the women who run this business
Welcome to Running Insight’s annual issue highlighting women in the run specialty industry!
Women in ownership and management positions in run specialty are making a big impact — from independent retailers to multistore operators ... from brands both large and small ... from runners themselves and the consultants that help make everyone more successful ... and from events that make female runners their focus. While there is undoubtedly still progress to be made, when you put them all together it makes run specialty a truly special place to work. So this Winter 2023 issue provides insight into all facets of women in the business and sport of running. These are their stories and we are fortunate to be able to tell them in the pages of Running Insight — which, by the way, has a female publisher, Christina Henderson.
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THE BETTER HALF
of owning a run specialty store
Four women tell their stories of operating a run specialty store along with their spouse. / By
IN SEPTEMBER 2017, MY HUSBAND Chris Schiel, an avid runner, came home motivated and inspired after being a pacer at a Boston Qualifying event. He walked into the house decisively and stated, “I want to quit my job and open up a running shoe store.”
Shocked – but accustomed to his ambitions – I nodded and said, “Okay.”
Eager to get started, Chris went to The Running Event for the first time two months
So who first had the idea to open a running store and how did the other one handle it?
Debbie Perry: My husband, Guy, had the idea as he knew the original store owner of Sporting Soles (now Salt Lake Running Co.) was moving and liquidating. I was teaching school and coaching at the time and was supportive. The first year we had a partner, Kurt Black, and the three of us worked together to write a business plan, get an SBA loan and get it started. It was an all-around team effort.
Meg Brooker: My husband, Anders, opened Runner’s Edge in 2001. I moved to Missoula in 2006 and started working at the shop in 2007. We started dating in 2010 and got married in 2012.
Pam Howe: My husband, Phillip, first had the idea and I jumped in wholeheartedly. I have been the avid runner in the family for many years and he was a manager-turnedpartner in a similar store. We both love being part of the run community, yet in different aspects. We wanted to grow the community with our own store, a place to be called “home” to many. We became
later with only a name for the store (Xtra Mile Running) and an address for our eventual store location (which would change). He came home with a suitcase overflowing with free stuff, a wallet brimming with business cards and socks — oh, so many socks. In the blink of an eye, we were small business owners. Being in business together hadn’t been part of our wedding vows, but if I had to guess, it was probably included in the “for betterChristina Schiel
or for worse” part. Marriage is challenging enough without throwing a business into it. So how do couples do it?
For insight we reached out to four experts on the subject – women who own their running stores with their husbands: Debbie Perry, Salt Lake Running, UT; Meg Brooker, The Runner’s Edge, MT; Pamela Howe, Howe2Run, GA; and Heather Dawes, Slim Pickins Outfitters, TX. Here are their stories.
great business partners, since he knows the running industry and I have a business background after having been an accountant for over 30 years.
Heather Dawes: Opening the shop was definitely Jahmicah’s idea. I was not especially surprised due to the fact that he has always had an entrepreneurial spirit, but it was a little overwhelming for me. We were hoping to start a family soon and being dependent on our business financially was a little stressful for me.
Which tasks are you responsible for in the store?
Perry: I function as the chief financial officer, buying department head, apparel buyer and marketing manager.
Brooker: I’m the footwear buyer and the operations manager. Outside of managing footwear, I also work the sales floor, help manage in-store events and keep the staff happy with coffee and pastries.
Howe: I handle all of the store’s administrative tasks. I am the face within the community, leading several run groups
each week, coaching and facilitating various community activities. I am a certified run coach and athlete brand ambassador for products we sell at the store. I also help coordinate pacers for several local races as part of our community involvement. Phillip handles the day-to-day activities and sales functions. We lovingly say “Phillip runs the store and I run the streets.”
Dawes: I do all of our marketing and social media. I also handle the financial side of things, manage interns/staff as well as run the shop and merchandise when needed.
Do you have any rules about “business talk” outside of work hours to ensure your work life doesn’t trump your marriage?
Perry: We are definitely guilty of talking about business too often at home. It’s tough when I work from a home office almost exclusively and he does a couple of days a week, too. Also, all five kids are now out of the house, so that’s not part of our daily routines and head space. It’s hard to set time boundaries. But we have had success with preserving most weekends, most especially
Better Halves (continued)
Debbie Perry, Salt Lake Running
Debbie Perry (with her husband, Guy, surrounded by their five children and four sons- and daughters-in-law); Salt Lake Running Co.; Salt Lake City, Sandy, Centerville, UT
SLRC, originally called Sporting Soles, has been open since 1995 and has four locations. Debbie and Guy were only 24-years old when they first took over the store from its original owner. The Perry’s sons, Cade and Denver, also work for SLRC as the footwear buyer and events manager/race director, respectively. The store loves to connect with the community through free seminars and events to educate and inspire people to stay active.
Sundays, as time off.
Brooker: There are no rules, but we typically don’t talk shop when we get home. It’s nice to separate our work lives from our personal lives. We are trying to be better about setting up a time during the day to talk about the business.
Howe: We have no set rules about business talk. We love our store. We love our customers. We love our community. We share daily, often several times daily, the happenings at the store. We plan together and enjoy
sharing our accomplishments and struggles.
Dawes: We are definitely a work in progress as far as business talk during family hours. We do have two little boys, so they keep us busy and don’t allow for much business talk when they are around. However, we can fall into the trap of talking business when they go to bed or when we get free time for a date night. When one of us starts drifting into business territory during family or marriage time, one of
Heather Dawes, Slim Pickins Outfitters
Heather Dawes (with her husband, Jahmicah, and their boys, Silas and Finis.
Photo: Leah Jeffers); Slim Pickins Outfitters; Stephenville, TX
Slim Pickins Outfitters (SPO) is the first Black-owned U.S. outdoor gear shop in the nation. SPO opened its doors in 2017 and is located in a former pharmacy, which Heather and Jahmicah converted. The store also partners with Black Outside, Inc., a local non-profit that connects Black youth to the outdoors. The overarching goal of SPO is to diversify the outdoors by way of the outdoor industry.
us says, “Well, it’s a good thing we’re married and not business partners. That would be boring!” Then we laugh and change the subject. We are business partners, but we’re husband and wife first.
What would you say is the biggest benefit to running a business with your spouse?
Perry: I completely trust Guy. We work well as a team doing our specific jobs, so I don’t have to think about whatever he is responsible for and he doesn’t
micromanage or worry about what I do either.
Brooker: Anders does such a great job at seeing the big picture and I love digging into the details. This is something that helps us when it comes to completing projects together.
Howe: The sense of accomplishment that we share. We have had separate careers for so long, it is nice to be able to partner in this journey. We look forward to many years of growth and happiness.
Dawes: It’s 100 percent that
Better Halves (continued)
you always have your best friend and biggest supporter in your corner. Any time I make a big mistake or I need time off for a mental health day, it is a luxury to be able to talk to my husband about it as opposed to a boss.
What would you say is the biggest challenge to running a business with your spouse?
Perry: The separation of work and home. We have gone through plenty of good periods where this is separated well, but this last year was so “business busy” that it became hard for me. There were days I missed having enough relationship time with my husband, because so
much interaction was as business partners.
Brooker: Being married. As fun as it is to see each other during the day, it also leads to its own challenges.
Howe: The biggest challenge would be the decreased amount of time that we get to spend away from the store. We are very busy seven days a week, so we need to make sure we set aside time for “us.”
Dawes: When we disagree about something shop related, it is difficult to table it and carry on about life as usual. We are both passionate about the shop and about making the best decisions. Not to mention, we
are fully dependent financially on its success, as both of us are full-time employees of the shop as of this year.
What advice would you give to a couple considering opening their own running store?
Perry: Clearly defined roles with total trust. If there is not a way to feel like a healthy team environment is happening, then it might not be a good fit. Having a couple and life identity outside of the business would be another requirement as well.
Brooker: Be deliberate about setting work boundaries on and off the sales floor. It’s taken us a while, but setting aside time
during the week to talk about business issues has been helpful. Also, support your partner. You may not always agree with their choices, but make sure the decision being made is in the best interest of the store.
Howe: I would suggest the couple have enough confidence in their relationship to know that they can endure the ups and downs, achievements and challenges. They need to have trust in each other and be able to communicate about everything.
Dawes: Always cheer for each other. Always wear each other’s jersey — metaphorically speaking. You will face challenges. You will not avoid
Meg Brooker, The Runner’s Edge
Meg Brooker (with her husband, Anders, and son Will); The Runner’s Edge; Missoula, MT
Meg’s now-husband Anders opened The Runner’s Edge in 2001 and Meg joined the team in 2007. The store believes strongly in giving back to the community and sponsors dozens of events, fundraisers and organizations every year. They also hold annual fundraisers to support local non-profit organizations such as Youth Homes and Climate Smart Missoula.
Pamela Howe, Howe2Run
Pam Howe (with her husband, Phillip); Howe2Run; Savanna, GA
Howe2Run just celebrated its third anniversary, being named a Best Running Store for the last two years. The store is on its second location, because they lost their first store to a fire just six days after their ribbon cutting in 2019. While covered by insurance, they lost everything and had to rebuild at a new location. One good thing that came of the tragedy was that Howe2Run was able to donate over $40,000 in usable yet unsaleable products to a local charity.
them. So you have to support each other and let the challenges make you stronger instead of force a wedge between you.
Who’s the boss?
Perry: We each are the boss of the departments we are responsible for and don’t try to boss the other in their own territory. I would like to think that the staff sees it that way, too. At this point, it’s not Guy’s or Debbie’s business, it’s both of ours and honestly it’s a team effort through our management team as well. We each play ownership roles in each of our areas. The synergy of that is very rewarding.
Brooker: Me, of course!
A Husband’s Perspective
Anders, ultimately, has the final say, but I believe we make most decisions together.
Howe: I would say Phillip is the boss. I would not make any decisions without consulting him. He knows the brands, the details of the products and what sells and what doesn’t. I push the paper, but he pushes the buttons.
Dawes: Our shop mascot and general manager — our basset hound, Bill Murray.
Do you bring any unique perspective to the partnership because you are a woman?
Perry: If there is something different, I would lean more towards the charity, compassion and desire to serve others that
Running Insight asked Christopher Schiel, co-owner of Xtra Mile Running and husband of the writer of this article, for his own perspective on the subject of running a store with your spouse.
WHEN I GOT THE IDEA TO OPEN A RUNNING
shoe store back in 2017, I knew I would need buy-in from my wife, Christina, about this big life-changing decision. We had a four monthold-son who was already proving to be highly energetic and we were intending on growing our family in the future.
I had just completed my MBA, so I was armed with knowledge that would help me from the business side of things, as well as six years of management experience. But I would need a “yes” from Christina before I could ditch the suit and tie, say goodbye to a steady paycheck and open a small business. Fortunately for me, she said yes.
Four years into owning Xtra Mile Running, we have learned that this is not for the faint of heart. Owning a business with your partner blurs the boundaries between home life and work life. There are times when Christina will tell me to take off my “manager hat,” when I’ve hit my work talk limit for the day. Additionally, throwing children into the equation makes it all the more complex. In the time it’s taken me to write this far, I have already had to ask
many women intuitively carry. The more humanity-driven qualities can have a positive effect on the work culture, the mission of our business and how we connect with others.
Brooker: : Of course. It’s nice to walk into a store where there is a woman behind the counter. Body issues, sports bra fittings, nutrition, etc., is more comfortable when the person I’m talking to is a woman. We host a Ladies Night and Bra Fitting with women in our shop who are in charge of these events. Women understand women and it’s nice to have a conversation with someone who gets you.
Howe: I do think a woman’s perspective is important. My
husband knows products, but I know women. A large percentage of the run community is women, so it is important to know what we want.
Dawes: The perspective I bring as a woman is identifying with and recognizing the needs of our staff. We have a unique situation in that we are a womanrun shop; Jahmicah is the only male. I feel I am better able to recognize when an employee needs to take the day off because she’s been up with a sick baby all night, or when someone needs coffee and a snack because it’s been a tough day. It’s not much, but I do think I bring a little bit of a comforting aspect to our leadership as a couple. n
the children to be quiet and physically remove Michael the Interrupter from the room.
In addition to the regular chaos children bring, the biggest challenges are scheduling around the children’s lives. In our case, Christina has a fulltime work-from-home job, in addition to the marketing and communications roles she fills for the store. This causes the household workload to be unbalanced when my time and presence is needed at the store. Without her ability to gracefully balance those things, the store would not be even close to where it is today.
That said, the most rewarding moments are when we can come together as a family at Xtra Mile Running. Christina snaps photos or videos for social media. Our now five-year-old son Mikey zooms around on the rolling stool and threeyear-old Sophie sits quietly at a children’s table taking imaginary phone calls. Our customers know our family and that’s a great blessing.
It’s definitely been a rollercoaster ride, but it’s been worth it. For couples considering opening a business together, I’d say this: No matter how challenging you think it’ll be, multiply that by 10. No matter how rewarding you think it’ll be, multiply that also by 10
A run with ...
Saucony’s new chief marketing officer speaks on her new role and what attracted her to the brand.
Kathyrn Pratt brings more than 25 years of experience in global brand building, with well-known names such as Gap, Kenneth Cole and L.L.Bean, to her new role as chief marketing officer at Saucony. She describes herself as passionate about leveraging the power of a brand to emotionally connect, change behavior and start conversations with consumers and loves finding something authentic about a brand and leveraging it in a way that is disruptive and unexpected. She is married to her husband, Danny, who she met at the New York City Marathon in 2003 (they were both spectators, not runners) and they have three kids who keep them busy — Clara, 14; Maggie, 11; and Brendan, 9. They live in Maine, a far cry from New York City where she spent the first 16 years of her career and every day she remains grateful to live in such a beautiful place and consider it home.
Personal interests … Pratt is a voracious podcast listener, which helps with her commute from her home in Maine to Saucony headquarters in Waltham, MA. She is also always on a wellness quest, trying a mix of programs, products and practices to help her feel physically, mentally and emotionally better. She admits to being addicted to Instagram, but doesn’t trust herself to have TikTok on her phone. When not Instagramming she can often be found on her Peloton or watching Bravo … or doing both at the same time.
Her role at Saucony … As CMO her job is ultimately to create an emotional connection with the brand in a way that drives the business: “I truly believe that consumers want to understand what a brand does, why it’s relevant to them and how it can
add value to their lives.” That emotional connectivity is the result of nailing brand positioning, direct-to-consumer, advertising and digital strategies. “Yes, it’s also about the product, but we need to have authentic conversations with our consumers first around DEI, sustainability, body diversity and gender equality, among other brand values.”
The appeal of the brand … The unique position Saucony holds in the running category is what attracted her to the company. This year, the “Original Running Brand” is celebrating a milestone: 125 years of heritage, innovation and design. And yet she views Saucony as still a challenger brand amidst the bigger players. “There’s a bit of a “#IYKYK” (if you know, you know) aspect to it, which creates a unique and exciting challenge to a marketer like me,” she says. “I am passionate about creating disruption and gaining attention in the
most unexpected ways. There’s so much to unlock with Saucony, so get ready.”
Working with Saucony president Anne Cavassa … Having the chance to work with Cavassa did factor into her decision to join the brand because she believes who you work for is critical to one’s success and general happiness. “Your leader can make or break your experience and that blends into your personal life, at least it does with mine,” she says, adding that when she first met Anne she immediately felt her drive, her commitment to the Saucony business and her passion for running. “I inherently knew she would trust and empower me to make a difference for the brand.”
Working moms ... Because they are both in the same life stage as moms with kids the same age, Pratt and Cavassa relate to one another on a personal level as well, which she feels no doubt creates a strong connection.
A woman in the running business …
Whether she feels her role is as a woman in the business or, more generally, a professional in running depends on the context. In typical meetings and in the dayto-day, she considers herself a professional in the run specialty space — that stems from the fact that her male counterparts at Saucony don’t make her feel any different from them, simply because there is no difference. It’s a culture of respect across the board.
But … However, in certain situations, she believes the definitely leans more into her gender (she, her, hers). “When we’re looking at women’s footwear and apparel, when I’m mentoring a woman on
my team, when we’re reviewing potential partnerships, content or messaging targeted to the female consumer, that’s when I tap into my position as a woman in the running business and provide that perspective.”
The Wolverine connection … Pratt is also inspired to have meetings with the other CMOs from the Wolverine brands (Merrell, Sperry, Sweaty Betty) who are women, emphasizing that there’s a very open, trusting and supportive vibe within that group.
A career mentor … Pratt has had several mentors at different stages of her career. Her former manager Kyle Andrew (now CBO at Athleta) has always been someone whose career she has admired. Likewise, her former manager at L.L.Bean, Zane Shatzer, has served as a mentor, coach, friend and unofficial therapist across both her professional and personal lives.
The Camber connection … Last year Pratt participated in the pilot of Camber Outdoors’ MENtor Allyship Program where C-level men were paired with female leaders to learn the importance of advocating for women in the workforce
and to understand the unique challenges women face in order to create a more equitable and productive work environment. She was paired with Scott Allan, former CEO from Hyrdroflask, and the relationship taught her that while female mentors are such special relationships, having male mentors who can also serve as advocates is critical in helping women advance.
Run specialty gender equality
… Running has always been an inclusive activity, so Pratt is not surprised in its more equal gender participation. But she believes now the business needs to shift its focus to improving inclusion and access for the BIPOC community, in both participation and in the industry. Saucony is a partner with the Running Industry Diversity Coalition to support them on their mission to tackle this.
Attracting more women … “There are a lot of strong women already in the industry, so first I would continue to shine a light on them like Running Insight is doing with this issue,” she says. (Thanks for the shoutout!)
No more “you guys” … A pet peeve of hers that she is working on is to do away with the term “you guys.” She is trying to practice this one herself because, in her words, it’s “cringey and time to remove it from our vernacular.”
A women’s perspective … Studies confirm that men and women think differently and Pratt believes that taking advantage of those valuable differences can add to innovation and problem-solving. Management styles also differ
— she personally chooses to lead through collaboration while some male leaders may be more directive. “I truly believe though that you can be compassionate and strong as a leader, whether you’re a woman or a man, but ultimately it’s time we realize that what makes a great or notso-great leader is a person’s attributes, not their gender.”
Advice to retailers … Make sure you’re presenting women in a way that’s relatable and celebrates their differences. Women aren’t all the same, they don’t all look the same and they don’t all have the same goals.
Female relationships … “If we’ve seen anything in the past few years, it’s that women have a strong, collective voice and aren’t afraid to use it,” Pratt says, adding that the industry as a whole needs to create opportunities for women to come together to support each other’s goals. “Women celebrate one another’s wins, both big and seemingly small. And we are often juggling a lot, so running can be an amazing outlet and community builder.”
Career advice … Her advice to any woman thinking about a career in run specialty is to dig deep into the business. Often placed in more creative and marketing roles, women can be a bit separated from the financials, operations and processes that make a business tick. She advises women to listen, ask questions and set up time with finance and operations leaders to get a better sense of their work and challenges they face. “Regardless of what seat you’re in, by having a deeper understanding of the business,
you’ll gain more confidence, it will help shape and/or support your point of view and ultimately it will make you a more valuable contributor.”
Her running routine … When she lived in New York City Pratt was part of New York Road Runners Club and participated in 5Ks, 10Ks and half marathons and she is considering a half marathon this year — provided her podiatrist gives her the green light. It will also give her a chance to wear test Saucony’s full product assortment.
Saucony in 2023 … Pratt believes this is going to be an incredible year for Saucony, with its 125th anniversary providing an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the past and to celebrate the brand’s dedication to inspiring and enabling people to live a better life. And while the macro-economic climate will be something all brands are navigating this year, she believes Saucony has a strong product offering, a passionate team and an unrivaled commitment to the transformational power of running. “We’re also excited to get deeper into the running community to connect directly with runners of all abilities, races and genders,” she says. “Saucony will shine bright this year and beyond.” n
A pet peeve she is working on is to do away with the term “you guys.” It’s “cringey and time to remove it from our vernacular.”
“There are a lot of strong women already in the industry, so first I would continue to shine a light on them like Running Insight is doing with this issue.”
Women Who Run This Business
Running For Diversity
Two women reflect on their experiences at TRE22 as part of the RIDC scholarship effort.
THE RUNNING INDUSTRY DIVERSITY Coalition (RIDC), in partnership with The Running Event and On, provided full scholarships to TRE22 in Austin, TX, for run specialty stores owned or managed by BIPOC leaders to raise their profile in the industry and increase the overall number of people of color at the event. The RIDC provided a full schedule for this group to enjoy, including a night of networking that helped to build lasting connections beyond
“Our team was thrilled to provide the RIDC with The Running Event 2022 attendee scholarships, which included complimentary access to the full educational program, exhibit hall, networking events and three nights at our host hotel,” explains Christina Henderson, TRE event director. “Not only did these scholarships increase BIPOC representation at TRE, but they contributed to the larger
goal of building a more diverse and inclusive running industry as a whole.”
As part of this special Women Who Run This Business Issue, Running Insight reached out to two of the female scholarship recipients – Joy Hunt co-owner of Elite Feet 302, in Delaware, and Jeri Hogue of Southwest Running, in New Mexico – for their thoughts on TRE, diversity within the running community and where the business needs to improve its BIPOC efforts.
JOY HUNT, ELITE FEET, MIDDLETOWN, DE
Joy Hunt is co-owner of Elite Feet, an independent running store that opened in 2015 in Middletown, DE. Her co-owner, Jason, was a collegiate track and field athlete; she was a mother of two who used running for mental and physical post-partum health and wellness. Their region was one of the fastest growing in the state, but had a significant gap in terms of specialty running retail. They opened their store to fill that gap, knowing that they would also very broadly serve diverse populations that benefit from performance footwear — walkers, teachers, nurses, hair stylists, line workers and more.
Do you consider yourself a woman in the business or more generally a professional in the run specialty space?
In full transparency, I considered myself a woman in the business – and largely my husband’s partner – before my first TRE experience in 2021. I had largely been focused on operations, but had recently written a successful grant for a mobile trailer to retail onsite at races, fitness centers and employer fairs. At TRE, I met so many women owners; I learned more about their various roles in their businesses, their ways
of working and impact in their stores and businesses. I was flat out inspired.
What happened after that?
After TRE, I was afforded an opportunity to attend Empowerun, where I was able to build on these new relationships and reflect and build on my unique leadership style and
capabilities — so not just what I do in the business, but also the value of how I uniquely do it. I was able to call so many women leaders throughout the year and ask questions, get help, bounce ideas off of them, talk about work-life balance and more.
What did you accomplish at TRE22 last year?
The Running Event in 2022 was an impactful and rejuvenating reunion and reconnection of mentors and friends this year for me. Of course, I left with a notebook of ideas and follow-ups as usual.
After being at TRE, do you agree that run specialty is perhaps more equal in gender participation than many other businesses?
I believe so. Running, by its nature, is an all-access sport across genders. And running experience is largely the entry point for this industry.
At the same time, what do you think retailers, vendors and the industry as a whole can do to
improve its diversity efforts?
I truly believe the industry and the running community still too often narrowly defines and narrowly projects what a “runner” is and/or looks like. We serve customers daily who preface their visit with comments about not being a “real runner” because of their pace, shape, size, experience or proficiency. Representation in stores, at races, within running groups, in marketing, working within brands and beyond are all really important towards debunking that myth and being more meaningfully inclusive as an industry.
Do you bring a different perspective to your role as a woman in the business as compared to your male colleagues?
I absolutely bring a unique perspective to our business in many ways — leadership style, both creativity as well as prudence, merchandising perspective and more. And because I am in business with my husband where we have learned to partner well and
offset each other in all aspects of life, it provides a nice balance for our staff, our customers and our partners.
What advice would you give to run retailers and vendors about reaching out to a more diverse gender and ethnic consumer?
Authenticity and sincerity first. Representation at every stage of decision making and marketing — anything from in-house staff to focus/test groups to social media polls if appropriate. Research and seek out those groups, tribes and communities and spend time with them in their training environments as well invite them into your retail and training environments.
What advice would you give to any women considering following a similar career path as yours?
Always see your womanhood as an asset in any environment you are in. Be flexible, but true to your guiding principles and innate strengths — such clarity is priceless. And when you are true to those, your gift will
always make room for you, as the Bible says.
On a personal note, are you a runner?
I am a runner. After running several half marathons and being decidedly only half crazy, my never meets now! I will be running the Paris Marathon as a part of ASIC’s Voyage to Paris in April. So, I am running three or four times a week with longer runs on the weekend.
Wow. Other than that what do you expect for your store in 2023 and what is it going to take to accomplish that?
This year, we are looking to expand our store-branded apparel offerings as well as increase our accessories and run support section. We will do a light remodel of that section of the store to accommodate more products and increase eye appeal. We will continue to schedule retail and education events with our mobile trailer and look forward to serving more employer health events and assisted/senior living centers this year. n
SOUTHWEST RUNNERS, FARMINGTON, NM
Jeri Hogue was introduced to running when she was in the seventh grade through a PE teacher and says that going out for track that spring season changed the direction of her entire life. She ran track throughout her high school years and wanted to run cross-country but recalls being afraid to be the only female on the team – there was not a women cross-country team at her high school at the time – so she decided to play volleyball instead.
She met her husband, Eugene, at a local
race and they have been married 36 years and have two children — Allegra and Sebastian. Since their town didn’t have a running specialty store and they had to travel three hours to Albuquerque, NM, to purchase shoes for their son, she and Eugene decided to open a running specialty store and in February 2010 they opened the doors to Southwest Runners in Farmington, NM.
She has also coached track for 13 years and cross-country for a decade at a local middle school in Farmington. Her title is owner and since they do not have any
employees yet her family voluntarily steps in to help whenever needed.
Do you consider yourself a woman in the business or more generally a professional in the run specialty space?
I consider myself a woman in the business.
Run specialty is perhaps more equal in gender participation than many other businesses. Do you agree with this and why do you think so?
I do agree run specialty is more equal in
Running For Diversity (continued)
gender participation. Running is a unique sport where all gender and ages can run together as one.
What can the running industry do to improve its diversity efforts?
Retailers and vendors should hire individuals in the leadership and staff roles with diverse backgrounds. With diverse leadership and staff one can connect with individuals and runners in their communities. I have noticed running brands have been advertising diversity in media and photos and such. That is a step in the right direction. We can all learn from one another.
Do you bring a different perspective to your role as a woman in the business
as compared to your male colleagues?
Yes, I do. I am more relationship-based and care about my customers even long after I have sold them a pair of shoes or apparel. I see life differently every day and I’m grateful to be able to run and share my love of running with others.
What advice would you give to run specialty retailers and vendors about reaching out to a more diverse gender and ethnic consumer?
They should reach out to diverse communities through sponsorships for run clubs/ individuals, fun runs, demo runs, etc. The location of the runs should be held in diverse communities.
How can you personally relate to that effort?
Being a Native American (Navajo tribe) we have a lot of talent off and on the Navajo Reservation. The Indigenous people are known to be long distance runners, but feel we are often forgotten or overlooked. We need sponsors for elite Indigenous runners who can in return be mentors for our young children to look up to through the sport of running.
What advice would you give to any women considering following a similar career path as yours?
You have to have a passion for running, take risks, surround yourself with people that support you, believe in your dream and don’t give up. As a woman in the
business I feel often we are not taken seriously at times. There are many challenges in owning a small business but it is very rewarding.
On a personal note, are you a runner? If so, what’s your running routine like these days?
Yes, I am certainly a runner. I have run a 55K, several marathons, including Boston, half marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks in my lifetime. I am currently training for a half marathon in February 2023 in Mesa, Arizona. Since I’m getting older I have been focusing more on 5Ks and 10Ks to try and keep my speed. I run five days a week, either a long run, track workout, short fast pace run or weight train.
What did you accomplish at The Running Event 2022 in Austin last year?
At The Running Event, Eugene and I met with new vendors and now we plan to carry a variety of brands of running footwear, apparel and accessories.
Finally, what do you expect for your store in 2023 and what is it going to take to accomplish that?
I expect 2023 to be a great year, since it will be the half marathon year for Southwest Runners. In order to have more merchandise we need to make some renovations. We also plan to have more community fun runs. Since Eugene works in the construction industry, he will have to make time to make these renovations. On my part, I will have to continue to work hard, be creative and serve our local running community. n
Women Who Run This Business
MOMS WHO RUN (STORES)
Four running retailers reflect on the challenges of balancing motherhood and business ownership. / By Danny Smith
She is … Rebecca Hohenstein , the owner of Tortoise & Hare Sports . Hohenstein and her husband, Nathan, opened their Glendale, AZ-based store in 2012.
She has … 3 children – Finnigan (9), Gabriel (7) and Quinn (3).
The biggest challenge of balancing motherhood with owning a running store: Time management, Hohenstein says. “It’s hectic balancing small business ownership with the demands of kids, school and extracurriculars. You have to have a calendar and be flexible – starting earlier on store business one day or working on the weekends – while still being mindful and present with the kids.”
Hohenstein sees clear parallels between business ownership and parenting and tries to apply the same guiding principles at
She is … Rhonda Roman, the owner of Fleet Feet Santa Rosa since 1997.
In 2007, Roman became the sole owner of the store and a single mother following a divorce.
She has … two children – Maddie (20) and Avery (18).
The biggest challenge of balancing motherhood with owning a store: “Both as a business owner and a mom, the to-do list can grow exponentially each day, but you only have a certain number of hours you can put into each day.”
After her 2007 divorce, Roman had to decide whether to keep the store or return to her previous life in public health. While choosing the latter would have been more financially robust, she remained in running
Tortoise & Hare – connecting with others and serving individual needs, for example – to parenthood. Gabriel, for instance, likes bedtime reading with his mother.
“I reflect on how I’m connecting with my kids at home and how I can serve each of them in the best way,” she says.
And instead of viewing the work-life
balance as an unavoidable curse, she embraces it as a blessing. Hohenstein, for example, was able to bring each of her children into the shop – and even to The Running Event – as nursing infants.
“I was lucky to have that flexibility as the business owner and it helped from a bonding standpoint,” she says.
Hohenstein also calls “finding a tribe of other moms” important. When Finn was an infant, Hohenstein leaned on the perspective of two other moms working at Tortoise & Hare. One showed Hohenstein how to exercise kindness, compassion and patience; the other shared organizational strategies.
“With other moms, I can sift through challenges and realize I’m not the only person struggling,” says Hohenstein, adding that connecting with other moms underscores another key parenting lesson. “As parents we can be so hard on ourselves, but it’s important to give ourselves grace.” n
Farnham – became trustworthy allies, contributing not only at the store but at Roman’s home, where they became de facto older sisters to Maddie and Avery.
“Cassondra and Chandra helped me keep the business afloat and my family together,” Roman says, adding that her immediate post-divorce years underscored the importance of asking for help. “When you surround yourself with good people and you help them, they want to help you back.”
retail because of the flexibility it afforded her as a working mom — and the passion she had developed for it.
Still, Roman admits it was tough to find personal and professional equilibrium, especially since she didn’t have family to lean on. However, two of Roman’s young employees – Cassondra Combs and Chandra
Roman’s other important lesson: compartmentalization. Whenever she thought of her daily to-do list as mom and small business owner, she prioritized the most urgent matters and the most feasible tasks.
“If I didn’t compartmentalize and focus, then it became too overwhelming to get anything done,” she says. n
She is … Jessica Anderson , the owner of Fleet Feet Madison in Wisconsin alongside her husband, Matt. The couple opened their first store in 2005 – before becoming parents – and added a second store to the mix in 2014.
She has … two children – Cooper (15) and Maleena (11).
The biggest challenge of balancing motherhood with owning a store: “The constant tug of putting your family first while also understanding your livelihood depends on the income of the store.”
Though admittedly easier said than done, Anderson calls investing in fulltime personnel key to cultivating a strong work-life balance. Absent external help, the scales can quickly tilt toward the store. She and Matt have worked hard to identify the strengths of capable staff members, delegate tasks or responsibilities to them and, most critically, offered benefits like health care and paid time off to drive staff retention.
She is … Tiffany Cruickshank, who opened Peak Running in Downers Grove, IL, in 2014.
Cruickshank has since added three additional Peak Running stores – two more in suburban Chicago and another in Breckenridge, CO – as well as Peak Lifestyle in Hinsdale, IL.
She has … four children – Masen (28), Austen (25), Mackensie (23), Aidan (21).
The biggest challenge of balancing motherhood with owning a store: “Feeling guilty that I wasn’t the same mom for my kids once I became a business owner.”
When Cruickshank opened her first store, her children ranged from middle school to college and her move into running retail represented a drastic shift from the mom-athome life they had all known. Though she missed soccer, football and rugby games, she worked hard to maintain normalcy –“The kids still had a full breakfast and left with packed lunches.” – and to keep family
“That’s been good for the business and also my personal life, allowing me more flexibility as a parent to find the right balance,” she says. “You’re never going to be able to do everything all by yourself, so it’s necessary to find the right people and create a culture at the store where people want to stay.”
Anderson also favors honesty as the best policy. She is candid with Matt as well as
her two children.
“I don’t miss much – I take my kids to school in the morning and go on field trips –but I explain to my kids if I’m going to miss something,” says Anderson, adding that she also exposes her children to the business so they can see the work environment of their parents and understand its dynamic. “My kids know about going to a race two hours early because that’s what’s called for.” n
as her priority. During a recent conversation with her kids, they each confirmed she succeeded in that realm and that they never felt secondary.
“That made me feel good as a mom,” Cruickshank says, admitting it can be tough to see the positive amid the entrepreneurial grind — and guilt.
But now that her four children are all in their 20s, she sees a benefit to building a business from the ground up while they
were off at school and involved in their different extracurricular activities.
“My kids walked away with a clear example of how hard work and grit lead to good results and that’s a positive in the big picture,” Cruickshank says. “Them seeing the fruits of determination, growth and putting yourself out there far outweighs the guilt I often felt back then. It’s actually magical to hear them talk about what we’ve built at Peak.” n
JUNE ANGUS A run with ...
Co-founder and president of Amphipod dishes on product design and her Seattle home base. / By Cregg Weinmann
As a mainstay accessory brand in a significant number of run specialty stores across America, Amphipod is a frequent add-on purchase, though not an afterthought. The fact that it was founded and directed by a woman makes it somewhat unique in the space, so Running Insight had a chance to visit with co-founder and president June Angus to get some insight into the brand.
Tell us a little of the history of Amphipod. The company began in 1998 after my co-founder, Keith, and I were pondering during our daily runs about where to stash our keys, money and tunes, bounce-free. Other runners had the same issues. So we co-designed, engineered and patented the first Amphipod product – the MicroPack Pouch – and offered it to specialty running shops around the country.
How long have you been a runner?
I’ve been running since I was 14, initially training for other sports. Since co-founding Amphipod my personal running time has taken on a range of other dimensions, such as identifying problems runners have that can be addressed through product solutions, testing and creating brain space and time to explore ideas, product, process, manufacturing and market opportunities.
What is your actual title?
I am technically president and CEO; however, Amphipod is a pretty flat organization. We have a great team and all work together aiming to make operating a specialty store a better experience.
Amphipod has a boatload of patents. How many exactly?
Amphipod has 112 patents granted — and
more pending. Protecting innovation has been important due to the amount of time and resources our team spends on innovating for the benefit of runners and specialty stores.
What is your design philosophy??
We’ve found developing effective running gear in the categories of hydration, storage and visibility requires a breadth of professional engineering and product development experience with designfor-manufacturing expertise. Making high-quality products cost effectively for a price that runners will pay and that stores can meet margin on is the secondary layer that really dials up the matrix of factors and can’t be separated from the product development process.
Does your input as a female runner complete the picture for your running products?
Being a runner has provided me with a more insight in product testing for products geared toward the female anatomy and generally a lot of food for thought on understanding the issues runners face that
need to be solved, which helps complete the picture. Having worked across three different sporting goods companies all with different products, materials, technology and manufacturing requirements, I’m coming to the conclusion that being a user is helpful and informative, but somewhat secondary to professional expertise in developing and engineering complex specialized products.
How does your Seattle home base inspire your products?
The long, low-light and wet winters provide a lot of incentive for addressing the runsafety/visibility category and so many new and longstanding runners are embracing road, track and trails here that make it a great place to be involved in running community. The running and outdoor industry in the PNW is especially inclusive and the coffee-on-every-corner option helps rev up the afternoons on the shorter days of winter.
Were the past two years an uncomfortable pause or an opportunity to extend business?
It has been a great opportunity to learn, bend, empathize, ramp up team work and do all we could to be a resource and meet our customers’ changing needs. It afforded us the opportunity to innovate on process solutions, supply chain logistics, exercise agility, create products for even more new runners and the reminder that the best way to do things changes constantly.
So what does 2023 look like for your brand?
We have a great outlook on even more growth and expansion. Specialty stores and their customers are ramping up their embrace of smaller authentic brands that lead with quality and innovation. n
By the Book
Add “author” to the impressive list of titles held by Des Linden, arguably one of America’s best female long-distance runners. The Boston Marathon champion and twotime Olympian’s fist memoir, “Choosing to Run,” hits book store shelves (and online sites as well, of course) on April 4 and it tells the story of her running life — with inspiring lessons that will appeal to runners and non-runners.
• Her training and how she gets ready mentally for the hardest races (including her 2018 Boston win amid the worst weather on record). How can we all pump ourselves up for the hard things?
• Why she started to run and the pressure she faced as an oddball athlete. Childhood pressure can follow us through our lives regardless of activities, in the end it’s about focusing on what makes you happy and how you can lift yourself up.
• Contract negotiations, sponsor issues, and standing up for herself even when it
was tricky. Being a woman in a man’s world, pushing back on negotiations and training plans wasn’t always easy.
• Avoiding the doping scandals that sidelined many of her peers by competing the right way.
“I am incredibly proud of the words that made it on the pages,” Linden tells Running Insight. “My career is the product of so many choices — it was rewarding revisiting them, where they led me and the lessons I learned along the way.
“I’m thrilled I get to share this with the world and I hope that a nugget or two will help, inspire and/or educate a reader’s own journey,” she adds.
In “Choosing to Run” Linden also invites readers behind the scenes as she explores what makes her get up and run every day. She takes readers mile-by-mile through the brutal, exhilarating day that she won Boston in 2018 and she explores how she started out in the sport and what led her to long-distance running; her relationships with other running greats such as Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher; how she learned to advocate for herself in business and training; and why the Boston Marathon has always meant so much to her.
Des is aiming to win Boston again in 2023, so all eyes will be on her come April. And the book is already getting rave early reads from the likes of Angela Duckworth and Ben Gibbard:
“This is a gripping story of grit and grace. With unusual honesty and rare insight…I loved every page and the morning I finished, I laced up my sneakers and went out the door inspired to do my best!” — Angela Duckworth, New York Times bestselling author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
“Des boldly pulls no punches in this behind-the-curtain account…If you’ve ever
watched a marathon and wondered what was going on in the mind of that person who just blew by at 5:15 pace, here’s your chance.” — Ben Gibbard, ultra-marathoner and lead singer and guitarist of Death Cab for Cutie
“The most entertaining sports book I’ve ever read.” — Deena Kastor, New York Times best-selling author of “Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory” n
Retailers, runners and anyone with a passion for perseverance and excellence can pre-order here: https://sites.prh.
Women Who Run This Business
A run with ...
THE M&M TEAM
The run specialty industry has some unique pairings of people, personalities and purposes, but perhaps none more interesting than that of Midge Good and Maggie Butterfield, well known to the many in the business as executives at run specialty retail consultants Karnan Associates. Their story is insightful and inspiring for women – okay, and men, too – so Running Insight reached out to them to tell their story.
The First Meeting … Maggie attended The Running Event alone in 2011. Adam White, her store owner, urged her to connect with the Naperville Running Company crew. After gaining some confidence she approached the NRC table and introduced herself. Maggie and Midge hit it off instantly, so much so that after some rooming confusion with the NRC team Maggie and Midge shared a hotel room and a true friendship was developed.
Maggie’s Background … Maggie came to Karnan Associates with a diverse background. Most recently she was the executive director of Pearce Community Center, a non-profit organization focused on promoting and enhancing the overall wellness of all members. During her fiveyear career at PCC, she was responsible for all leadership, daily operations and fiscal management of the Center. Prior to that she was the GM of Running Central, now RC Outfitters, in Peoria, IL, where for seven years she focused her talents on team development and work culture and was the apparel buyer. Maggie attended the University of Illinois, where she ran cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track. In her free time, you will find her running the trails of Jubilee State Park or
running after her three kids – Hattie, Nellie and Freddie – along with her husband, Nick.
Maggie Joins Karnan … While Maggie was the GM of RC Outfitters, they used Karnan Associates’ consulting services, where she developed a great relationship with Parker and his team. That led to her joining the Karnan team in January 2022. She assists clients with all things HR and apparel buying.
Midge’s Background … Midge joined Karnan Associates from Naperville Running Company, where she served as
GM for 15 years. She helped create and build a healthy team work culture during her tenure. Two of her biggest accomplishments were when NRC received the honor of “Store Of The Year” in 2009 and 2013.
More on Midge … She coaches the Naperville North High School XC program, Girls on the Run and also leads marathon training groups. When not running, you will find her riding her bike along the Fox River just a few blocks from her home. Midge attended Auburn University, so in the fall months you will find her cheering for any and all SEC teams with the exception
of Alabama. With Karnan Associates Midge focuses on team development for its clients and HR related topics.
Fun Fact No. 1 … They are often referred to as the “Margaret Sisters” because both of their legal names are Margaret — they just go by Midge and Maggie.
Women in Business …
When asked the sometimes controversial question “Do you consider yourself a woman in the business or as a professional in the run specialty space?” their answers are the same: “I consider myself a professional in the run specialty space.”
M&M Fun Fact No. 2 …
When asked for photos of the two of them together they discovered they only have selfies. They love traveling together and are always roommates, so Midge usually drags Maggie out of bed every morning to run when they travel and of course they always have to take a selfie.
Do you agree that run specialty is perhaps more equal in gender participation than many other businesses? “As we looked at our client portfolio we discovered that 60 percent of our clients are owned by a female independently or co-owned.”
M&M Fun Fact No. 3 …
While traveling across America last year they ran along both the Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean and everywhere in between — including Mexico.
Promoting More Diversity … One of Midge’s and Maggie’s goals as consultants working with run specialty is to have their teams resemble their community. One of their initiatives is working with colleges in the communities where their clients are located, even encouraging track and field and cross-country athletes to consider run specialty as a career.
A Women’s Perspective … Both Maggie and Midge are firm believers in Strength Finders. “We believe team members’ strengths as individuals bring different perspectives and different strengths also help diverse teams,” they say. “As females we have found that
typically female leaders tend to be more compassionate and better relationship builders, while male leaders tend to be more strategic thinking.”
M&M Fun Fact No. 4 …
When they were both GMs they would meet halfway between their homes to help each other. They loved bouncing ideas off each other and always left those impromptu meetings re-energized.
Advice for Run Specialty Retailers … As could be expected, they use a women’s analogy to get retailers thinking about growing their women’s
business. “Like a good fitting bra, if you want them to be comfortable you need to make it comfortable. For example, they point to Running Wild in Pensacola, FL, and Fairhope, AL, which have Wild Cheetah Girlz; West Stride in Atlanta, GA, which has Women of the Woods; and Ridgefield-Darien Running Company in Ridgefield and Darien, CT, that have Women in the Woods. These groups were established to create a safe environment for females to run comfortably.
M&M Fun Fact No. 5 …
When together they always skip the salad and go for the cheeseburger and fries — regular coke for Maggie and diet coke for Midge.
Advice for Other Women … If they want to grow in the run specialty business – indeed, in any business – women can’t be afraid to speak up, take risks or try a new position, they advise. “You will learn from each one and that will give you a new and sometimes better perspective on how to run the business. Every role is a learning experience.”
Next From Karnan Associates
… A core value both Midge and Maggie share is creating a positive team culture for their clients and their teams. They want to see their clients’ teams continue to grow and develop. “We believe our clients build trust with their teams by getting to know them through interests, consistency and expertise.”
M&M Fun Fact No. 6 … They both have Goldendoodles that they run with — Remi and Teddy. n
Women Who Run This Business
(em)Power to Women
empowerun returns to celebrate women in run specialty — March 7-9 in Santa Barbara, CA
Celebrating its fifth year in 2023, empowerun was created to provide space for women in run specialty to forge new relationships and amplify the female point of view. The intimate gathering has hosted more than 350 female movers and shakers, emerging leaders and influencers to create a space for empowerment, fellowship and change and the 2023 empowerun retreat will be held March 7-9, 2023 in Santa Barbara, CA.
As it has accomplished in the past, the annual event – organized by Kathy Dalby, CEO/partner at Pacers Running, and Burke Beck, co-owner of Red Coyote Running and Fitness – will bring together a curated crowd of 100 or so of the industry’s leading female retailers, vendors and guests.
“We are proud to host the fifth iteration of empowerun,” says Beck. “This reunion of
women in the industry is a great reminder of the strength we have when we collaborate
across retailers, vendors and others engaged in the sport of running.”
Always evolving, empowerun in 2023 is adding an optional one-day team session on March 7 to focus on team building, engagement and business planning.
The programming this year will center around the concept of up-leveling, brought together by a combination of panels, small group sessions and networking opportunities.
“Over the years, empowerun has brought together over 350 women across the run specialty and vendor space,” adds Dalby. “The relationships, ideas and connections that have evolved from this gathering of women has proven to be invaluable to the evolution of the channel.” n
For information and to register: www.empowerun.com
For Women Only Women Who Run This Business
Over the last 15 years, the Lake Sonoma 50 has established itself as one of the premier ultrarunning events in the U.S., but the heralded 50-mile event in northern California wine country has something new on the docket for 2023: the addition of the Trail Sisters Women’s Half Marathon.
The brainchild of Trail Sisters founder –and Lake Sonoma 50 race director – Gina Lucrezi, the women’s half was concocted to minimize participation barriers and
any intimidation women might feel in the traditional co-ed racing space.
“[The Trail Sisters Women’s Half Marathon] is about creating something more palatable,” Lucrezi says. “Through Trail Sisters, I’ve seen firsthand the opportunity to create camaraderie and empowerment among women and this half marathon is an extension of that.”
The launch of a women’s half marathon at an already well-established event is the latest twist in races crafted exclusively for
women, a movement that first began in 1972 when the New York Road Runners introduced the Crazylegs Mini Marathon (now the New York Mini 10K). Since then, other women-only races have come on board, such as the Boston 10K for Women, the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco and the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Orlando. More recently, there’s been a noticeable uptick in women-only trail races.
In 2019, the RunSignup platform hosted
78 women-only races. Last year, even with the pandemic’s impact still rippling across the nation’s racing scene, RunSignup featured 124 women-only races, a jump of 45 percent.
While these women-only events eliminate half of the prospective participation pool – some events do allow men to participate, it’s worth noting – Lucrezi says women-only races are not about maximizing capacity or the dollar.
“This is about celebrating women in sport as well as building camaraderie and engagement,” she says.
Creating Women-Focused Events
Back in 2014, Runner’s World loudly asked, “Do Women-Only Races Still Have a Purpose?” The 1214-word story detailed the rise of women’s events and their resonance, but also discussed a potential saturation point and criticisms against the races, namely for reinforcing gender stereotypes.
Nine years later, the Runner’s World -posited question is an interesting one to revisit in the running landscape as races and running shops, particularly those with race operations arms, seek to rebound from pandemic-era shutdowns, stand out from other fitness or social opportunities clamoring for attention and connect with their audiences in meaningful ways.
Pig Works, the organization behind the Flying Pig Marathon and other Cincinnati races, launched the Queen Bee Half Marathon a decade ago in response to rising participant interest in a female-centric event. Pig Works has consistently delivered that at the Queen Bee Half with flowers, mimosas and
chocolate at the finish line, its pampering-focused Bee-U-Tique Expo and an unapologetic focus on celebrating women as friends, sisters, mothers and daughters. Nearly 34,000 women have completed the Queen Bee Half and the accompanying Medpace 4-Miler since the event’s 2014 debut.
“Women appreciate being pampered, being celebrated and being recognized for their accomplishments,” Pig Works CEO Iris Simpson Bush says.
In Michigan, local running store chain Gazelle Sports established She Runs Grand Rapids (originally called Gazelle Girl) in 2012 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark federal legislation that ignited opportunity for
women in sport. Though Gazelle leadership noted a sizable uptick in women shopping at its Michigan stores, it didn’t necessarily see female race participation rising in parallel. With She Runs Grand Rapids, Gazelle aimed to curate an experience exclusively for women and nudge female race participation forward.
Creating a Space for Women
“We wanted to create a space for sisterhood and camaraderie, minimize the intimidation factor and allow women to be completely comfortable showing up at the event as their authentic selves,” says Cara Cross, director of brand for Gazelle Sports and the She Runs Grand Rapids race director since 2016.
Meanwhile, events such as the Trail Sisters Women’s Half Marathon in Lake Sonoma and the Women’s Epic Race Series characterize the latest development in the womenonly race movement — that is, a move from the road to the trail.
In 2021, Jodi Horton and Ashlee Hinds launched a 5.8mile women’s trail race at Brighton Resort in Utah. The duo focused on thoughtful race touches designed with women in mind. They awarded necklaces instead of medals at the finish line, prioritized women’soriented swag and provided menstrual products on race day.
Last year, Horton and Hinds added a second race in southern Utah. And this year, their Women’s Epic Race Series will
For Women Only (continued)
expand further, including a half marathon at Brighton Resort as well as a virtual challenge in April to accommodate a larger audience.
“We’ve realized quickly that women crave deep, meaningful connections with nature and fellow women as well as something challenging and uplifting,” Horton says.
At its pre-pandemic peak, She Runs Grand Rapids corralled as many as 4000 participants across its three race distances (5K, 10K and half marathon). After coming back fully live last April with more than 1300 total finishers, Cross says registration for the 2023 event on April 30 was up 40 percent from prepandemic levels at the close of December.
“Last year was a year for people to test their comfort level and we feel we’re back full force now,” Cross says.
While acknowledging a vast number of great co-ed races on the nation’s running landscape, Cross believes women-only events carve out a special space exclusively for women and one they can make their own.
“There’s empowerment at the start line and a feeling of accomplishment and sisterhood that goes a long way to creating community,” Cross says.
The relatability factor stands another key point of differentiation for womenonly races and something race directors like Horton and Hinds champion. While Women’s Epic events feature pro athletes as well as first-time mountain runners, Horton and Hinds say there are universal experiences many share, such as balancing
motherhood and fitness while navigating a daunting physical adventure together.
“Our races are competitive, but there’s also a connection and joy in women supporting one another,” Hinds says.
And to be sure, the womenonly events also encourage women on the sidelines to get to the starting line. Pig Works, for instance, collaborates with local groups such as Dress for Success Cincinnati and City Gospel Mission to support their female clients and help them accomplish their first half marathon or four-mile race.
Bush says Pig Works’ womenonly events, which sell out
annually, empower women to “get out of their comfort zone and face a new challenge.”
Lucrezi, meanwhile, says women-only races help eliminate anything that takes women away from the opportunity to trial the sport.
“There are no catcalls or whistles or women feeling they’re on display and that eases concerns,” Lucrezi says.
The unique flavor of womenonly events bodes well for their future, especially as women continue to register for such events and show appreciation for the opportunities.
“That’s why we’re seeing growth all over the nation:
women realize we have such a great time together,” Horton says.
Lucrezi says the proof is in the pudding. Over the last six years, she has seen Trail Sisters grow from an online journal into a national network of women’s trail running groups. Taking that same spirit from the training run to the starting line is the next logical step.
“Providing opportunity for participation is the real important piece,” says Lucrezi, who hopes to create Trail Sisters races across the country. “We want to show women that they are capable of being out there and enjoying it.” n
Female Athlete Advocates
As more international governing sports bodies, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), are controversially opening female sport to male competitors, the new International Consortium on Female Sport (ICFS) has launched globally to advocate for the preservation of the female sport category.
“Fifty percent of the world’s population deserves proper representation when decisions are to be made about their sports category,” explains Dr. Linda Blade, co-founder of the consortium and a representative of member group Canadian Women’s Sex-Based Rights (caWsbar). “The creation of the ICFS is absolutely vital to the preservation of women’s sports.”
All ICFS members stand united in the conviction that sport governing bodies must abide by fundamental principles of safety, privacy and fairness, along with international laws prohibiting sex-based discrimination against biological females.
“While most legal prohibitions against sex discrimination require assimilation and inclusion, sport requires sex segregation for safety and fairness for female athletes — it’s not a new concept,” says ICFS member Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a three-time Olympic champion swimmer, lawyer and CEO of Champion Women.
ICFS is described as a nonpartisan, single-issue collective of female sport advocates who hold that fairness and safety for female athletes must be ensured by having a dedicated category for females — competitors who are biologically female and who have not experienced male puberty. In the 2022 spring season, the world witnessed a major turning point in U.S. female sport when biological male swimmer Lia Thomas
won the 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA Championships — further propelling the trend of allowing male-born athletes to triumph in women’s sports.
“All over the world women are fighting to see fairness for females restored in sport,” adds Fiona McAnena, spokesperson of UK-based group, Fair Play for Women (FPFW), a member group of ICFS. “It makes sense to do this together. The ICFS is a group that will make a difference.”
ICFS agrees with “Fundamental Principle 6” of the Olympic Charter that states there should be no discrimination against female athletes on the basis of sex. Sex equality matters in all aspects of life, including in sport. In accordance with the tenets of the International Bill of Human Rights, the intent of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the precepts of the Women’s Declaration,
women and girls have a right to access and participate in sports in a manner that is fair, safe and without discrimination. To be denied this right is discrimination on the basis of sex.
“Many female athletes, families and coaches are sincerely concerned about fairness in women’s sports due to a growing number of biological male athletes entering competitions of all ages across most sports today,” says former NCAA champion swimmer and ICFS member, Marshi Smith, who co-founded the Independent Council on Women’s Sports (ICONS) in 2022 in response to the NCAA swimming scandal. “The NCAA, among many sports governing bodies, must now correct past dismissals and prioritize the voices of women and girls when it comes to our own sports category eligibility criteria,” says Smith.
ICFS says that it understands there is pressure to allow biological male athletes a pathway to compete in female sport. However, it is the consortium’s position that the female sport category must consist of biological females only and that “the female voice” must be represented at the table when sport organizations undertake consultations regarding eligibility at every level. ICFS stands ready to serve in this capacity.
The consortium continues to build its network and develop the resources needed to help shape decisions affecting female participation. Athletes, coaches, parents, officials and advocacy groups are invited to partner within ICFS. n
For more: https://www.icfsport.org
Women Who Run This Business
Kim Overton has been an entrepreneur for 25 years and launched SPIbelt 16 years ago. Before that she was a personal trainer and created a series of fitness videos — Love Your Legs, Love Your Core and Love Your Baby Body. While out on a run one day mulling over ideas to promote Love Your Legs, she came up with the idea for the SPIbelt. At the time, she was distracted by the keys in her bra top and thought how awesome it would be to have a discreet belt that doesn’t bounce and looks great. The SPIbelt was born during that run.
What is your “typical” day like these days?
I start with one hour of me-time. This includes meditation and planning for the day. I then take the kids to school, go for a run and start my work day after that. Every work day includes touching base with my team and meetings planned three days a week. But my favorite days are the days I can create, develop, review and test new products.
Are you still a runner?
Yes, I’m a runner. I enjoy running in the morning after dropping the kids off. It’s an extension to my meditation and planning time, while also helping keep my mental and physical health in check. I like to end my runs with a nice cool-down stretch reminiscent from my days as a gymnast. A seated 5-10 minute stretch after my run is my secret sauce for feeling strong and staying injury free.
Do you view yourself as a woman in the
running business or simply a professional in the run business?
I view myself as a woman in the running business and proud of it. I love the running industry for its inclusivity and the variety of people who are leaders, innovators and creators. I am at home here.
Do you think run specialty is actually more equal in gender participation than many other businesses?
Yes and one of the reasons that the running industry is more equal is because we are the customers. Staying healthy and active is gender neutral and women are the leading
business with a woman’s perspective? I bring patience and a more nurturing approach to business compared to my male colleagues. This goes for my working relationship with my team, our retail partners, our customers and beyond. Our mental and physical health and happiness, including that of my family and myself, are a priority for me.
Do you think being run by a woman has helped SPIbelt reach more female customers?
100 percent. I am our customer. I can speak directly to women from a place of experience and relatability.
What advice would you give to run specialty retailers about reaching out and merchandising to female runners?
force when it comes to consumption. We show up, we make decisions for our households, we shout about our favorite products on social media. It makes sense that there are a lot of women leading businesses in the run specialty space considering we have a great understanding of what the consumers are looking for.
What do you think you bring to your
Allow women of all backgrounds and levels of running an opportunity to have a voice and be part of your community. Make it clear you’d like to hear from them, because their feedback can really make a difference. Create an environment and community that is inclusive and influenced by your community of women. I would have appreciated being invited into the communities of my local running stores back when I was starting out as a runner.
So what advice would you give to any young (or older) women considering following a similar career path in the run business? Talk to as many people as you can who have done what you want to do. Entrepreneurs and business owners are happy to share their stories. Learn from others’ mistakes so that you don’t have to make them.
Running the Green Way
As organizations across America continue to build and improve access to places to run, walk and hike, the East Coast Greenway Alliance had another record-setting year with the completion of 18 safe, traffic-free segments, many creating key connections to existing trails, that were then officially designated as part of the Greenway route. Eleven states added at least one new segment in 2022, up from eight in 2021.
In addition, more than $200 million in public investment was committed to fund future Greenway expansion signifying continued momentum for the group’s transformational project.
The new additions to the East Coast Greenway in 2022, from north to south, include:
1. Brewer Riverwalk, Phase 3, Brewer, ME (0.2 miles): Following this latest extension, the scenic Brewer Riverwalk runs from South Main Street north to the Penobscot Bridge. The paved 0.8-mile trail follows the eastern bank of the Penobscot River and features cross-river views of Bangor, ME.
2. Cobbossee Trail, Gardiner, ME (0.3 miles): The first phase of the Cobbossee Trail provides a safe, off-road connection to the Kennebec River Rail Trail, which continues north to Augusta. Once complete, it also will provide a connection to the proposed Merrymeeting Trail.
3. Cobbossee Trail, Phase II, Gardiner, ME (0.1 miles): The second phase extends a 0.4-mile, off-road connection to the Kennebec River Rail Trail, which continues north to Augusta. Once complete, it also will provide a connection to the proposed Merrymeeting Trail.
4. Route 1 & Route 88 Intersection, Falmouth, ME (0.1 miles): New sidepaths
at this high-traffic intersection have created a safer way for runners, bicyclists and pedestrians to navigate the intersection with traffic-separated facilities, designated striping and signage.
5. Eileen Dondero Foley Drive Side Path, Portsmouth, NH (0.3 miles): The newly constructed path is the first phase of the 17-mile New Hampshire Seacoast Greenway. This short segment will serve as the northern access point to the greenway, which will connect Portsmouth and Seabrook when complete.
6. Northern Strand Trail, Lynn and Saugus, MA (3.6 miles): Featuring scenic marshes, bridges and trail-user amenities, these newest additions to the rapidly developing East Coast Greenway route between Boston and the New Hampshire border are not to be missed.
7. Encore Boston Harborwalk, Everett,
MA (0.5 miles): Located at the Encore Casino, this waterfront park provides a scenic view of the Mystic River and an important point of entry for the East Coast Greenway into Boston. This half-mile segment connects to existing paths along Boston Harbor and will be a key link to the proposed Mystic River Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge.
8. Cape Cod Rail Trail, Wellfleet, MA (0.8 miles): Now 25 miles in total, the Cape Cod Rail Trail links six coastal Massachusetts towns, as well as two state parks with campgrounds.
9. Mattapoisett Rail Trail, Mattapoisett, MA (0.7 miles): The trail is part of the envisioned 50-mile South Coast Bikeway, which aims to link Rhode Island to Cape Cod.
10. Bronx River Greenway - Starlight Park II, Bronx, NY (0.7 miles): This
features two bridges and a 10to 12-foot paved trail within Starlight Park. When complete, the Bronx River Greenway will be a 10-mile linear park through the heart of one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in New York City, connecting the Bronx and Manhattan via trail.
11. Rancocas Creek Greenway, Delran & Riverside, NJ (0.9 miles): Part of the Delaware River Heritage Trail (DRHT) and the East Coast Greenway’s complementary route in New Jersey, this new segment continues Burlington County’s momentum to develop its portion of the regional Circuit Trails network.
12. Cobbs Creek Connector Trail - Segment D, Philadelphia, PA (0.3 miles): This stretches from the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge to 84th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard in the Eastwick neighborhood.
13. Elkton Road Pathway, Newark, DE, to Cecil County, MD (1.6 miles): This 1.6mile multi-use path brings the Greenway in Delaware to
Greenways for All
70 percent complete, linking Newark, DE to just over the Maryland-Delaware state border.
14. Chatham Bridge, Fredericksburg and Stafford
The non-profit East Coast Greenway Alliance recently launched Greenways for All, an effort focused on supporting communities from Maine to Florida, and beyond, in accessing funding for greenways and trails in this historic infrastructure moment.
Since its 1991 founding, the East Coast Greenway Alliance has been at the forefront of the movement to provide accessible, connected trails and greenways where people live, work and play. Working collaboratively with state and local partners, the Alliance has attracted
County, VA (0.2 miles): The 1100-foot Chatham Bridge was nominated for a national award and was recently rebuilt with a 10-foot wide separated bike lane
$2 billion in investment to build out more than 1000 miles of the East Coast Greenway from Maine to Florida.
“At this critical infrastructure moment, we are poised to leverage our experience and expertise to help communities navigate these once-in-a-generation federal infrastructure investment programs and complete the East Coast Greenway,” says East Coast Greenway Alliance executive director Dennis MarkatosSoriano. “We estimate $4 billion in funding – less than one percent of monies allocated in the Bipartisan
added on the south side.
15. Suffolk Seaboard Coastline Trail, Suffolk, VA (1.6 miles): Currently 5.5 miles of the Suffolk Seaboard Coastline Trail are complete with future plans to link the existing segments.
16. Gorman Street Connector, Raleigh, NC (0.4 miles): This short, yet important, section links Raleigh’s Reedy Creek Greenway and Rocky Branch Trail, as well as the Meredith College and North Carolina State University campuses.
17. St. Johns River-to-SeaLoop West DeBary Connector, Debary, FL (2.9 miles): This connection makes it possible to run or ride from Titusville or Edgewater to DeLand’s Lake Beresford Park all on trail.
18. Indian Hills Recreation Area, Fort Pierce, FL (1.0 miles): When fully complete, this 26-mile segment of the SUN Trail system will allow access to pristine beaches, an active deep-water port, the historic downtown Fort Pierce and a state park in one of the fastestgrowing areas of the country. n
Infrastructure Law – will be needed to complete our Maine-to-Florida linear park. Based on a recent study, we project the return on that investment will be ten-fold — $40 billion in economic, social, health and environmental benefits for millions of Americans.”
In 2021, advocacy work by the Alliance staff helped attract a record $550 million in public investment toward completion of the East Coast Greenway, including key projects such as New Jersey’s Essex-Hudson Greenway, Virginia’s Fall Line trail and the Core to Coast Loop in Jacksonville, FL.
A run with ...
Gina Lucrezi’s first professional role in the running industry was in 2021 when she took a job in customer service with inov-8 and quickly moved up to marketing manager. The company was quite small at the time and therefore she had to learn every aspect of the business – customer service, sales, marketing, events, trade shows, warehouse-pick/pack – in what she now findly recalls as “one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, as it provided me experience in multiple aspects.”
She would later work for Trail Runner magazine as advertising manager, then at iRunFar as business development manager and, finally, an athlete, event and social media manager for Julbo Eyewear USA, Ultimate Direction and Vasque Footwear.
This is her story in founding Trail Sisters and shepherding it into a significant player in the trail running space in 2023.
A passion project … Lucrezi founded Trail Sisters in 2016, while working for Julbo, UD and Vasque, since she was a contractor and able to work remotely. Today, Trail Sisters has grown into a full-time business for her and her husband, Justin, along with a part-time contract employee.
Getting women on the trail … Lucrezi firmly believes it is important to get more women into trail running because it’s something every woman has a right to, yet it isn’t encouraged. “Women enjoy running just as much as men do, but culturally we’ve been told in various ways and forms of expression that it’s not quite our place,” she says, adding that the running industry unfortunately isn’t immune to this thinking. “Ironically though, the running industry
should be welcoming every and anyone to the sport, as it’s an obvious key to keeping the industry alive and successful.”
Message to the industry … She explains this importance in two ways. First, welcome and celebrate women because they are just as important, deserving and influential within the sport and outdoors. Second: Do you want to make more money? Then embrace and support a consumer demographic that will likely spend more money on your products. “That may sound blunt, but businesses have bottom lines and investors,” she says.
Unique challenges … The terrain and environment is primitive, Lucrezi acknowledges, which can cause an
uneasiness, or fear of the unknown. Education is also lacking and there aren’t a ton of resources specifically for women interested in trail running.
One more challenge … Running partners. It’s much easier to find a fun-run group that runs roads, but it’s a bit trickier to find a women’s-only trail running group.
The Trail Sisters role … Trail Sisters aims to fill the void that the running culture and industry have missed or ignored. The group features a crowd-sourced journal full of helpful information and education — all written by female-identifying people. It has more than 150 volunteer-led Local Trail Sisters Groups (women’s only) across the country that provide safe, welcoming,
no-drop trail runs and hikes to community members. It has created free resource courses with help from Hoka and Gnarly Nutrition, free Speaker Series Webinars, women’s-only trail running retreats and races and even a TS Team made up of community members who want to connect with one another at races and events.
Success stories … The fact that Trail Sisters’ presence – in one way or another – has made a large enough impact within the outdoor and running industry to create equitable changes is one of Lucrezi’s success stories. With the help of select individuals from the race space, Trail Sisters created Trail Sisters Approved Standards, which is a list of five simple items race directors can implement at their event to create a more welcoming experience for women runners.
More success … Trail Sisters also hosts a calendar displaying
races committed to these standards and is adding more every day.
Personal success … “On a more personal level, I can share stories of how Trail Sisters has helped create new friendships, aided in personal journeys through traumatic events and literally grown women’s participation on the trails and at races,” she says.
The flip side … There will always be obstacles — it’s just the nature of the world, Lucrezi believes. “Although the running industry is on a positive trajectory, things take time and there will always be the need for improvement and progression,” she says, adding that personally her biggest obstacle is finding the time to be able to do more. She feels fortunate to have a great internal team between her husband, Justin, and part-timer Kristi Confortin. Externally, its Local Group Leaders are the champions leading the charge
within their local communities.
A typical day … Wake up, drink coffee, take the dogs out, tackle priority business and emails, quick 30 minutes for lunch, take the dogs outside for some play time. And that’s just until noon. After an afternoon of answering additional emails, coordinating needs for retreats, races and other projects, she goes for a run, makes dinner, take the dogs out (again!). By evening she is either preparing trainings for Chaffee County Search and Rescue-North (she is their training director) or reviewing documents and municipal information for the Town of Buena Vista, CO, where she is the Mayor Pro Tem. Head on pillow by 10 p.m.
Her running routine … It is very different than it was five years ago, when she was a professional trail runner putting in multiple hours per week for training and her day revolved around her training schedule. Now,
she considers herself more of a recreational runner, content with seven-ish miles every other day or so.
Why trail running? … Lucrezi’s reason for enjoying trail running has changed throughout her life, she explains. “At first, it was the curiosity of a whole new form of exploration. It then became more of an environment to pursue athletic goals and to race at a competitive level.” Now, since her trail running has shifted to more of a causal activity she looks forward to the social atmosphere. “Curiosity still has a hold on me and I like to get out for exploration adventures in the mountains.”
Advice for specialty retailers
… The best way to reach out and merchandise to female trail runners is to help educate them in the process, she explains. “Don’t assume your potential customer knows the same technical information about the product as you do, yet don’t dumb it down. Simply share a helpful explanation. Providing someone knowledge that will benefit them for the future is a great way to create trust and reliability.”
Trail Sisters in 2023… The plan for Trail Sisters and Lucrezi is to continue growing the community. Her focus will be to strengthen the opportunities and offerings it already has while launching a free program directed towards first-timers and those interested in learning more about trail running called Be a Beginner. It will go live in late Spring 2023 and will be available in-person at TS Local Groups and also digitally. n
Making DEI Progress
With the goal of amplifying diverse voices across the outdoor and running industries, the national non-profit organization Camber Outdoors recently released a survey that found exceptional progress towards creating diverse, equitable and inclusive (DEI) workplaces and spaces across the outdoor industry. In fact, Camber partners beat the national average for progress in inclusive culture and leadership practices and equitable supportive systems over the past three years.
Key findings show that last year 72 percent of Camber’s industry partners set goals for inclusive culture and leadership practice and the number of Camber partners establishing organization-led DEI committees rose to 71 percent — a 47 percent increase from 2020 to 2022.
The report showcases and celebrates actions taken in inclusive culture and leadership practices by Camber partners over the past three years as part one of its key findings from its 2022 Workplace Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report.
Additionally, Camber notes that 72 percent of its partners reported promoting employees from traditionally underrepresented communities, which is an eight percent increase from 2020. This kind of growth has a positive impact on multiple fronts as organizations where dedicated leadership and DEI-focused individuals will continue to experience consistent progress towards workplace DEI goals.
“Setting feasible and measurable goals that embed DEI as part of your organizational strategy is a critical leadership step to track progress, share wins, boost workplace culture and remain competitive in the outdoor industry,”
explains Tiffany Smith, CEO of Camber Outdoors. “We are excited to see data from the latest Camber Survey and are so proud of our partners who have taken action to make these results a reality.”
Camber’s 2022 Workplace Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report also reveals that 50 Camber partners and 2988 U.S.based employees participated in the 2022 Camber Survey System. Camber is seeing increased engagement across all 50 Camber partners with 500-plus more employees participating than the prior year.
“Our team couldn’t be more inspired by the companies who have moved past performative DEI efforts and are embedding DEI in the fabric of their workplace culture,” Smith adds. “We’re striving for the Camber Survey System to be the industry gold standard, providing valuable insights to our partner base and serving as an essential resource to promote further diversity, equity and inclusion within workplaces and spaces in the outdoor industry.”
“Working with Camber Outdoors for the
last three years has allowed us to measure our DEI success against our commitment, which is ingrained across all business functions and our leadership ethos,” says Suzie Benton, director of human resources for Ski Taos. “We have taken our past survey results and created a robust DEI tracking program and we’ve been able to effectively tie DEI efforts and compensation, making this goal-setting more meaningful and tangible. Additionally, our staff are better trained to work collaboratively with our guests and the community. This has been a valuable partnership.”
The annual survey is offered to Camber partners, comprising over 300 corporations, small businesses and nonprofit partners that together employ over 11,000 people in the outdoor recreation economy, a $862 billion U.S. economic driver representing more than 4.5 million jobs.
This is the first of four report releases for Camber. To participate in the 2023 Camber Survey System: https://camberoutdoors. org/results-insights/. n