Loyal readers will know that my recent activities have included preparation for the Army 10-Miler running race this weekend. This has raised my interest in running from its previous point of complete indifference to its current position of mild curiosity. I am especially interested to see how the running community compares to the cycling community. On its surface, the two disciplines are similar – they both try to go places (often while racing), and there are strong elements of physical fitness, suffering, clubs, and organized events (many involving charities).
I had these thoughts in mind this weekend as I followed my wife (a serious runner who does not cycle) into a running store. Imagine that – running has its own stores, just like cycling does! I couldn’t imagine how a store could fill itself with products dedicated solely to runners. I was curious to see if it was anything like the prototypical Local Bike Shop.
In short, it was kinda similar with not nearly as many bikes.
Like most LBSs, there was a small group of employees ready to provide assistance. There were posters for local running groups and upcoming running events. Trophies from the store’s running team were displayed – all very typical of a LBS. As you might expect, there were plenty of running shoes for sale. And since shoes are much smaller than bicycles, this created a great deal of open space one does not normally see in a LBS.
Cycling is all about gadgets and LBSs are usually packed with them. There’s stuff to put on your bike (panniers, pouches, bags, lights, stickers, etc…), stuff to replace on your bike (new saddles, pedals, wheels, etc…), and stuff to repair your bike (tools, air pumps, CO2 cartridges, etc…). Running doesn’t have any corollary to this since you rarely put things on your shoes, replace components on your shoes, or conduct maintenance on your shoes. The lack of this sort of stuff creates even more space in the running store. If you’re getting a sense that running stores are roomy, then you’re following me quite well.
I was mildly surprised to see an extensive nutrition area, chock-full of energy gels, Nuun tablets, and other products designed to give energy while performing. I’ve come to understand the value of in-ride nutrition, but bike rides can last for many hours. Since most energy products aren’t necessary for events lasting less than a couple of hours, I would think that only marathoners would be interested in this sort of thing. Apparently, there are a lot of marathon runners out there because the display rivaled anything I’ve seen in a LBS.
One thing runners do require is clothing, and the store certainly had plenty of that. It’s virtually impossible to find cycling-related clothing outside of a LBS, so I understand why they sell clothing. I’m not sure why you need to go to a running store to get running clothes since shorts, shirts, hats, etc… are in just about every major department store, sporting goods store, or brand-name store (Reebok, Nike, Under Armour, etc…). Perhaps these were products of exceptionally high quality that couldn’t be found anywhere else. To my untrained eye, I was unimpressed.
Finally, it should be noted that the store does offer a few maintenance items. For runners, the thing that requires maintenance is your body. Running is a damaging sport and joints and muscles require repair. There are bands that you can put around your knees or IT band to prevent excessive wear/pain. Also, there are some massage devices for damaged muscles. Most of these come in the form of a fancy stick. You might be surprised how much you can pay for a stick. Then again, if you’ve sampled the costs for almost any cycling item you probably won’t be surprised. I am having major problems with one of my calf muscles so I indulged in a product called (not surprisingly) “The Stick.” Since this is basically a poor-man’s massage, I see applicability to post-ride recovery for my longer cycling events. After two days of use, the results are encouraging if not dramatic. Watch this space for updates.
And although runners have far fewer gadgets than cyclists, they do have some gadgets, like the “fuel belts” that are so popular in this part of the world. Back in my running days, I somehow managed to run 15-25 miles per week without the need to eat or drink while doing so. These days, I drive around the neighborhood, observe the joggers, and they all seem to be prepared for an epic march with no possibility of food or drink en route. My sainted wife shares my skepticism of these belts and has not succumbed to peer or marketing pressure to buy one.
I joined my wife at the cash register, where she deposited several items of clothing and some magnets for her car (her favorite: “Some girls chase boys. I pass them.”). I put down my stick and paid for our goodies. Thus ended my trip into the alternate universe that is The Local Running Shop. I’m still not convinced these places are absolutely necessary, but it was certainly an interesting experience to see how “the other half” lives!