners are the best kind of people,” says Anne. But seriously, they believe that because running is very egalitarian – all you need are a good pair of shoes and the perfect sports bra – and it feels free and available to anyone. You don’t need special knowledge and the gear is just a bonus. “We’ve always felt so welcome in the world of running and at The Running Event and I think that’s how most women feel about the sport of running,” Kate adds. “Last I checked more women than men were participating in races for many distances. It makes sense that people’s careers follow their passions and so, as more women run, more women will enter run specialty.” Their advice for other run
One of the reasons Kate and Anne opened Lively Athletics was the chance to only have to wear running clothes for the rest of their lives.
specialty retailers looking to cater to a female clientele begins with the social aspects of marketing and merchandising — start on social media to reach them with a strong, nonjudgmental voice. Don’t ever be mean, but don’t be afraid to be funny or honest. For merchandising, Kate says there’s a simple strategy: Just make it beautiful. “Our budget doesn’t always allow for seasonal props or fresh displays, but being intentional about the placement of product can go a long way,” she says. Women Running the Business And the time is right for more women to get involved in the business of running. “Go for it, this is your time,” says Anne, stressing that the spotlight is back on small businesses and the joy and value they bring to the community. One of the strategies that has served them well has been to say
“yes” to everything and to lift up other businesses. “Actually, I shouldn’t even call it a strategy. It’s just who Kate and I are,” says Anne. They give to every charity, school or non-profit that comes calling. They advocate for other small businesses just as fiercely as they do for their own. Anne and Kate strongly believe that 2021 is going to be the Year of Lively. “We’re going to continue to grow our sales and continue to give back to the community that showed up for us in 2020, when things were hard,” Anne says, adding that having e-commerce should help catapult the business. They are also looking at automating processes around the store so they can pull themselves more and more out of the daily running of the store and focus more on high level goals. “It’s going to take vision, hard work and amazing employees,” Anne says. “But luckily, we already have all three.” n © 2021 Diversified Communications
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Women Who Run This Business
A Run With ...
Kathy Dalby Pacers Running An emotional year gives way to opportunity and optimism later in 2021 for Pacers Running. So, how has the past year been for you, personally and professionally? Like most small business owners, this year ran the gamut of emotions — concern about keeping your staff whole and employed, panics about cash flow, worries about the health of everyone around you coupled with deep frustration of our government’s handling of the pandemic. There were many moments you had to stop yourself just to breathe. How did Pacers Running adapt? What I’m most proud of was our quick pivot to servicing our customer virtually and the ingenuity that came from our collective leadership team in time of crisis. Any specific accomplishments? Our doors shut March 15 and within two weeks our team had ideated, created, tested and launched virtual footwear fittings. Shortly after that we launched virtual bra fittings and beginner runner virtual Q&A sessions. Over the early phase of the pandemic our team conducted over 1000 virtual fittings and we continue to offer this service as part of our fitting strategy. We have also had the opportunity to take advantage of shifts in the commercial retail leasing market and opened a new pop-up location in the Georgetown shopping district in Washington, DC last month. What is your “typical” day like these days? Work, feed the cats, work, maybe run, work, connect with friends and family, work some more, sleep. Repeat. 28
Do you view yourself as a woman in the run specialty business or simply a professional in the run specialty business? I don’t find the two mutually exclusive. My point of view informs my professional opinions, which include my experiences as being a woman in running, business and entrepreneurship. Run specialty is perhaps more equal in gender participation than many other businesses. Why do you think that is?
You may see female faces at a trade show, but I see an under-indexing of women in positions of power year round. Our customer base is decidedly majority female. Consider our vendors — only two CEOs of major footwear vendors are female. Brand sales leadership? Getting better, but still underindexing. The number of female leaders on the retail side? Also under-indexing. Do you feel that on a regular basis? The meetings I sit in are heavily male
© 2021 Diversified Communications
and it’s not unusual for my leadership team to constitute the makeup of women in a room or a sales meeting. We really need to be vocal and intentional about bringing all women – especially women of color – into the fold. If we don’t we risk missing out on a critical pipeline of diverse points of view, experiences and ideas. Has any progress been made? We are seeing some pretty impressive women slotting into influential positions at brands and I don’t want to diminish that. I do want us to continue to push for women in positions of power and influence — sales and marketing, footwear design, store ownership, boards and C-suite positions. I know there has been conscious commitment by brands and retailers to bring more women in and also commit to DEI in their hiring, business operations, marketing and outreach. These are great starts and I hope we see this continue to cascade throughout the industry. Is this just a gender issue? A wise woman – Melanie Allen, CMO of Brooks – said at our first empowerun retreat, “To have the tables unbalanced does a disservice to our customer,” and she’s right. I think about this all the time, not just as it relates to gender, but also race, sexual orientation, ableism, religion, socio-economic access, cultural differences, you name it. What does our industry need to do about it? We need to really open our eyes to underserved and 29
underrepresented communities and evolve to serve the consumer of today and tomorrow. The Running Industry Diversity Coalition – www.runningdiversity.com – is taking on some of this critical work and I encourage my colleagues to all engage with this group as we come together to make our industry inclusive, more welcoming and better situated to grow and serve the greater run community.
your truth and enhance your networks through programs like empowerun (see empowerun article on page 40).
Do you think having a female CE O h a s h e l p e d Pa c e r s Running reach more female customers? A ny o r g a n i z a t i o n t h a t diversifies its leadership adds dimension to the point of view of the organization and can be found to be more accessible or desirable to the consumer and leads to better innovation. This isn’t limited to gender. We all, Pacers Running included, could do a much better job of diversifying our workforce and partnerships and we are committing ourselves to better reflect our customer base in all elements of our business.
Was there anything positive that came out of 2020 that you can build on in 2021? The past year did have some positives. We were able to build a predominantly full-time store staff, our management team had time to engage in some intensive leadership training and we found great success with our digital marketing strategy, which directly correlated to our wins online. Twenty-four percent of our sales in 2020 originated via our online shop.
What are you expecting for you and Pacers Running in 2021 and what is it going to take to achieve that? We think the future for 2021 looks bright even if it’ll take until Q3 to get to a point where normalcy returns. Until then we will continue to focus on our team, our digital marketing strategies, refining our operations and servicing our customers where they are, whether that’s in-store or virtually. n
You are in a unique market, so how are your customers dealing with all of this these days? Urban markets like Washington, DC are going to take longer to recover, especially considering the drastic drop of daytime workers in and around our city locations. However, with a new administration comes new people to town who are looking for community and run shops provide these points of connection for them. It may not be January 20, but soon enough we can provide community space – both in person and virtually – for the new runners coming to DC.
About Kathy Dalby Kathy Dalby is the CEO of Pacers Running, an award-winning running specialty retailer and events production company in the greater Washington DC region. In her role, Kathy is responsible for strategy, brand and marketing, events and administration. She serves on the board of the Running Industry Association and is a co-founder of empowerun, a women’s industry networking and leadership event. runpacers.com @runpacers #ForEveryRun
What advice would you give to other run specialty retailers about reaching out to female runners? Hire women and advance them to positions of power and influence. Then listen to them. Also, what advice would you give to any young (or older) women considering following a similar career path in the run business? Be unapologetic about your value, bet on yourself, speak
What does the new year look like for Pacers Running? Ou r 2021 pla n revolves around our internal mantra: SOCUS — simple and focused. We are bullish on growth for the year and we are working as a team to fine tune our operations in 2021.
“We think the future for 2021 looks bright even if it’ll take until Q3 to get to a point where normalcy returns. Until then we will continue to focus on our team, our digital marketing strategies, refining our operations and servicing our customers where they are, whether that’s in-store or virtually.”
© 2021 Diversified Communications
Women Who Run This Business
A Run With ...
Robyn Goby Fleet Feet A challenging 2020 both professionally and personally is leading to change in the new year. So, how has the past year been for you and Fleet Feet? I don’t think anyone will be surprised that a pandemic is not conducive to development, so at first I wasn’t sure exactly where I fit in. We have an amazing team and they were all pivoting and doing incredible work and there was no pivoting in development. I also plan our national conference and other meetings and we canceled those, so I wasn’t sure how I could contribute. I was able to help a couple other teams and will always be grateful that they gave me a purpose in those early days. Is that changing as we head into 2021? Development is coming back now. We are receiving franchise inquiries – from people who realize life is short and it’s time to do something you’re passionate about– and we have existing franchisees who want to open additional doors. We’re looking to open our own doors as well. Out of 180 stores, we own about 30 of them and that number will increase. We have a great program for people who want to operate their own Fleet Feet store called Leadership Development and continue to receive inquiries from qualified candidates. You have also contributed to Fleet Feet’s diversity efforts. At Fleet Feet, and in this industry as a whole, we have an incredible amount of work to do. We have always considered ourselves inclusive, but we’ve excluded so many people and we can do better. So after George Floyd’s death, Joey Pointer, 30
© 2021 Diversified Communications
our CEO, asked me to oversee our work on diversity. How has that effort progressed? This is unlike anything I’ve ever worked on. I’m used to projects with a start and a finish. I’m also used to having a sense of urgency to complete these projects. But with diversity, you have to be thoughtful and deliberate. So I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but it’s also been completely transformational and I have learned so much. I still have a long way to go, but I’ve met many people who are patient with me and are helping me to understand what has been right in front of me but that I haven’t gone out of my way to see. How has the past year been for you personally? On a personal side, I can’t complain. I have a son who is a senior in high school and my heart goes out to these kids whose lives have been completely upended and to parents who have had to become teachers. I also think a lot about people who work in retail every day on the front lines and wear masks all day. It’s much harder to form a personal connection with a customer with a mask on, but these people are finding ways to do it. What is your typical day like? I still go into the office most days. It’s a lot different because almost no one is there and I’m closed in my office, but I can get a lot done and it’s only about five minutes from my house. I spend a lot of time on the phone with franchise and operator candidates and on Zoom meetings. At home, I’m still running and I’m actually walking a lot more. We 31
are so lucky to have beautiful trails near our home and I try to spend as much time on them as I can. It clears my head. Do you view yourself as a woman in the run specialty business or simply an executive who is in the run specialty business? I’m not sure if it’s because I’m in a corporate setting or if it’s because I work in a sports industry, but I’m keenly aware that I’m a woman in the business. How so? Women in the workplace are a bit different than men. We don’t always make our voices heard. We tend to hold back — not all women, but many, and I’m certainly one of them. But I continue to try to make sure I’m heard and I try to work with young women within our brand to help them to gain confidence and make themselves heard. I honestly believe that the more women are heard, the better off we’ll be as a company and a brand. Run specialty is perhaps more equal in gender participation than many other businesses. Why do you think that is? I think it has a lot to do with the sport of running itself. Running is an equal opportunity sport for men and women. I don’t play hockey or football, but I can lace up a pair of shoes and go for a run. I’d rather run with other people, but if that’s not possible, I can go by myself. I don’t need an opponent to get a workout. Any other reasons? Women are social creatures and running is a social sport.
The only time I see one of my closest friends is during early-morning r uns in our neighborhood. We talk about everything in our lives. It’s cathartic and empowering. It’s also multi-tasking, which women appreciate. I can spend time with a friend and get in a therapy session and a workout all at the same time. Women are busy and can play a number of roles: mothers, wives, daughters, professionals. Running is a great stress reliever and allows us to center ourselves. By taking time to run, we’re taking care of ourselves so we can take care of others. How does that translate into the run specialty business? Most of us are inherently nurturing. Owning, operating or working in a run specialty store provides a platform for us to help the people in our communities become healthier and more active. That is fulfilling. That said, corporate America is still very much male-dominated. How have you faced that challenge working in a bigger company such as Fleet Feet? Fleet Feet is a company founded by two women, but once they exited it did become a bit of a boys’ club and it stayed that way for a while. There were many meetings when I was the only female at the table and many times I was dismissed or treated as an admin. But it has changed so much, especially over the last few years. What do you think you bring to the company with a woman’s perspective as compared to your male colleagues? I have heard myself called the
“In terms of what I’m expecting for myself, I’m actually getting ready to make a big change. After close to 25 years, I’m going to leave Fleet Feet. I love this company and will leave a big part of myself behind.” heart of the company and I take a lot of pride in that. And I don’t take it lightly. This company and this channel as a whole are built on strong and passionate people and I’ve always tried to consider people and their feelings in my decisions and when I voice opinions. There is a difference between allowing heart and allowing emotions to rule your decisions. Don’t confuse the two and don’t assume that women don’t know the difference. What can you say about the Fleet Feet culture as it relates to opportunities for women? I’d say there has never been a better time for women at Fleet Feet, at least since I’ve been here. Currently, 54 percent of the corporate staff are women, almost a third of our leadership team are women and half of the people who report directly to our CEO are women. I am fortunate to work with some incredible women, including many young women, and it bodes well for the future. How about on the store side? The same is true — 23 percent of our 182 stores are owned or operated by women alone and another 30 percent are owned or operated by a woman and man together, so more than half are run, at least partly, by women. And again, among © 2021 Diversified Communications
Robyn Goby (continued)
them are a contingent of young, driven women who have opened stores over the last few years. Between the corporate office and the stores, women have most definitely evolved the culture and have brought a perspective that wasn’t being represented. Any advice for run specialty retailers about reaching out to female runners? Find a way to create an emotional connection. It comes down to basic human nature. People, especially women, want to feel connected to other people. They want to feel part of something, included, accepted. They want to believe that you genuinely care about them and their success. Provide opportunities like training programs and fun walks/runs to meet people and get moving and be part of it — when we can restart these things. This business is not about buying and selling product. It’s so much more than transactional. And what advice would you give to any young (or older) women considering following a similar career path in the run business? Now is the time. There are so many incredible women in this industry, more than ever before. Don’t hold back or be intimidated. Get in there and make your voice heard. You’ve been involved with empowerun. Tell us about that experience. Burke Beck and Kathy Dalby, two amazing women, created empowerun to bring us together and give women a stronger voice in the industry. The two 32
The Fleet Feet corporate staff, circa 2010.
empowerun meetings have been two of the most fulfilling experiences of my career. Women in this industry are generous. They unite. They build each other up, instead of tearing each other down. And you are also involved with the Running Industry Diversity Coalition. Yes, I’ve had the opportunity to help launch the Running Industry Diversity Coalition over the last six months. And again, I’m in awe of the power of the women on that leadership team. They are brave and they don’t back down. What are you expecting for Fleet Feet out of 2021 and what is it going to take to achieve that? We need to continue to find unique ways to support our customers, especially our many new customers who have found us over these last nine months. Either they are running for the
first time or they’re coming back to it after a long absence and are looking not only for guidance on products, but also for inclusion, acceptance and inspiration.
love this company and will leave a big part of myself behind, but the company is doing great and I’m ready and excited for whatever is next for me. n
And beyond the sales floor? We need to extend th is support to everyone in our communities. We need to be explicit in our communication to BIPOC and all of those who’ve been marginalized and make sure they know they’re welcome. We need to be proactive in sitting down with them to learn how we can support them and begin to build trust. This will not be easy. In fact, it will be hard and uncomfortable at times, but we owe it to them and to ourselves. This is how we all win.
About Robyn Goby Robyn Goby has been in the industry for her entire career, beginning in customer service at New Balance. She moved to the Washington, DC area to gain experience in run specialty and to apply for the New Balance Tech Rep program. She got a part-time job at a Fleet Feet and met the CEO of Fleet Feet, Tom Raynor, in 1993, shortly after he had purchased the company from Sally Edwards, who then offered her a job in Franchise Support. She left briefly to do stints in marketing at both New Balance and Saucony, but came back to Fleet Feet in 1999 and never left, holding a number of different jobs, including her current position of VP–development. email@example.com
And finally, how about you personally? In terms of what I’m expecting for myself, I’m actually getting ready to make a big change. After close to 25 years, I’m going to leave Fleet Feet. I
© 2021 Diversified Communications
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Women Who Run This Business
A Run With ...
Shannon Woods Brooks Running An ongoing emphasis on diversification at Brooks and within the run specialty business drives Woods in 2021. What has the past year been like for you working in a pandemic? It has been a roller coaster of a year for me. I am so privileged that I continue to be employed, Brooks’ business is strong and my family continues to be healthy. Professionally I transitioned to working from home back in March and it has worked well for me. I live in a multi-generational household, so I’m managing work with family and disruptions, but in the bigger scheme of things it works out just fine. How about personally? I had a personal call to action with the continual racial injustices we all witnessed last year. I have been a protester and activist most of my life, so balancing showing up for black lives with the pandemic was challenging. I committed myself to protesting one day a week and was extremely diligent in my safety protocols. Do you view yourself as a woman in the run specialty business or simply a professional in the run specialty business? I am a professional and a woman of color in the run specialty and outdoor business. If you were to have asked me that 20 years ago, I would have said I’m a professional and I don’t like labels. How has that worldview changed? What I have grown to learn is that society will label you whether you like it or not and accurately or not. My personal role for myself is to take back that narrative and self-identify and when I self-identify as a 34
professional woman of color, it highlights some of the obstacles I may have faced navigating these industries. Professionally, this may mean important representation and guidance for others either entering or currently navigating their own professional careers in our industry. Would you agree that run specialty is actually more equal in gender participation than many other businesses?
I haven’t seen any gender data for run specialty businesses. What I have heard, and what we know, is that the business of running is predominately white male. One of the endeavors of the Running Industry Diversity Coalition is to embark on a research project that would provide the running industry with diversity data which should include gender. The shift of seeing women at industry events such as The Running Event is relatively recent.
© 2021 Diversified Communications
There is still a significant gap and opportunity for women to lead in our industry as business owners and brand leaders. Women leading in run specialty will only enhance our sport to become a more creative and innovative industry. Your focus at Brooks is on diversity. How does that include efforts to improve opportunities for women, both at Brooks and within the run industry? Our efforts at Brooks to improve oppor tunities for women started intentionally in 2016. We signed the Outdoor Industry Women’s Coalition (OIWC) pledge that motioned us to begin looking at gender demographics internally alongside external benchmarks. How did that affect things at Brooks? What we found is that Brooks overall had gender balance — 50/50 women and men and as we went up the leadership ranks, the number decreased rapidly. Since then, we have put our efforts towards the promotion of women and hiring of women in leadership roles and have made significant progress. Are there any specific results from this effort? We for med a Women at Brooks affinity group to create a women’s mentorship program and women’s speaker series. Within the run industry, Brooks is showing up and influencing with women, sales team, marketing leaders and in board seats within the Running USA board and Running Industry Diversity Coalition. 35
What do you think you bring to your job from a woman’s perspective as compared to your male colleagues? I bring to the run business a resiliency that comes from a different lived experience. Women experience the world in a very different way from a very young age, from beauty expectations to harassment and safety awareness or experience, to managing our bodies and children, to navigating corporate America and proving ourselves competent. Due to this lived experience, I bring a perspective that is creative in problem solving, change oriented and empathy for the human experience. What advice would you give to run specialty retailers about reaching out and merchandising to female runners? With nearly half of the running population identifying as female runners, it’s important to recognize the area of opportunity. Engaging with both a female and male audience is vital for business. What does Brooks do well in this area of reaching female runners? Right now, Brooks over indexes with women in our consumer base. Most notably is the addition of our @brookswomen Instagram, which showcases the lifestyle of a female runner. Additionally, our expertise in run bras allows us to differentiate ourselves from other players in this space due to the extensive testing and research we’ve done over the years to truly understand the way the body moves while running as
well as listening to the things consumers are looking for to create a distraction-free running experience. With that, we do acknowledge that not all who wear bras identify as women. And what advice would you give to any young (or older) women considering following a similar career path in the run business? I would say to any woman, young or old, considering a career in the run business, whether it be fashion design or in DEI work, to stay true to yourself. You often experience times when you are the only one in the room or at the table with your point of view — it can feel isolating, but stay resilient. Your perspective matters and because of you our industry is stronger. Finally, what are you expecting for you and Brooks in 2021 and what is it going to take to achieve that? I expect to lead Brooks in diversity, equity and inclusion by honing in on three areas where we can have the most impact — in our workplace, representation with runners and in our run community. In 2021 we will see Brooks excel in the hiring of women and Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in leadership positions and increased representation of BIPOC in our marketing campaigns. You will see us continue to engage in the running community by inviting more people into the sport. It will take all Brooks employees engaging in these efforts to achieve true diversity, equity and inclusion. n
“What I have grown to learn is that society will label you whether you like it or not and accurately or not. My personal role for myself is to take back that narrative and selfidentify and when I selfidentify as a professional woman of color, it highlights some of the obstacles I may have faced navigating these industries.”
About Shannon Woods Shannon Woods is senior manager of diversity, equity and inclusion at Brooks Running, responsible for recommending and delivering Brooks’ commitments, initiatives and long-term goals for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She joined the Brooks apparel team in 2011 and a couple years into her DEI work in education she started working with Brooks on DEI. © 2021 Diversified Communications
Women Who Run This Business
A Run With ...
Tanya Pictor, Balega Inspired by the passion and talents of colleagues, Tanya Pictor is optimistic on the future of run specialty. specialty retailers about reaching out and merchandising to female runners? There is more to life than white, black and grey socks. Women, and I am sure men as well, like color and they are attracted to the retail wall if you merchandise with color. Offer a selection to consumers and they will reward you by purchasing.
How has the past year been for you, personally and professionally, in dealing with the pandemic? It has been a tiring year with a lot of inward reflection and soul searching, continually attempting to deliver at optimal levels without the energetic input of so many sources of inspiration I would find in a regular day of interaction — with passionate people, travel, store visits and industry connections.
And what advice would you give to any young (or older) women considering following a similar career path in the run business? Be yourself, be authentic and respectfully unapologetic about who you are and what you bring. Follow your passion and remain true to your calling. It is what our industry needs.
Do you view yourself as a woman in the run specialty business or simply a professional in the run specialty business? Oh, definitely a woman in the run specialty business. We live, run, everything we do is aimed at providing solutions for runners. Run specialty is perhaps more equal in gender participation than m any other businesses. Just look around The Running Event (when we can have it again) and see how many women are walking the aisles and working in the booths. Why do you think that is? Firstly, I cannot wait to be part of the energy that The Running Event is again. Thank you. Running as a sport does not see gender, color, it is all inclusive, forgiving and keeps us grounded. How does that fit into the way Balega does business? Balega as a brand has always espoused the spirit of UBUNTU. As the late Nelson Mandela so eloquently said, “I am, because we are.” We are a community inclusive of everyone. We do not exist as a brand 36
without the support of all runners. We exist because of runners and we came to fulfill our purpose as the ultimate running sock, in our relentless pursuit to developing the best possible wearer experience. What do you think you bring to your business with a woman’s perspective as compared to your male colleagues? I think women overall are more detail oriented than men, broadly speaking. We have always believed that the difference lies in all the small things we try to accomplish, which ultimately makes the brand resonate with our consumers. What advice would you give to run
Finally, what do you think 2021 is going to bring for the run specialty business? The new year will bring an opportunity to get beyond the struggles mentally and financially of 2020. The opportunity to offer consumers exciting, differentiated offerings that have been thoughtfully curated — offerings that mirror the hope we all have for a healthy, fit and fulfilled year. So you’re optimistic? Run specialty so needs and deserves the opportunity to get back to creating an experience that our running community has missed out on in 2020, I want to be a part realizing this. n About Tanya Pictor Tanya Pictor co-founded Balega in 2002 and is currently marketing and product designer responsible for marketing, design, product development and creative for Balega socks.
© 2021 Diversified Communications
We believe movement is more than just exercise.
It's a training ground, for self-expression, empowerment, and personal growth.
That's our perspective.
A Shoe Of Their Own While female-only tech is often hard to find, ASICS, Newton and Altra advance the design cause in 2021. / By Brian Metzler “The Lady Cortez was one of the first athletic shoes made on a women’s last and its success showed us how big that market was. Being a bunch of big, dumb guys that we were, we didn’t get the message right away.” — Geoff Hollister, one of Nike’s original employees, from his 2008 book, “Out of Nowhere: The Inside Story of How Nike Marketed the Culture of Running”
hile women’s running shoe sales have soared for the past 30 years, it sometimes seems as if the running industry as a whole still hasn’t gotten the message entirely. With all of the advancements in footwear, running gait analysis and the understanding of gender-specific anatomy and movement patterns, there still aren’t many running shoes truly designed for women.
Surprisingly, not all brands use genderspecific lasts. And if you consider all the shoes from every brand, it’s clear that most women’s running shoes are still generally designed off of men’s lasts or “unisex” lasts, which are still often based on the size and shape of men’s feet. “I always look at it from the perspective that women are buying more of the shoes, why are we still mostly developing for men? It does kind of blow my mind when I see
The women’s edition of the Altra Timp 2 trail running shoe was built with the brand’s Fit4Her design ethos.
© 2021 Diversified Communications
The women’s versions of ASICS GEL-Kayano Lite (left) and GEL-Nimbus Lite 2 incorporate Space Frame Technology, gender-specific heel-toe offsets, more pliable flex patterns and slightly softer midsole foams.
that. It just doesn’t make sense to me,” says Dr. Geoffrey Gray, DPT, who operates Heeluxe Footwear Science and Research in Goleta, Calif., a company that consults with shoe brands in the process of designing running, outdoor and casual shoes. “If Levi’s can make 20 different sizes and cuts of jeans for men and women, you’d think more footwear companies could do the same with shoes.” While plenty of running brands market to women and have taken time to improve color palettes for women, there still isn’t much differentiation when it comes to fit and stride technology. And that’s despite the many known differences between men’s and women’s foot shapes and movement patterns. Compared to men, women’s feet are generally narrower in the heel and wider in the forefoot, but also have shorter, steeper and wider longitudinal arches. Proportionately speaking, women also tend to have shorter toe bones, lower calf 39
muscles and wider hips. They have a more acute “Q” angle, which means their thigh muscles pull more on their kneecaps and lower legs as they run. All of that results in slightly but distinctly different landing and foot flex patterns in their running gait. That may partially explain why women and men tend to be injured differently, says Casey Kerrigan, MD, an avid runner and founder of OESH Shoes. While men are more likely to suffer from tendon and knee cartilage problems, running injuries among women tend to be tied to stress fractures and injuries related to the instability of the pelvis, including iliotibial band syndrome, patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner’s knee) and Achilles tendonitis, according to the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Shoes aren’t the only cause, of course. Training, daily health routines and the Female Athlete Triad, also known as Relative Energy Deficiency in Sports (RED-S) syndrome,
also contribute to injury prevalence among women. But, Kerrigan has said, it’s possible that women’s athletic footwear could be doing more to minimize their risk. “I believe that men and women are prone to similar types of injuries, but it’s poorly designed footwear that’s causing more and different ones in women,” Kerrigan told online women’s media outlet Refinery29.com. Lack of Technology Advances Surprisingly, not many brands have women’s-specific technology or features coming out in 2021. The reason, Gray suggests, ultimately comes down the cost of engineering shoes that would be entirely different. That’s often hard to rationalize from a marketing point of view, when there are so many other technological and aesthetic aspects of shoes that connect to purchasing habits, he surmises, but from a scientific and gait analysis point of view, shoes designed specifically for women can certainly make a difference
— based on the measurable differences of both injury rates among women and feedback about comfort. “Injury rates are probably always multifactorial,” Gray says. “Shoes are a part of that, but it’s the training they are exposed to and the medical treatment they get. But no matter what, based on what I have data on, the shoes aren’t working as well for the women as they are for the men.” Rykä, of course, is still one of the leaders when it comes to women’s-specific shoe design and ma rketing directly to women, having built its brand entirely around those concepts for 30 years. In addition to running shoes, it makes shoes for training, walking, water sports and casual wear and every model has a slightly narrower heel, a roomier forefoot, increased step volume and a secure footbed. That said, Rykä has pared back its running presence from what it was and today only offers one model – the Ultimate Running Shoe, which retails for $64.99 © 2021 Diversified Communications
A Shoe of Their Own (continued)
For 2021, the Newton Fate (left) and Kismet utilize a women’s-specific upper and also feature Newton’s Action Reaction Technology specifically tuned for women.
– and no longer sells in running retail shops. For 2021, Newton Running has not only utilized new lasts specific to women’s foot shapes and sizes in its Fate and Kismet models, but it has also introduced an upper design that better accommodates women’s feet. But perhaps the biggest update for 2021 from Newton is that it has gender-tuned its Action Reaction Technology, the external lug system under the forefoot that captures and returns downward energy for a more propulsive ride. The Altra Effort Every Altra shoe has a footshaped toe box and is built on a level or “zero-drop” platform to facilitate a natural running gait. But the brand’s Fit4Her design ethos separates the genders based on other factors, taking into consideration the size and shape of women’s feet, as well as movement patterns and even styling. “We build our shoes around a fit around the specifics of a woman’s foot,” says Altra spokesperson Shanna Burnette. “This is different from the majority of brands that take the 40
men’s last and simply reduce the size, both in length and width, effectively scaling the fit. We look at the fit overall and take into account foot measurements based on gender, so differing widths in the heel and length of the arch.” The ASICS Design Story ASICS has perhaps the biggest women’s technology and design story for 2021. With the women’s models of its flagship GEL-Nimbus 23 and GEL-Nimbus Lite 2 neutral shoes and its GEL-Kayano 27 and GEL-Kayano Lite stability models, it has delved deeply into new women’s running shoe fit and performance needs designs based on lower body mass density (compared to men) and specific anatomical differences. First, ASICS offers lower midsole foam densities in those women’s models and a more compliant flex pattern. Because women generally have less body mass relative to men, it takes more effort to compress a shoe’s midsole and engage the full range of motion of its flex pattern. By creating midsoles with slightly softer densities – arrived
at through wear-testing, focus groups and scientific data – and more malleable flex grooves, says Laura Bolgen, manager of ASICS Global Product Line – Performance Running. “Women can enjoy a softer ride because of their lower on average body weight and mass,” says Bolgen, who joined ASICS in 2018 after a stint working on footwear wear testing and consumer insights at Nike. “In other words, with a lighter mass, women can use help flexing their shoes.” The women’s version of those four models also have a 3mm greater heel-toe drop — the men’s versions have a 10mm offset, while the women’s versions have a 13mm offset. The reasoning, Bolgen says, is to improve the overall cushioning experience and improve rearfoot stability based on women’s anatomical and gait differences. The biggest women’s fit story from ASCIS is its 3D Space Construction technology, which is focused on midsole individualizing the midsole deformation in every stride to give women runners the best possible ride and support for their particular gait pattern.
It’s essentially a specially designed 3D honeycomb design that’s cut out from the top of the midsole. It helps reduce the weight of the midsole and allows a female runner to compress and flex it easier based precisely how her foot rolls from heel to toe. But the size, shape and location of the honeycomb pattern vary by gender and by shoe model. Ultimately, it creates a more tuned ride, based on the data of gender gait patterns but also a semi-custom, adaptive ride for an individual runner. The technology can provide women with softer landings to relieve impact stress and give men more torsional rigidity and support. For women, that can reduce the strain on the Achilles tendons and calf muscles, resulting in less stress known to cause overuse injuries. “With this technology, we’re able to adjust the size, shape and placement of 3D space pillars of honeycomb structures to provide uniquely tuned midsoles for women’s or men’s products,” Bolgen says. “We can really individualize the cushioned experience by gender as well as the support as needed by gender.” n © 2021 Diversified Communications
Women Who Run This Business
empowerun has brought together female executives in run specialty for networking and education.
ecognizing a significant void in networking opportunities for women in the run specialty business three years ago, Kathy Dalby, of Pacers Running, and Burke Beck, of Red Coyote Running, put their collective imaginations together and formed what today has become the premier gathering for women executives in the industry with a name that says it all — empowerun. empowerun is essentially a collaborative, independent project produced by the two female principals of Pacers Running and Red Coyote with the intention of providing a space for women in running to form supportive and lasting networks and opportunities for self-growth. The first retreat was in March 2019 in Napa, CA, after a year of planning. “For years we were both typically one of only a handful of women in the room at industry events, sales meetings and other business activities and we knew our experience paralleled a lot of other women in the industry,” Dalby tells Running Insight. “We felt it important to bring women together, help them further their networks and invest in women so in the future these events and meetings are more balanced.” empowerun had about 40 women attend in its first year, with the attendee mix primarily retail shop owners and vendor leadership. The event expanded to just shy of 80 women in its second year, including more store owners, more vendor employees and expansion to high-level and promising retail staff. Unfortunately, the empowerun event in early March 2020 was one of the last industry events before COVID really took hold and changed the world for everyone. “For many of us that was a time to focus on and hone our personal leadership strategy and planning for what we all knew was going to be a very uncertain and scary time,” Dalby recalls. 42
At 2019 empowerun (from left): Burke Beck, Red Coyote; Melanie Allen, Brooks Running; Claire Wood (was with New Balance in 2019, now with Sorel); Wendy Yang, Hoka; and Kathy Dalby, Pacers Running.
Even though any 2021 empowerun will be more virtual than in-person as COVID restrictions continue – the organizers are working on ways to offer networking and learning opportunities throughout the year until they can meet up again – the demand for a female leadership event remains strong, says Beck. “There was a void in networking opportunities for women in the industry and we felt it important for women to be seen and heard,” Beck continues. “empowerun is an opportunity for women in leadership to connect and discuss our unique experiences and seek ways to amplify our point of view in our organizations and the industry.” In its first two years empowerun was a two-day event centered on networking, knowledge sharing and leadership training. It included panels with women leaders and discussion about topics that impact
the future of the industry. It focused on cross-collaboration across all channels that would lead to better business for all of the attendees, the organizers say. “Whether it is feedback on product design, investigating career opportunities or simply knowing you can pick up the phone and call someone for advice, we wanted there to be a jumping off point for these relationships to nurture and grow,” says Dalby. “We know empowerun was the impetus for accelerated network expansion for a lot of industry women.” There is also significant industry support for empowerun from vendor partners that not only help financially, but also support the event by sending their female leadership to the event. In 2020 vendor supporters included Brooks, Hoka One One, New Balance, Saucony and Nike, as well as On, Upper Quadrant, Feetures and Diversified Communications/Running Insight. n
© 2021 Diversified Communications
Women Runners Rule The results are In: Women are better runners than men.
uick question for Running Insight readers: Who are better runners, men or women? Quick answer as provided by runrepeat.com: Women, by most metrics measured in a recently released an analysis of 2.3 million marathon results (Boston, Berlin, Chicago, London, New York and Paris) from the 2009-2019 period. The purpose of the survey was to analyze differences in pace throughout the marathon between women and men and there are two key findings: 1. Women are 18.33 percent better at keeping an even pace than men. 2. They burn out less in the second half of the marathon. By those measures, women outrun men. According to the analysis written up by runrepeat.com’s Jovana Subic – jovana@ runrepeat.com – there are some significant differences between the way women and men approach a race and how they achieve their goals. • An increase of 14.07 percent in the average pace for men during the second half of the marathon was observed, as opposed to an 11.49 percent increase for women. The conclusion: Women are 18.33 percent better at keeping an even pace than men. • Almost 92 percent of the participants, both women and men, ran the first half of the marathon faster than the second one, even though running at an equal pace is optimal for performance, with the best athletes aiming for such results. • Men had better average finish times – no surprise there – but women are better at pacing. This stands for both groups: those who ran the first half of the marathon faster and those who ran the second half faster. • Runners who started a bit slower are more likely to run the marathon at a more even pace than those who have started faster. 43
By many metrics, women runners are more consistent in their pace than their male counterparts. Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash
The results back up an earlier study of the state of ultrarunning, which showed that the longer the distance, the shorter the gender pace gap. Among the findings of that study: • Female ultra runners are faster than male ultra runners at distances over 195 miles. • The longer the distance the shorter the gender pace gap. In 5Ks men run 17.9 percent faster than women, at marathon
distance the difference is just 11.1 percent, 100-mile races see the difference shrink to just .25 percent, and above 195 miles, women are actually 0.6 percent faster than men. • There have never been more women in ultrarunning — 23 percent of participants are female, compared to just 14 percent a generation ago. For more on this and other surveys offering insight: runrepeat.com n
© 2021 Diversified Communications
#LetHerRun To Run Again A successful 2020 #LetHerRun Virtual Event will lead to a continuation of the effort in 2021.
he goal was to Let Her Run – and run she did in the inaugural #LetHerRun event in November to raise awareness for the safety of female runners. A total of 262 runners participated in #LetHerRun in November, allowing the organizers to donate more than $5000 to four partnering shelters for victims of domestic violence across New England. Based on that success, the Marathon Sports retail family, the organizers of the event, now plan for a similar, even larger event in 2021. According to Amanda Perri, digital marketing manager for Marathon Sports and the creator and spearhead of the campaign, cash donations of $1392 each were made to the four shelters. They also received products donated by Brooks Running as well as Merino wool technical socks courtesy of Darn Tough Vermont. “We are 100 percent bringing back Let Her Run,” says Perri, with the plan to launch the program again at the beginning of October. “Our goal for 2021 is to continue to raise awareness for the safety of female runners, get more people talking about the topic and give back more money to our community.” With research finding that 84 percent of women have experienced some kind of harassment while running that left them feeling unsafe, the Marathon Sports family (consisting of Marathon Sports, Runner’s Alley and Sound Runner) last year formed the #LetHerRun Women’s Safety Campaign, built to help raise awareness for the safety of female runners who run alone and are followed, attacked or harassed while out for a jog. The goal of the campaign is “to help educate our community on how to respect female runners and, most importantly, to just let females run.” Perri developed the idea in reaction to a number of social media status updates from 44
female runners all over New England who had experienced harassment while running. The retailer took a poll on its Instagram page and out of 300 female runners who follow it, 287 said they’ve experienced harassment by males while out on a run or for a walk at any time of the day in Massachusetts alone. “With this type of response, and no one talking about the issue, we needed to bring attention to what women face every time
they go for a run,” Perri tells Running Insight. “We thought the best way to go about that would be to create a social call to action to spread awareness and a virtual event to help raise money for local homes for victims of domestic violence.” The goal is to bring the topic of female runner safety to the forefront because most available advice talks only about what women should do, where and when they should run, items they should carry and what to wear to stay safe on runs. “Women should feel comfortable and safe running, running is meant to be enjoyable, not complicated, and certainly not scary,” Perri adds. “Our hope is that other running specialty retailers around the world can bring awareness to the topic in their local communities.” Perri will be actively recruiting other run specialty retailers to participate in 2021 with the aim of taking the month of October to talk about the safety of females both runners and non-runners. Any retailers interested in joining can reach out to amanda.perri@ marathonsports.com and follow the effort on Instagram and Facebook. n
© 2021 Diversified Communications
To listen to the full interview with Colin Peddie on The Run Matters Podcast powered by Skechers Performance, click here.
Marathon Man Colin Peddie shares his history, business strategy and optimism for 2021 on new Run Matters Podcast.
etter days are coming, according to Colin Peddie, owner of 18 running stores in New England. Peddie, who bought the original Marathon Sports store in Boston 30 years ago and has since purchased stores in Connecticut and New Hampshire, admits the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on him and his team, but is optimistic that spring will bring a bounce back for the entire channel. “We have concern for the next five months, but after that we think the future is very bright for run specialty,” Colin says on Run Matters sponsored by Skechers Performance. “There will be attrition in small local businesses, but run stores will flourish because there will not be a lot of businesses remaining that engage customers as well as we do. Running stores go above and beyond to build relationships and create experiences for their customers. That happens in their stores as well as through charity events and training programs.” When the pandemic hit last spring, Marathon quickly pivoted to virtual fittings and handled 100 customers a week. Peddie says that service continues today and doing so allows the store to “stay engaged with our community as well as sell shoes.” Unlike most other run retailers, Peddie has first-hand experience in crisis management. His flagship store on Boylston Street is only 10 yards from the finish line of the Boston Marathon and became a triage center after the 2013 terrorist attack. “When I heard the news, I was on my way to Dick’s with my son to buy him a baseball glove and just sped down to the store,” Peddie recalls. “I hit triple digits on my speedometer because I was so concerned that my staff was okay.” None of his staff was injured and in fact Peddie and his manager, Shane O’Hara, were recognized for their service to the community by the Boston Red Sox during 45
the team’s World Series victory parade in October, 2013. And Peddie says the lessons he and his team learned then served his business well when COVID-19 hit. “We learned then how important communication was and that’s really helped us get through this period,” Peddie says. Throughout this entire pandemic, Peddie says he’s reflected on how fortunate he is in business and life. “All of us in the running business are very lucky,” he says on the podcast. “Running helps us in mind, body and spirit and helps us overcome challenges whether we are running away from something or towards it.” n
COLIN QUIZ After listening to the podcast, answer these questions. 1. Where did Colin Peddie go to college? 2. What was his original profession? 3. What influential business book helped Colin plan his store’s growth plan? 4. What is the first thing Peddie plans to do when the Pandemic is over?
© 2021 Diversified Communications
More Must-Have Products The December 1 special Year-End Issue of Running
will make a splash on store shelves this year. Since that
Insight featured an impressive section on the 99 Must-
special issue we have received additional submissions
Have Products for Run Retail in 2021. This collection of
that we just couldn’t pass up, so here are two more
everything from shoes and socks to apparel and acces-
pages of Must-Have Products run specialty retailers will
sories highlighted our editors picks of the products that
want to take a look at for 2021.
CEPRUN ULTRALIGHT SHIRT
High-tech with a lightweight feel, CEP’s Run Ultralight Shirt has breathable material with built-in UV protection. With a dot structure along the chest and back, it keeps runners cool on even the hottest days. Complete with a seamless design, reflective accents and bonded cuffs, the shirt will be available in tank top, short sleeve, and long sleeve. MSRP: Long Sleeve: $69.95; Short Sleeve: $64.95; Tank Top: $49.95.
The beanie is just in time for cold weather. Super soft and warm, the rnnr beanie feels like a cozy blanket on an ice-cold run. The bottom fold even gives ears some extra warmth. It’s stretchy to keep runners headache-free and fits even the biggest heads.
Inspired by a half marathon tragedy, Wristful Thinking wristbands bring innovation to hands-free perspiration relief through a soft, flat-surface, patent-protected, customizable sweatband. Motivational messages, split times, and Hands-Only CPR instructions are just a few styling options currently available. MSRP: $15.95.
A neutral, moderate level cushioning road training shoe designed to last approximately 500 kilometers, the Rivera features an EGO midsole for protection and responsiveness in a lightweight package. Built on a new foot shape last that provides an updated toe down look designed to look more streamlined. MSRP: $130.00.
© 2021 Diversified Communications
SWIFTWICK NATIONAL PARKS SOCKS
Created in partnership with local designers, the National Parks Collection pays homage to the majestic locations runners love to explore. Featuring designs from Yellowstone, Zion, Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite and, in celebration of its 100th anniversary, Grand Canyon, each sock is made with high-performance fibers that wick moisture, with moderate cushion and compression. MSRP: $19.99.
This active watch opening apparel line features a watch opening on the sleeve that allows runners to monitor their performance with ease. The dry wicking fabrics contour to every body shape and the shirts come equipped with a rear pocket with a zipper for storing everything runners need to take with them. MSRP: $75.00.
PATAGONIASLOPE RUNNER ENDURANCE VEST Designed like a garment, this trail running vest lies flat and securely against the body when empty, but can carry all the gear for longer runs thanks to an adjustable internal harness, stretch panels, and extrawide chest pockets — all accessible on the go.
LESLIE JORDAN PET BANDANAS
The event apparel manufacturer has expanded by adding fully customizable pet bandanas in a year when pets were receiving record levels of increased attention and affection. LJI’s pet bandanas are available in two sizes and can be fully sublimated.
Inspired by tires, TreadBands feature patented technology that gives a soft tire-like tread on the interior of the headband to ensure all-day hold. The TreadGripStrip is a neoprene-based grip strip that lies on the interior of the band that interlocks with the skin to provide a true non-slip experience while preventing sweat from entering eyes. They come in five styles of tie back and loop style headbands. MSRP: $18.00.
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running shorts Market Week Will Connect The Run Specialty Business This Month; Best Running Stores To Highlight The Event THE SECOND MARKET WEEK, A free event that connects run specialty retailers with industry experts and leading brands, will take place virtually from January 26-28, 2021 and feature exclusive content, productive meetings and peer learning. “Our decision to launch Market Week this year was based on numerous conversations with retailers and brands about the importance of industry connection and peer learning,” says Christina Henderson, executive director of Running Insight, the organizers of Market Week. “As recently as our successful Footwear Week event in December, we’ve witnessed firsthand the incredible personal and business value of connecting the running industry during these challenging times. We are thrilled to offer a platform for run specialty retailers, thought leaders and brands to learn, connect and celebrate early in the new year.” Market Week will feature forwardlooking insights presented by industry experts Karnan & Associates and offer peer learning opportunities in dynamic networking roundtables. Like Running Insight’s prior virtual events, it also offers retailers one-on-one assistance scheduling meetings with preferred brands across product categories
ASICS Joins The Fashion Pact ASICS has become the first Japanese company to join The Fashion Pact, a global environmental initiative of companies in the fashion and textile industries that have all committed to a set of key environmental goals in three core areas: mitigating climate change, restoring biodiversity and protecting the oceans. The pact was created and presented to heads of state during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, in 2019. Initially, 32 signatories across luxury, retail, fashion,
that include apparel, footwear, hosiery, technology, nutrition, and recovery. Early sponsors include Timex, Hyperice and CEP Compression. In addition to the educational and networking opportunities at Market Week, the event will celebrate the Best Running Stores of 2020 in a virtual awards ceremony on January 27. Open to all industry professionals (including retailers, brands, and media), the event will recognize the 60 winning stores of 2020 — and unveil the Store of the Year. With surprises for winning stores, short videos and face-to-face
virtual networking, this will be an opportunity to connect – and celebrate – with peers in the run specialty business. Market Week attendees can register for the awards ceremony through the easy opt-in option during registration or directly online. Market Week attendance is not required to attend the Best Running Stores of 2020. For sponsorship information, contact Christina Henderson at chenderson@ divcom.com. Ret a ilers ca n register for f ree at showproevent.com/EventRegistration/
sports and lifestyle joined the industry coalition and committed to collectively spearhead transformation in their respective industries. Signatories have doubled to more than 60 in the year since its creation, covering multiple
sec-tors across 14 countries, representing more than 200 brands. ASICS has been focusing on climate change and announced last year a commitment to set science-based emissions reduction targets to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, towards a net-zero future by 2050. Currently, ASICS aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at business locations by 38 percent, and by 55 percent per product along the supply chain by 2030.
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running shorts Hybrid Races Are the Future of Races in 2021 A RECENT SURVEY BY RUNSIGNUP finds that race directors believe that both virtual and in-person races will be part of the racing scene in the new year. While its recently completed survey, which offered a comparison to attitudes from a similar survey it took in May 2020, reinforced the significant impact of COVID-19 on endurance events, it also found some optimism as races prepare for a range of options in 2021. The survey showed cautious optimism with significant revenue reductions in 2020 gradually improving over the coming months. At the heart of the recovery are increased event options — including virtual races, virtual challenges, modified in-person races and hybrid races that combine both in-person and virtual elements and options. Among the findings of the RunSignup survey: • Virtual race events are not about to go away in 2021. Almost half (46 percent) of all respondents expect to host a hybrid event, both in-person and virtual, in the second half of 2021, and that number is expected to grow as races realize the value of increasing their reach. • Expectations for 2021 revenue are
less optimistic now than they were in the original survey back in May, with revenue predictions for the second half of the year
falling from 76 percent in May to 64 percent today. However, a gradual recovery is still expected with revenue increasing steadily from now until late 2021. • Smaller organizations fared better, with organizations representing fewer than 1000 participants in a year exceeding the revenue they expected when originally surveyed in May. • While organizations still indicate that they are using cost-saving measures, including reducing operating and employment expenses, an increasing number are
also making up for shortfalls by creating new revenue streams such as fresh race, challenge or virtual event concepts. • Only one percent of the survey respondents indicated that they now expect to enter bankruptcy, down slightly from 1.4 percent with the same expectation in May. This suggests that industry experience will still be around when the demand for events rebounds. • RunSignup expects many of the planned in-person races to add a virtual component, significantly increasing the percent of races that are hybrid from their current prediction of 42 percent in the first half of 2021 and 46 percent in the second half. • There is less optimism about 2021 now than there was back in May, with expected revenue for 2021 falling from 76 percent of 2019 profits (in May) to 64 percent of 2019 profits today. However, that 64 percent still demonstrates that conditions are expected to improve over the course of the next year. To read t he f u l l su r vey: ht t ps:// r u n s i g n u p. b l o g / 2 0 2 0 /11 / 2 0 / race-survey-in-person-and-virtual-raceoptions-expected-through-2021/
Stone Named CEO Of Running USA Dawna Stone has been named the fourth CEO in the 22-year history of Running USA. Stone is a mother of two, the author of 10 books, a certified health coach, motivational speaker and successful entrepreneur. Her varied career includes roles in both the public and private sectors, where she conceptualized, built and sold both Women’s Running, and the Women’s Half Marathon Series.
“I’m excited to be back in an industry about which I am so passionate and to be working closely with our extraordinary Running USA staff, board of directors, members and partners,” says Stone. “I’m confident that together we can build on our existing strengths and lead the organization to even greater success.” Stone appears regularly on television and has appeared on the Today Show, Martha, MSNBC and morning news programs on NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox.
She was the host of “Health and Fitness Talk” on Sirius Satellite Radio and had her own segment on Fox News called “Healthy Living with Dawna Stone.” A highly sought-after speaker, she has appeared at engagements for Chobani, Disney, American Heart Association, Wharton Business School, WE TV, PGA Tour, Super Bowl Leadership Forum and many more. In 2005, Dawna appeared on and won The Apprentice: Martha Stewart.
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running shorts On Opens New York City Store ON HAS OPENED ITS FIRST GLOBAL flagship store in New York City at 363 Lafayette Street in downtown Manhattan. The store’s main feature is its Magic Wall, spanning nearly the store’s length and height at 62 x 9 x 3 feet. The front of the wall allows shoppers to analyze their running styles in seconds on the store floor. With hidden gait-cycle analysis technology, customers can run a few strides and get matched with shoes for their individual running style. A custom-built invisible foot scanner with depth cameras helps customers receive their optimal size. The back of the wall then lets customers explore and try on the entire On shoe collection. At checkout, an advisor brings out a fresh pair to the customer for Tom Weber Retiring From Wrightsock Long-time sock maven Tom Weber, who has served as director of sales and marketing for Wrightsock for the past 23 years, is retiring. With a total of 36 years in the sock business – prior to his tenure at Wrightsock he held leadership positions at Thorlo and U.S. Hosiery – Weber has been a fixture in the running business. Taking over the reins for Weber will be industry veteran Russ Coillot. Coillot has spent the past 14 years in the specialty channel, including over a decade with the Fleet Feet brand. Superfeet, Volumental and Fitstation by HP Go Global Specialty sport retailer XXL, with locations in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Austria, is bringing its customers the 3D personalized fit experience, while in the U.S. Fleet Feet locations have integrated the technology with their in-store platform, fit id. These addition of these locations bring the total to 205
a contact-less purchase. Behind the Magic Wall, changing rooms are available to test On’s apparel collection. retailers globally that are now open for shoppers to receive individualized footwear solutions, including ME3D custom insoles. Customers can receive a personal assessment that includes 3D foot scans, pressure measurements and a dynamic gait analysis to identify a unique motion path. Superfeet is then able to create ME3D individualized insoles designed specifically for the unique way each person moves. “We want to offer a unique customer experience,” says Anders Kjellèn, SVP– category director sports, running and training at XXL. “This collaboration with Superfeet allows us to deliver a better fit of insoles and footwear for comfort and performance.” In a socially distanced and responsible manner, customers can have customized insoles shipped to them in about two weeks. For retailers it means the ability to sell an inventory-less product while providing the most sophisticated fit experience possible.
When leaving the store, shoppers pass by a life-size, 3D printed boulder that is another nod to On’s outdoor roots from the Engadin Valley in the Swiss Alps. “Ten years ago, we set out to revolutionize the running experience. Today, we’ve re-invented the retail experience,” says On co-founder David Allemann. “With design and technology at the forefront, On NYC will empower shoppers to engage with our products in an entirely new way. This year more than ever, people have found solace and joy in running. That’s why, in many ways, there has never been a better time for us to open our first global flagship store in a city that we’re confident will remain the shopping capital of the world.” New Product: Pro-Tec Athletics Orb Activate Vibrating Massage Ball The 4.5-inch vibrating massage ball from Pro-Tec provides a targeted deep tissue massage, while the vibra-
tion stimulates circulation. With three vibration settings – low, mid and high – runners fully control the intensity level for muscle recovery in the quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors and gluteus, the diameter and spherical shape allows for a multidirectional roll that targets areas with precision, while the rubberized on/ off area provides a comfortable rolling surface. MSRP: $79.95.
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running shorts Brooks Signs On To Amazon Climate Pledge AMAZON AND GLOBAL OPTIMISM recently announced that 13 new signatories, including Brooks, have joined The Climate Pledge, a commitment to be netzero carbon by 2040, a decade ahead of the Paris Agreement’s goal of 2050. The other new signers are Atos, Canary W ha r f Group, Coca- Cola European Partners, ERM, Groupe SEB France, Harbour Air, ITV, Microsoft, Nestle, Rubicon, Unilever and Vaude. Signatories to The Climate Pledge agree to: • Measure and report greenhouse gas emissions on a regular basis; • Implement decarbonization strategies in line with the Paris Agreement through real business changes and innovations, including efficiency improvements, renewable energy, materials reductions, and other carbon emission elimination strategies; • Neutralize any remaining emissions with additional, quantifiable, real, permanent and socially-beneficial offsets to achieve net-zero annual carbon emissions by 2040.
Griffen Writes Book About His 2018 Walk Across America Back in 2018 Running Insight featured a seven-part series on writer, artist and leadership consultant in the world of run retail Tom Griffen’s walk across America. At various points along his route – Phoenix, El Paso, San Antonio, Austin, Little Rock, Huntsville, Cleveland (TN), Chattanooga and Brooklyn – Griffen stopped to chat at length with store owners and teams. In each of the seven articles, he told his story in the pages of Running Insight while doing his best to summarize theirs, too. He put into practice what he believes in most: When we know each other’s
Brooks’ commitment to sustainability spans a decade, and the running brand recently adopted a roadmap to reduce scope 1, 2, and 3 carbon emissions in line with climate science, and to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. “We live, work, and run as part of a global community. The planet is our home. And because more than 150 million people
worldwide run outside, it’s critical we take care of it,” says Jim Weber, Brooks CEO. “As we create new gear and run our global business, we seek to minimize our environmental impact, create positive social change and be transparent about areas where we can do better. We are very proud to be the first athletic brand to join The Climate Pledge.”
stories we have a deeper chance to connect. His trip, in fact, was themed by such authentic connections. The kindness of strangers became the breadcrumbs leading him across America. Now Griffen has written a book about his journey: “With a Good Heart: A Walk From LA to Brooklyn.” It is the story of Griffen’s walk across America, but it’s also the story of so much more — kindness, intentionality, human connection and all the sort of stuff that matters the most. The book can be purchased for $20 at https://www.lulu.com/search?adult_audience_rating=00&page=1&pageSize=10 &q=tom+griffen
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running shorts Darn Tough Vermont Supports Fellow Vermonters FOR THE FOURTH CONSECUTIVE year, Darn Tough Vermont has partnered with the Vermont Foodbank to donate 100 percent of the proceeds from Giving Tuesday online sales. This year’s sales were a 165 percent increase over last year, resulting in 137,100 meals being donated from the single day. Darn Tough has supported the Vermont Foodbank for years, but this year’s challenges made their partnership that much more meaningful. “Hunger relief is directly tied to giving people strength and energy, helping them tackle any challenges in their lives,” explains Ric Cabot, founder and CEO of Darn Tough Vermont. “We are committed to ensuring we do our part to feed our Tecnica Bolsters Management Team Tecnica Group North America has promoted Sam Cook to VP & chief commercial officer for Tecnica Group’s Alpine and Footwear business units. Previously the president of Blizzard Tecnica, Cook will now oversee Alpine and Footwear business units for the Blizzard, Nordica and Tecnica brands in the U.S. and Canada, focusing on enhancing and optimizing processes and technologies necessary to support the sales, product and marketing teams. In the past year Cook has actively led the organization through several new software implementations, while also leading Blizzard & Tecnica’s continued growth in North America. In another move, Tecnica Group hired Rob Phillips in the newly created role of North American business unit director – Tecnica Footwear. He will be responsible for overseeing commercial operations, product and marketing, Phillips comes to Tecnica with more than 14 years of sales and management experience.
Presenting a check to the Vermont Foodbank is Darn Tough Vermont founder and CEO Ric Cabot (in black hooded sweatshirt with white logo). To the right of the check in the tan sweatshirt is Vermont Foodbank CEO John Sayles.
Coros Partners With Kipchoge Coros Wearables has named world marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge as its newest Pro Athlete Ambassador.
fellow Vermonters now and look forward to building this partnership even further in the future.” Giving Tuesday is the second major initiative by Darn Tough in 2020 benefitting the Vermont Foodbank. Earlier this year, as it became evident that Vermont was hitting a food crisis brought on by the pandemic, the brand designed and launched a custom sock which provided a 100 percent benefit to the organization. The Foodbank Farmer’s Market sock has provided a total of 269,841 meals which equates to feeding 2,998 Vermonters for one month. Darn Tough has provided 538,960 meals to the Vermont Foodbank over the life of their partnership. In addition to the individual sponsorship of Kipchoge, Coros will become the official GPS Watch partner of the NN Running Team, which includes some of the top track and road runners in the world. This partnership marks a significant stride forward for the brand as it looks to position itself as the leader in performance focused technological innovation for the endurance athlete. NN Running Team will be supplied with Coros watches and will be providing detailed feedback in return. Also as part of the relationship, Kipchoge will take on a role in the partnership as a Coros Pro Athlete Ambassador. Kipchoge and the NN Running Team have their eyes set on more racing opportunities and the Olympic Games this summer in Tokyo. The athletes will wear the Coros Pace 2 Premium GPS Sports watch, which weighs just 29 grams and is designed with a focus on road running and personal bests.
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running shorts Best Racing Cities In The U.S. Revealed By RaceRaves THERE ARE STILL RACES – AND racing fans – out there in a pandemic and RaceRaves found them and recently revealed the winners of its 2020 “Best Racing Cities in the U.S.” poll. The report highlights what it judges to be the Top 10 large, midsize and small racing cities in the U.S. with profiles of the Top Five in each category. Among the winners: • Boston, Chicago and New York City remain a “major” draw for runners across the U.S. with major events, strong running communities and appeal as travel destinations. • Cincinnati created buzz for a mid-sized city on the strength of two well-known race weekends, the Flying Pig Marathon and Queen Bee Half Marathon. • Moab, UT, claimed the title of the smallest winning city thanks to its highly rated events and close proximity to two National Parks. Determined through an online poll conducted by RaceRaves from September 16 to October 18, the poll includes a list
ASICS Ekiden Races Into the Record Books The inaugural ASICS World Ekiden 2020 turned out to be one of the most popular virtual races of all time. Whether running, walking or wheelchair racing, 56,007 participants from 13,602 teams across over 179 countries registered to compete in the marathon, capturing the true collaborative spirit of the traditional Japanese ekiden along the way. Together, runners clocked over 27,000 hours of activity, covering an overall distance of 172,147 miles — the equivalent of more than six trips round the earth’s equator. “At a time when it’s hard for us to be together physically, it’s been truly
of 50 U.S. cities large and small, with a write-in option. Respondents ranked their Top Three choices and, in many cases, provided supporting commentary based on the destination and quality of running events hosted there. “This initiative advances our commitment to helping runners discover the best places in the U.S. for their next destination race,” said RaceRaves co-founder
and chief racing officer Mike Sohaskey. “We congratulate each of these deserving cities on this grassroots recognition and on hosting exceptional events that inspire so many athletes. And once in-person racing returns, we know they’ll again become vibrant go-to destinations for runners. In the meantime, RaceRaves will continue to provide a trusted, go-to resource to support runners and race organizers alike.”
inspiring to see so many teams come together to take part in the ASICS World Ekiden 2020, our first-ever truly global vir-tual race,” says ASICS president and COO Yasuhito Hirota. ”To share such a huge part of our Japanese running culture with the wider world has also been a privilege. It was clear that all our runners, walkers and wheelchair racers embodied the ekiden spirit.”
The ASICS World Ekiden 2020 combined real-world and virtual racing with a new race platform that used both Race Roster and the ASICS Runkeeper apps. It was created by ASICS as a result of its own research showing that while running’s popularity has soared during lockdown, two-thirds of runners globally are missing the feeling of competing with others. Inspired by Japanese running culture, the ekiden challenged teams of up to six people to complete a marathon distance between them in the fastest collective time possible.
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Market Week January 26-28, 2021
Connect. Learn. Celebrate. Market Week connects run specialty retailers with industry experts and leading brands for exclusive content, productive meetings, and peer learning. • Gain industry insight and peer learning opportunities during forward-looking presentations and roundtable discussions led by Karnan & Associates
• Meet with brands across multiple product categories, including apparel, footwear, hosiery, technology, nutrition, recovery, and more • Celebrate your peers at the Best Running Stores of 2020 virtual awards ceremony
Register for Free
www.runninginsight.com/market-week Produced by
Medi-Dyne Medi-Dyne plans to increase its support for run specialty as 2021 takes shape. THE MEDI-DYNE STORY … For 23 years, Medi-Dyne has been committed to providing innovative “Products that Keep People Moving” so runners could pursue their passions. Its brands – Tuli’s, 2Toms, Cho-Pat, ProStretch and Addaday – are trusted by runners for their solutions for relieving many common pains and injuries that runners experience. Many of its products are also made to work with each other to provide a multi-layered approach to relief and long-term healing for the skin, arms, back, legs and feet. LOOK BACK AT 2020 … The past year was the most challenging year in the company’s 23-year history. The shutting down of economies around the world combined with continued uncertainty have depressed sales and made planning and decision making very difficult. But, says founding partner Craig DiGiovanni, “the one thing we are very proud of is that we didn’t let anyone go, kept everyone at 100 percent payroll, kept all benefits and even hired a few new people.” THE POSITIVES … Medi-Dyne also found some unique opportunities to strengthen its business for the future by making the company operationally more efficient, while also finding some new opportunities for growth. THE COVID-19 IMPACT … Like most companies, Medi-Dyne’s sales were down domestically and internationally. Most of its traditional marketing methods were eliminated or changed due to cancelations or lack of opportunity. “It forced us to work even harder to find costs we could take out of the business as well as investigate in new ways for us to market our 56
products, especially digitally,” explains DiGiovanni. PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE … Much will depend on how long the pandemic lasts, but for now the company is forecasting and planning two different scenarios. This first assumes the pandemic continues and the second is shaped on the pandemic subsiding or going away. THE PRODUCT IMPACT … The move from gyms to homes as people sought safer ways to exercise definitely fueled demand for some of MediDyne’s products, but decreased demand for others. Its school and healthcare provider-based products are down; however, its products supporting running and biking activities are up as consumers turned to home exercise options. “PRODUCTS THAT KEEP PEOPLE
MOVING” … All of Medi-Dyne’s products incorporate three principles. The company’s slogan, “Products That Keep People Moving,” incorporates all of these and conveys to people who are dealing with common aches, pains and injuries, that they can find solutions at Medi-Dyne. 1. First, they must be proven to work, preferably better than anything else on the market. Most of its products are designed, prescribed and used by medical professionals, scientists or serious athletes. 2. Second, they must be easy to use. If they are complicated or difficult to use, they won’t be of much value. 3. Third, they must be affordable. If they cost too much, people won’t buy them. Medi-Dyne refers to them as “solutions” and not “products” because many of its products work in conjunction with each other to not only provide relief but also long-term healing,
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www.medi-dyne.com community,” DiGiovanni says. “Running outdoors is a great way to do that. Also, building community on interactive social channels, providing motivation and education opportunities all add value and really drive home the relationship part of the business which is something people need now more than ever.”
providing additional value to our product offering. ADDADAY ORIGINALS … Medi-Dyne recently introduced a line of recovery products called Addaday Originals, in conjunction with Addaday, which was putting a significant push on the electronic end of the business that was stretching many of its resources. Addaday contacted MediDyne about not only acquiring the non-electric products, but also partnering with them to grow the business together. “Because of the unique synergies in the products, our markets and philosophies of providing high-quality, effective and affordable products to similar industries, it was an obvious fit for us both,” says DiGiovanni. “This also helps us in our mission to provide comprehensive solutions and not just products.” REACHING RUN SPECIALTY … DiGiovanni says they are reaching out to their run specialty retail customers “any way we can.” Making phone calls, visiting them when we can, sending emails, promotions, unique programs, connecting them with medical customers for referrals, protecting their business from online sales, looking for ways to make them unique, additional training on products, additional samples, and more. 57
THE RECOVERY CATEGORY … Recovery has been one of the hotter categories in run specialty this year and keeping it that way starts with making sure Medi-Dyne has the products
retailers need. “This is something we are passionate about,” DiGiovanni says. ADVICE TO RETAILERS … “More than ever, I think people are looking for
MORE RETAIL SUPPORT … Making sure the company provides any resources it can to retailers, including samples to help communicate the value of these products to their customers, is a key part of its retailer support in 2021. This is especially important with the many new customers that have taken up running and walking in place of the gym, and those who get outside so they don’t lose their minds inside. 2021 PLANS … Medi-Dyne already has a half-dozen new product introductions planned for 2021 that will be additions to its impressive existing product line. “We are fully staffed and ready to execute one of the two plans we have laid out,” DiGiovanni says. It has planned a more digital focus if COVID persists and more customer-facing efforts if it lessens. “We are strong believers in relationships at all levels, whether that be our customers, consumers or suppliers,” he adds. n © 2021 Diversified Communications
Women Who Run This Business
One More Thing ...
Five Merchandising Tips for Selling to Female Runners / By Holly Wiese, 3 Dots Design
1. PROPS All people are more visual than we realize, but women tend to be the most visually oriented. Don’t be afraid to pull in some unexpected props or plants to warm up your display and help catch the attention of women passing by. These items don’t have to necessarily be running related either … get creative by looking around the garage or your home for vases, sculptures or other unexpected things. 2. CLEAN AND ORGANIZED Remove the clutter! This means that any old signs, mismatched hangers, outdated race info or any other unnecessary clutter has to go. It is a turn off and we spend all day organizing our office, our desk or our house so when we go shopping we want it done for us. Keep things well dusted, vacuumed and organized. 3. SIMPLE AND FAST You may have noticed that women never stop moving these days … especially in the world of COVID. So if we’re taking the time to go shopping, trust me — it’s something we’ve worked hard to fit into our schedule. Don’t make us work once we’re in your store. Keep mannequins and displays very well curated with the hottest new product you’ve got and have the size runs of these pieces right next to the display. If women have to look for the styles that are on the mannequin, you’re going to lose the sale. It’s that simple. Keep it easy. Keep it fast. 4. BEAUTIFUL AND INSPIRING Women appreciate beautiful things. So go ahead an inspire us. Take the extra time to make the women’s area in your store look beautiful enough to draw us over there. Maybe you’ve got room for some special seating in a cool spot or a chandelier that adds a soft touch to this area. Some
unique piece of furniture may warm things up — or perhaps it’s some inspiring imagery that women can relate to. We can all use some extra inspiration these days and finding it unexpectedly feels good and makes us remember that special surprise. 5. ACCESSORIZE Don’t ever assume that a woman is afraid to accessorize. When you dress a mannequin, don’t forget the socks, the shoes, the hand-held, the waist bottle holder, the hat, the gloves and anything else you can possibly fit on her. Department stores have been silently upselling us like this for years and there’s no reason it can’t work just as well in your store. Often these types of displays open our eyes to helpful accessories we were unaware of. Don’t miss this opportunity for grabbing our attention with unexpected add-ons. About Holly Wiese Holly Wiese has more than 25 years of experience in the field of visual merchandising and retail design, including in the specialty running sector. She is a frequent speaker at The Running Event and has been a keynote speaker at a number of sportswear industry and merchandising events. In her spare time, Holly can be found riding her bike across the country, trail running around her Boulder, CO, home or preparing for the World Guacamole Championships that she has hosted for over 13 years. She can be reached at: holly@3dotsdesign.
To wrap up this issue, Running Insight asked Holly Wiese for her five words that describe her 2020:
1. UNKNOWN 2. ZOOM 3. HOMEBOUND 4. ISOLATING 5. RESOURCEFUL
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