Two local running stores and a Swiss shoe company have come together to donate shoes to local frontline workers and regional organizations.
Regional running retailer Pacers announced today (Wednesday) that it is partnering with competitor Potomac River Running Store and Switzerland-based ON Shoes to donate 5,000 shoes to those working during the pandemic, including dozens donated to the Virginia Hospital Center (VHC).
Pacers and Potomac River Running Store will be in charge of identifying and distributing the shoes to individuals or groups impacted by the pandemic. Each store will receive 2,500 shoes of various sizes and types.
Pacers delivered a batch to VHC earlier today.
“This morning, we delivered 150 pairs of shoes to health care workers at Virginia Hospital Center,” said Kathy Dalby, CEO of Pacers. “We will be delivering another 100+ pairs to Arlington Police and Sheriff’s offices tomorrow. We also delivered 100 pairs to our friends at Neighborhood Restaurant Group to distribute to their staff and several dozen pairs are headed to youth clubs we work with in Kenilworth Park.”
Potomac River Running is making similar donations.
“Once the stores assessed their inventory lots, Pacers and Potomac River Running collectively worked together to identify a list of organizations who would benefit from the footwear donation that have either been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and/or need to continue to stay active during this crisis and need resources to do so,” noted a press release. “Organizations and individuals range from fire and rescue, nurses, restaurant workers, local delivery personnel, grocery store workers, veterinary hospitals, and community centers.”
Dalby said Pacers, which has been adapting to the pandemic by shifting its focus to online ordering and virtual fittings conducted online via video chat, could use some public help in finding more people on the front lines in need of new shoes.
“We know there is great need beyond our networks,” Dalby said. “We are asking for help in identifying people or organizations who could use a pair of shoes to help get them moving or simply make their feet hurt a little less. Please follow and tag us on Instagram and tag groups or people who could help us spread the word or benefit from this program… or [contact] [email protected].”
Photos courtesy Pacers
Like many other video conferences being scheduled for those working from home, virtual fittings are being conducted via Zoom. The customer books an appointment online then joins a one-on-one call with someone from Pacers, who walks them through the sizing and gives the customer some shoe recommendations based on their needs.
The shoes are then ordered online and sent to the house, but can be returned for a full refund.
“This has been incredibly popular,” Pacers CEO Kathy Dalby told ARLnow. “We booked almost 100% — over 50 appointments the first week — within 72 hours of launching. We had 100 scheduled as of this morning.”
Dalby said the company is aiming to increase its capacity for virtual fittings over the next few days. A chat feature on the website has also proven popular for the online store. Dalby credited much of that to outdoor running being one of the few allowable, socially-distanced exercises left and a popular form of stress relief.
“Our online sales have increased 10 fold, as has the option for people to have their product shipped or picked up curbside at select locations,” Dalby said.
Still, Dalby admitted the closure of the physical stores in mid-March hurt the company as closures throughout the region has severely impacted other local retail.
“We certainly saw a large dip the first week when the world was just trying to figure out what was going on,” Dalby said. “Spring is a big season for us so it certainly stings but we saw sales double from the first week of closure to last week as we mobilized our team and rolled out virtual fit options and promotion of our online shop. While the closures are incredibly difficult for all small businesses we are hanging in there and staying positive.”
Dalby said the crisis put pressure on the Pacers team to respond quickly. Virtual fittings, for example, went from concept to market in eight days.
“Normally a product like that would take 3-4 months to develop and test,” Dalby said. “We are design testing it on the fly making edits as we go. Finding these new ways to communicate with our customers will have staying power past COVID-19 for sure.”
The other side of Pacers is as an organizer of local races, like the now-postponed Crystal City 5K Fridays. All races have been put on hold for now.
“April is our biggest month for events constituting about 65% of our event revenue for the year,” Dalby said. “Through amazing partnerships… we have been able to pivot and reschedule a good number of events. We will certainly see a dramatic decrease in revenue for this year but are working now with many of our client events to help them find new dates in the fall.
“This will change the landscape of events,” she added. “We are working with other race producers across the country to mold what the future will look like.”
Crystal City’s 5K Fridays are just around the corner for those looking for a “low key race” each week.
The race series returns to Crystal City for its 10th anniversary this year. Starting on April 5, runners can race each Friday starting 6:30 p.m. Billed as the area’s “fittest happy hour,” Crystal City 5K Fridays give race participants tickets for exclusive bars after they finish.
The race itself starts and ends at the Crystal City Courtyard Green (2121 Crystal Drive), looping along Crystal Drive and Long Bridge Drive.
Attendees can register here and pay $25 for one race, or $75 for all the races which comes with a free T-shirt.
Crystal City 5K Fridays is organized by Pacers Running store and sponsored by the Crystal City Business Improvement District and JBG Smith.
Runners can check their bags with race attendants before the 5K begins and will have access to restrooms in the Crystal City Shops (2100 Crystal Drive), per the organizer’s website.
Participants can use a water station at the start line to fill up water bottles and will be able to refill at another water station organizers say will be outside Long Bridge Park.
Current course records for the Friday race are 15 minutes, 10 seconds for men set by Bert Rodriguez in 2011, and 16 minutes, 22 seconds for women set by Susanna Sullivan in 2016, according to the Pacers website.
Photo via Pacers Running
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Pacers Owner Keeps Marathon Streak Alive — Yorktown High School alum, Pace the Nation host and Pacers Running owner Chris Farley has kept his two-decade streak of running a sub-three-hour marathon every year alive. He did so by completing a hastily-organized but official 26.2 mile course around Hains Point in 2:52:53 on Friday. [Washington Post]
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Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
The Crystal City Twilighter, a mid-summer 5K race through the heart of Crystal City, is just over a couple of weeks away.
The race begins Saturday, July 22 at 8:30 p.m. Participants can either register as individuals, or as part of a team with other runners.
The race begins at 2121 Crystal Drive at the Crystal City Courtyard Green, and follows Crystal Drive past Long Bridge Park.
Teams must register with a minimum of five members to participate, and include at least two male and two female runners.
Once a team is registered, they can choose to be in one of three divisions: Racing Clubs and Teams; Community Run Clubs; or Pacers Neighborhood Fun Runs.
This year teams in each division will be competing for points in four categories: being the biggest, fastest, strongest and smartest.
The points for the biggest team are awarded to the team with the most runners, while the fastest team will earn points for speed based on the combined finish times of its five fastest runners. To earn points for being the smartest team, members participate in a six-question round of Trivial Pursuit before the race.
After the race, specials for participants will be available at local bars and restaurants.
Pacers is hosting its annual Four Courts Four Miler on Saturday. The race takes runners from the start at Ireland’s Four Courts along Wilson Boulevard and Jefferson Davis Highway before returning to the finish line outside the pub.
The starting gun will sound at 9 a.m.
Arlington police said they will close Wilson Boulevard from Courthouse Road to N. Rhodes Street from 6:30 to 11 a.m.
Wilson Boulevard also will be closed from Route 110 to N. Courthouse Road from 8:45 to 11 a.m., while Route 110 will be closed between Interstate 395 to Interstate 66 at the same time.
Police said street parking will be restricted, and vehicles parked illegally where there are temporary “No Parking” signs could be ticketed or towed.
The Safeway at 1525 Wilson Boulevard can be still be accessed at N. Nash Street or N. Oak Street, while southbound Route 110 will stay open. Metrobuses will detour from N. Moore Street west onto Wilson Boulevard and north on N. Nash Street from their regularly scheduled routes.
— Pacers Running (@runpacers) March 10, 2017
Chris Farley is a native Arlingtonian who had a knack for running and turned it into a thriving local business.
Farley, the owner and co-founder of Pacers Running, talked with us about how he and his parents bought a local running store and worked hard to grow it to a small chain that also organizes local races.
On this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast we also ask Farley about his podcast, Pace the Nation, and about some of his well-known clients. Be sure to stay tuned to the end for a discussion about the challenging retail climate in Arlington County and how e-commerce is impacting local businesses.
Those running the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 30 now have an alternative to picking up their race packets at National Harbor this year.
The new packet pickup location has some worried about crowds at the Maryland shopping, entertainment and tourism destination, which is not Metrorail accessible. In response, local running store Pacers has made a deal to pick up packets for customers and bring them to Pacers locations, including the store at 3100 Clarendon Blvd in Clarendon.
The catch: you have to buy at least $125 in Brooks running gear — including Marine Corps Marathon apparel, which will be available — at Pacers between Sept. 28 and Oct. 24 to be eligible.
Pacers will also be holding mini-expos at the company’s Clarendon and Navy Yard stores just before the marathon.
“We will be hosting expotiques at Pacers Navy Yard and Pacers Clarendon on Friday, October 28 and Saturday, October 29 with all the great last minute essentials and great deals you expect at the expo — just without the massive crowds and travel headaches!” Pacers said on its website. “And for those of you who participate in our packet pick up program, we’ll have your packet waiting for you with a smile.”
Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.
Pacers Running may not be a startup, but it is using digital media to connect with customers in an innovative way more akin to a tech startup than a small specialty retailer.
Since April 2015, Pacers has been extending its reach with a podcast called Pace the Nation. While podcasts aren’t new, they have increased in popularity and influence since Serial helped to reinvigorate the format.
Pace the Nation is a weekly running podcast recorded by a trio of Pacers familiar faces: Chris Farley, who co-owns the chain of stores, Joanna Russo, who manages the Navy Yard store in D.C., and William Docs, a former college teammate of Farley. The show often features special guests, from local high school cross country coaches to elite athletes like Matthew Centrowitz, who won Olympic gold in Rio in the 1500 meter.
Pacers was founded in 1991 in Alexandria, and has since grown to five local stores in the District and Virginia, as well as a location in Princeton, N.J. Russo said the podcast is a way to still maintain a personal relationship with shoppers as the business branches out.
“It started as one family-owned business and it’s grown to five in the area and one in Princeton,” she said. “When you start to get bigger, it helps people still connect with us if we were still that one storefront.”
The podcast, which launched in April 2015, at first had just a handful of listeners – mostly family members and people who were fans of the store – but now regularly gets about 1,000 listeners every week, Farley said.
Docs said that the listeners are his favorite part of the show.
“I think the coolest thing about the whole podcast for me is the community that it’s built. We have some people who never miss an episode, they tweet to us, they come out to social events,” he said.
Many of the show’s listeners are active in the local running community — they who sign up for local 5Ks and marathons, who join running groups and train all year round. One of Pace the Nation’s devoted fans, Annie Hughes, said that she has been listening to the podcast for a little over a year and looks forward to the new episodes every Monday.
“Arlington can often seem big and impersonal, but PTN showcases the vibrant running community here and invites the listeners to be a part of it,” she said. “When Farley and Docs speak about their favorite running trails, I can immediately relate, as I run those trails too.”
(Today’s Pace the Nation episode — No. 74 — features Marine Corps Marathon Race Director Rick Nealis.)
Hughes said she also loves the show’s non-running discussions, including conversations about dogs, books and Uber woes — something to which all locals can relate.
The podcast started as a way to just “spread the gospel of running,” Farley said. Even now that it’s attracted quite a following, Farley said its primary purpose isn’t to increase sales or drive business to the store.
“This really gives us this platform that really tells our brand story,” he said. “It gives a look into our personalities and who we are and I think makes us more relatable. I think when you get more people to relate to you and to like you, they’re more likely to do business with you. But that’s not even the goal of the show, to ring the register. It’s really to truly inspire people to get out and run.”
The Pacers Clarendon store (3100 Clarendon Blvd) will soon include a new studio for the podcast, with a window to the street so passersby can see the podcast hosts in action, according to Farley. He said he chose to base the show in the Arlington store because of the large number of runners in Arlington, and because it’s the place he’s called home for nearly his entire life.
“I think I’m sort of a rare breed in that I actually grew up here and now live here,” he said. “I definitely make that known on the show, that I am very proud of being an Arlingtonian.”
Crystal City will host the annual Crystal City Twilighter 5K race on Saturday, July 23.
The race, organized by Pacers, will kick off at 8:30 p.m. The relatively flat course will start and finish will be in front of 2121 Crystal Drive.
There will also be a post-race party with food and drink specials at local restaurants. Cash prizes will be awarded to overall male and female runners. Age groups ranging from 1-10 and 80+ will also be given prizes.
Registration is $45 for adults over the age of 18, but $25 for those 18 and younger. Space is limited to 3,000 runners.
Disclosure: The run is sponsored by the Crystal City BID, an ARLnow.com advertiser.