By Dylan Coleman
It’s All About Fun at the Eugene Running Company
One by one members of the Eugene Running Company’s Monday night running group strolls into the lone location. They emerge from the hectic parking lot darting in and out of traffic. Each one has their hands covered; their heads are all protected from cold with either a headband or a beanie, only the daring show up in shorts. The store is covered from the ground up with running memorabilia, all of the great American distance runners hang on the walls.
An employee stands in the front of the group barking out directions for this evenings run. She asks for the new people to step forward and talk about their running experiences. There’s no need to be scared about running with this group; no judgment is passed on anyone. Any caliber of runner is accepted. At the running company they only thing they want, is for you to have fun.
When the Eugene Running Company opened their doors in October of 2004 it was under the ownership of Michael Black and his wife Shivaun and their two business partners Bob and Laura Coll. They had one goal in mind with the Eugene Running Company; to get the community involved and to promote track town USA.
“He [Michael Black] really wanted to kind of foster more community runs and also more relationship between kind of creating track fans and in particular someone who isn’t aware of track and field,” said Shivaun Black.
In the summer of 2008, just before the Olympic Trials here in Eugene, Bob Coll decided to buyout his business partners and take full control of the Eugene Running Company. Coll moved to Eugene in 1993 from Arizona to help his wife Laura who was training for the 1996 Olympic Trials. “She felt to get to that next level she had to be in Eugene,” said Coll.
Coll’s passion for running started when he was just a child. “I’ve always had this in the back of my mind that I wanted to own a running shoe store, like my entire life basically,” said Coll. When the Eugene Running Company opened in 2004 they were one of the few running specialties store, now they stand alone in Eugene.
One way the Eugene Running Company strives to involve the community is with their weekly running groups. The groups vary based on your experience and what your goals are with running. Monday nights are their most popular nights, the group meets in the store at six and by 6:15 they are out the door. “Monday nights are 3 mile, 5 mile and 7 mile runs,” said Jasmine Hatch who is an employee but also works with the running groups as part of her job. “Good Fun,” is what the Monday night runs are all about, added Hatch.
Daren Webster, 59, since 1972 Webster’s been running off and on, he started coming to the group runs four years ago. Webster, who suffered a herniated disk in his back a few years back, is glad to be able to just run. “These groups are great for running this time of year when it’s dark and cold out and you need some motivation,” said Webster.
On Tuesday night the beginner’s coached group meets at 6pm in the store. That group is coached by Jasmine Hatch. The focus of the group is to help get people who are new or returning to running gain confidence and to work with them on strengthening other parts of their bodies.
Another one of the groups is the Marathon group, which meets on Sunday mornings at the store. Jerry Stromme, who started going to the group runs in 2005, has used the weekly group runs to alter his life. In early 2000, Stromme lay in a hospital bed after suffering from his second heart attack. He was 38-years-old. Now 49-years-old Stromme’s life has completely changed, he went from weighing 228 pounds to about 160 pounds and has run 12 marathons. He is just one of their few extraordinary stories.
Outside of the running groups, the Running Company strives to make every customer feel comfortable. It’s all about the customers at the Running Company; they want everyone who walks through their doors to leave with a feeling of gratification. In 2007 the running company was awarded by being named the third best specialty running store in the Northwest. One way the Running Company differs from any other running store in town is how they help you with your shoe selection.
Each customer is asked to run on a treadmill for ten to fifteen seconds, their stride is then recorded on video and played back in slow motion. An employee sits with you explaining everything about your running form. They break down how your foot lands and which way your ankle rolls when you land. “We ask them a lot of questions in regards to their running history, injury history and their age,” said Jeff Drouet whose been an employee at the Running Company for the past three and half years.
It has always been their goal to help keep the track and running community alive in Eugene. They offer ten percent discounts to all students of any age, they work with the Oregon Track Club to help supply shoes for individuals who can’t afford them. For the Eugene Running Company it’s about the community and the promotion of a fun healthy lifestyle. This is track town USA and the Eugene Running Company has earned its right as the lone specialty running store.
A Race for his Life: Jerry Stromme
Lying on the hospital bed after his second heart attack, it was the second time he had been in that position. He felt helpless; he thought that this was it that he would never be the same. Jerry Stromme was only 38 when he had his second heart attack and 28 when he had the first. The doctors brought in a crane like thing into his room; they used it to weigh him. At that point Stromme knew that he needed to make some life altering decisions or the next heart attack could be the end.
Stromme moved to Eugene with his family when he was about one year old, since then he hasn’t left except for the four years he spent Air Force. Stromme has frosted grey hair, and a chiseled face that lights up when he talks about training. His attitude on life shows with every word he speaks, constantly smiling and enjoying every minute of his new life.
Stromme attended South Eugene High school. He spent a lot of his free time weightlifting before graduating high school and joining the Air Force. When Stromme’s not out running he’s driving a freight truck around Eugene delivering plumbing materials.
It was in early 2000 when Stromme suffered his second heart attack. After being treated he decided to go talk to his doctor about what he could do to prevent a third heart attack. He became so upset with his doctor that he walked out of his office and never went back. “I have to do something to get into shape. I weighed 228 pounds. I was a big person” Stromme said.
“I was walking down the street and 24 hour fitness was down by REI and they were having a month to month sale on their membership… I started jogging on the treadmill,” Stromme said about his first experience with running.
As his confidence in his running ability and his self-confidence grew Stromme became more daring in his running.
“It came time to do the Butte to Butte 10k… and I thought this could be fun,” said Stromme. “I thought this is 6 miles? This is all the way across town and there’s a monstrous hill? I’m going to die.” Stromme said about his first 10k experience. From there on Stromme had found a new way of life.
Stromme didn’t start racing until he was around 170 pounds, a significant drop from his peak weight of 228 pounds. In 2005 Stromme joined the Eugene Running Company training group and that has helped him get to where he is today. At the age of 49, Stromme has raced in 12 marathons and has raced in both the New York Marathon and the Boston Marathon. He has a current personal best in the marathon with a time of 3:30.26.
“I’m going to be out here for three plus hours. I’m just going to run along and have a good time,” Stromme said when asked what drives him. “There’s times when you’re going along and you’re making your little deals with god…just like let me get done with this,” added Stromme.
His advice for others who are looking to start running is “the first few weeks are going to suck, it’s going to hurt, and you’re not going to feel good,” Stromme said. “Just give it some time and after a while you get past that and then it starts getting fun. Just have some fun with it” Stromme added with a smile that stretched across his face.
Stromme, who turns 50 this year, has one goal, “I want to go back to Rome and run the Rome Marathon when I’m 50.”
A Q&A with Jasmine Hatch: Employee & Coach at the Running Company
Jasmine Hatch moved to Eugene in August of 2010 and has been an employee at the Eugene Running Company since she moved to town. Hatch helps coach the Monday night runs as well as the beginners running group.
Q: What got you into Running?
A: I was out of high school and all of sudden I didn’t have anything to keep me active, so running was the easiest thing for me to do, and its addicting.
Q: Did you run in High School?
A: No, I hated running in High School, I was a swimmer.
Q: Did you run in college?
A: I ran for a season at my community college in Washington, cross country that was fun.
Q: What do the Monday night runs usually consist of?
A: Good Fun…Monday night is the 3 mile, 5 mile and 7 mile runs. The winter months no one really likes to do 7 miles, so we go out and do a lot of 3 and 5 mile runs varying paces, everyone from 6:30 miles to 11 minute miles it doesn’t matter, were out there for fun and camaraderie.
Q: Do you typically see the same people at the group meetings?
A: We do see a lot regulars, the good thing is that the regulars are always bringing friends in so we also see a lot of new faces. So that’s a lot of fun, word of mouth is good.
Q: Are the group runs usually made up of people from Eugene or do people from surrounding towns show up?
A: I’ve recently met some people from Creswell that come up for the Monday night runs, there’s a girl who lives out near Florence that comes in for Monday night runs cause she doesn’t know anyone around her neighborhood. We get quite the variety but most of the people are just from the Eugene area.
Q: Where do you take the groups to run?
A: In the summer we will go over to Alton Baker and winter months we stick to the river path and kind of go by skinner butte or Maurie Jacobs Park.
Q: What type of workouts or group runs do you help out with?
A: The part that I’m most active in is the beginners group and really anyone can come to that. I really just try to work on form and getting the beginners endurance up so we start with a lot of walk-run progressions just even five-minute intervals. I encourage people to get out there and really test themselves on their 5ks and there’s a ton around so that’s always helpful.
An example workout we’ll have them do a one mile run as fast as they can when they first get here so their first night at the running group and then a month later I’ll have them do it again and two months later I’ll have them do it again and they can really see the progression in that and that’s just one of the easiest ones to be like oh wow look how far I’ve come cause a lot of the times they get down on themselves like oh I’m not to this level yet when it’s completely not even possible for them to.
Q: Do you help them keep track of miles and workouts?
A: Yeah, we will give them resources if they kind of want to do them on their own. I give them weekly workouts; a lot of them are new to fitness in general so I’ll just try to work with them on their core strength, simple plank moves, push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, different things like that to add to their running.
A Short Photo Essay of the Running Company: