Sunday, February 14, 2016

Go to a specialist for your running needs

Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, February 14, 2016


A recent post on a runner’s Facebook page summed it up pretty well.  “I always go to a specialty running store.  Those guys are runners and they know their shoes and they know how to fit you right.”

In Morris County the running community is blessed with several running specialty stores and everyone is owned and operated by, you guessed it, a runner.  Each store has its own niche within the industry.

Two time Group 1 Champion (Butler high school) Joe Jacobs is the proprietor of the Sneaker Factory of Florham Park.  A lot of his focus is with the high school track and cross country market.

“Having come up and run in the Morris County championships and raced at Drew, and having been a Morris County champion I really feel like working for that crowd,” said Jacobs.

That Jacobs’ wife Laura is a coach at Kinnelon High School is an added connection.

“There are a lot of great coaches in Morris County that I’ve been able to develop friendships with and  I am able to work very closely with their teams in that respect,” he said.

One Saturday a month the store holds a run sponsored by a shoe company.  Often a lucky runner will win a pair of shoes in a raffle.  On February 20th Jacobs and the Brooks rep will support a long training run from Loantaka Park in Morris Township, meeting at the parking lot off South Street at 8:30 a.m.  Water and energy gels and drinks will be set out on the course for the runners.

Once a month on a Wednesday in June, July and August Jacobs hosts a prediction run.  No watches are allowed.  The one who comes the closest to finishing in the time he or she predicted wins a pair of shoes or an apparel package from a supplier.

“After the run everybody came back to the store and we had refreshments and food,” said Jacobs of last year’s run.  “It was fun.  We had about fifty or sixty runners.”

An avid triathlete and often an age division winner Bob Koppenol is owner and manager of Starting Line Sports in Madison.  Not surprisingly, his store focuses on run, swim and triathlon.

“These days it’s gotten harder and harder, especially for triathletes to find their triathlon suits or wetsuits, or the better swim equipment,” said Koppenol.  “Ordering online is hazardous.  The ordering guidelines don’t always work and items need to be returned and re-ordered in a different size, which may take several returns before the item fits the athlete.”

“By coming here, they can get fitted correctly the first time and they can actually see the wetsuit, try it on, and know what they are getting into.”

Triathletes can rent a wetsuit as well or buy one.  The store carries swim suits, kick boards, hand paddles, snorkels, fins, caps, all the assorted equipment that swimmers and triathletes need.  He said that people can try on the goggles and the fins on to make sure they are getting the right feel.  Racing goggles range from pool goggles to open water swim goggles that feature a wider field of vision, and polarized goggles to shield the eyes from sun glare.  Another feature of the store is lesser known running shoes like Pearl Izumi and Hoka.

“We get people coming from quite a distance because of the brands,” said Koppenol.

You could call Runner’s Haven in Randolph a Mom and Pop running store, with Kevin and Maryellen Higgins in charge.  Being located on Route 10 the store can’t offer group runs, but Kevin runs on Saturday mornings with a small group of local elite runners.  Maryellen runs but does not compete while Kevin is an age division standout from 5K to the marathon.

“Our clientele is more the average runner, not the elite runner,” said Maryellen.  “We really do well with the high school and recreation track programs.”

In addition they have developed a relationship with local podiatrists who send their patients to the store to get shoes.

“We probably put 95% of podiatry clientele into a running shoe even though they are not runners,” said Maryellen.  “You can address more of the foot issues with a running shoe than you can with a walking shoe or a cross trainer.”

Next week we look at more of the running specialty stores of Morris.


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