Once upon an evening, I decided I’d had enough. I was grumpy after a long day at work. My car’s tire pressure indicator light had perplexingly blinked to life the night before. Several other minor grievances just topped it off. I needed comforting.
My car knew the way. I parked, pushed through a door, and stepped into an environment that was at once soothing, stimulating, and just…nice. The woman behind the counter smiled and said “Hey! How have you been?” I immediately perked up.
You might guess: Bar? Coffee shop? Scrumptious, scintillating bakery?
Actually, I do enjoy all of those. But this time? Nope. Running shop.
Specifically, the ABQ Running Shop. I love it. I call it “my running shop.” Technically inaccurate, but I am sort of emotionally invested in the place: it’s right up the street, only about three-quarters of a mile from where I live, and I’ve shopped there for almost five years. I’ve seen employees come and go; the owner, Randy, and his wife Tara are among my closest friends. If the shop ever went out of business…well, I would make do and go to Fleet Feet, or Athlete’s Edge, or Heart and Sole, all perfectly fine establishments, but it wouldn’t be the same. I mean, it’s my running shop!
In a perfect world, every town would have at least one running specialty shop. Unfortunately, not so. Albuquerque, bless it, boasts several such shops, but plenty of runners out there have no choice but to patronize non-running-specific stores like Foot Locker, Sports Authority, or even (!) department stores. Other folks, either because they don’t even have those options or because of price, go the Internet route.
Sometimes there’s no choice. But if you have a running shop in your town and you go for other options, I tell you that you’re missing out.
I understand the gripe about the prices at running shops. But guess what? They have sales! Lots of them! Most shops have e-mail lists and websites, alerting the public to those sales. Not to mention, money spent at a running specialty shop is probably more wisely invested than money spent at a general shoe store, given the expertise of a typical running shop employee. They can watch you run, steer you towards particular shoes that fit your kind of running – some places even have snazzy gait-analysis treadmills. At a general shoe store…well, they very well may just smile and nod if a customer aims for a shoe because it looks cool, or costs the very least, or costs the very most.
A running shop can practically become a second home. The more you go, the more the people there get to know you as a runner. If a loved, trusted running shoe gets discontinued, who has your back and can suggest compatible replacements? Who might just have another pair of the old ones in the back? Yup. Your local running shop. Who has heard almost as many tales of strife and triumph as a bartender, and received almost as many injury-related queries as a sports doctor? Guess.
So if you have the fortune of having a running shop where you live, count your blessings, and pay the place a visit. It might just make your day, even if they don’t serve cocktails or chocolate.