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.
Arlington Residents Place in MCM — A pair of athletes from Arlington placed at the 41st Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday. Desta Morkama, an Ethiopian who’s living and training in Arlington while seeking asylum, was the second-place male finisher, bested only by Army Medic Spc. Samuel Kosgei. Nicole Irving, a 24-year-old Arlington placed third among the women. Perry Shoemaker of Vienna placed first while Army Capt. Meghan Curran captured second. [Stars and Stripes, Run Washington, Run Washington]
Investor Bets Big on Ballston Real Estate — Perseus Realty has purchased the Ballston Metro Center building, betting that “the planned remake of the Ballston Common Mall, among other projects, bodes well for the neighborhood.” [Washington Business Journal]
Metro Budget Would Slash Jobs, Increase Waits — Metro is considering a new budget that would plug a $300 million budget gap by slashing 1,000 jobs, increasing wait times between Metrorail trains and raising fares. [NBC Washington]
Write-In Candidates in Virginia — Sixteen write-in presidential candidates have filed the proper paperwork with the state to have their votes tallied. Note: InsideNova’s desktop site now shows two auto-play video ads simultaneously upon loading an article. Those with slower computers may wish to avoid the site. [InsideNova]
Earthquake Drill Today — Virginia and a handful of other states will be participating in the Great SouthEast ShakeOut earthquake drill today at 10:20 a.m. [ShakeOut.org]
Sobering News on Office Vacancies — County officials are warning that Arlington’s office vacancy rate will remain relatively high for the foreseeable future. Optimistically, economic development officials believe that by “slowly and steadily” winning lease renewals and new tenants, the vacancy rate could decline to just past 15 percent, from the current 20 percent, within a few years. [InsideNova]
Arlington No. 8 on Marathon Training Rankings — Arlington County has ranked No. 8 on a list of the best places to train for a marathon. The county earned high marks for its parks, its walkability and its climate. [Competitor]
Most Popular College Applications — The three top schools in terms of the number of applications from the high school class of 2016 in Arlington were: 1. Virginia Commonwealth University, 2. University of Virginia and 3. Virginia Tech. [Arlington Magazine]
Arlington’s Commuter Efforts Lauded — “Arlington County Commuter Services (ACCS) is being recognized for weaving mobility into broader efforts to improve local quality of life and economic competitiveness. ACCS was named by the Association for Commuter Transportation as having the best transportation demand management (TDM) program among all large municipalities in the United States.” [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Katie Pyzyk
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.”
Ultimate Frisbee at APS — The Arlington School Board is expected to vote to make Ultimate Frisbee an official co-curricular sport in middle schools and high schools. Arlington is already a hotbed of Ultimate play at the high school club level. It’s likely to be years before the sport is recognized by the Virginia High School League, the statewide intramural sports governing body. [InsideNova*]
Development Before and After — A series of before and after photos, via Google Street View, show some of the more dramatic changes from the last decade of development in Arlington. [Rent Cafe]
Local White Supremacist Quoted — The Associated Press yesterday quoted Richard Spencer, a 38-year-old white supremacist who reportedly lives in Arlington and believes that African-Americans, Hispanics and Jews should be removed from the United States. Spencer, an alt-right figure, attended the Republican National Convention in support of Donald Trump. [Associated Press]
Few Proven Towing Violations — Out of 18,642 trespass tows in Arlington last year, only 7 — or 0.04 percent — were found by authorities to have violated local towing ordinances. [InsideNova*]
Watts Finishes Another Race — Jamie Watts, a fixture in the local running scene, has finished another race. Watts, who has cerebral palsy, completed Saturday night’s Crystal City Twilighter 5K despite sweltering conditions. [WUSA 9*]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley.
*Denotes website that employs pop-up ads, autoplay video or other disruptions to the user experience.
Military Base: No Pokemon Players, Please — Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall is advising visitors that hunting Pokemon is not a valid reason for visiting the base, even though Pokemon supposedly abound there. “There’s multiple Pokestops and gyms on post,” noted a military police officer, who added that she has played the game “to learn more about it.” [Pentagram]
‘Oasis’ For Runners Near Key Bridge — Amid sweltering temperatures, local running store Pacers is setting up an “oasis” Saturday morning from 7-10 a.m. near the Key Bridge and the Mt. Vernon and Custis trails. The oasis will offer “nutrition, hydration, and a shady place to take a break.” [Pacers]
Twilighter 5K Saturday — Crystal City will hold its annual Twilighter 5K race Saturday evening. The race starts at 8:30 p.m. Expect lane and road closures in the area. [ARLnow]
Flickr pool photo by xmeeksx
Gondola Meeting Held — Local residents attended a meeting last night in Rosslyn about the study into the feasibility of a Rosslyn-to-Georgetown gondola system. The architecture firm leading the study says its goal is “proving the system isn’t going to be just a toy for tourists” and “to prove that it can be transit and it can be a great experience.” One Arlington resident quoted by WTOP, Dave Schutz, said his goal was “to free my wife from that deepest inner circle from hell, which is the Georgetown Hospital parking garage.” [WTOP]
Tech Startup Moves from D.C. to Rosslyn — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe was on hand Wednesday to announce that civic engagement software maker Phone2Action would be moving from D.C. to leased office space in Rosslyn and bringing some 142 jobs with it. [Washington Business Journal, Patch]
Arlington Featured in Book About Walking — Arlington County is one of nine communities features in “America’s Walking Renaissance,” a new book about walkable cities in the United States. [Arlington County]
Arlington Runner Achieves Goal — An Arlington resident with cerebral palsy has achieved her goal of completing 34 races by her 34th birthday. [WUSA]
Historic Designation May Not Stop Westover Redevelopment — It’s probably too late to start the process of designating a soon-to-be-redeveloped garden apartment complex in Westover as a local historic district, county officials said in response to residents who want to stop the development. By state law the county can’t stop a by-right development, so the only option for preserving the garden apartments would be for the county to buy the property, said County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac. [InsideNova]
Zara Now Open in Pentagon City Mall — The fashion retailer Zara is now open in the expanded portion of the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall. [Patch]
Continued Kudos for W-L Soccer — After winning the state title, the Washington-Lee High School boys soccer team has since been recognized by the Arlington County Board, the School Board and has received a raft of media interest. [InsideNova]
Wardian Wins Crazy Trophy at Crazy Race — Arlington’s resident elite ultramarathoner Michael Wardian has won the Great New York City 100 Mile Running Exposition and the very unique trophy that goes along with it. [Instagram]
Arlington’s Street Names, Explained — In a post that was just republished, after originally appearing in 2009, urbanist blog Greater Greater Washington explains the complex but mostly logical system for naming streets in Arlington. [Greater Greater Washington]
Photo courtesy Melissa P.
Local Schools Rank High in Challenge Index — One Arlington high school and one high school program cracked the top 10 of the Washington Post’s local 2016 Challenge Index. Washington-Lee High School ranked No. 4 and the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program ranked No. 7. The two other Arlington high schools — Yorktown and Wakefield — ranked No. 11 and 82 respectively. [Washington Post, Washington Post]
Larger Fire Station 8 Possible at Current Site — Arlington County is changing its tune when it comes to Fire Station 8. The county now says that it is possible to build a larger fire station on the current Fire Station 8 site. Before, the county had said the fire station would likely have to be relocated in order to build a larger, four-bay station. [InsideNova]
More on Crystal City BRT — The new Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway, the region’s first bus rapid transit system, officially opened Sunday with the opening of the Crystal City portion of the busway. The transitway features bus-only lanes and stations with “substantial arched roofs and attractive wall panels.” [Greater Greater Washington]
More on Michael Wardian’s Marathon — Arlington resident and prolific marathoner Michael Wardian ran the Boston Marathon in 2:31:39 yesterday. It turns out he did so while wearing a GoPro camera. Having completed Boston, Wardian is planning to run the London Marathon on Sunday. [Hartford Courant]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
The marathon was won by two Ethiopians: Lemi Berhanu Hayle won the men’s race in 2:12:45 and Atsede Baysa won the women’s race in 2:29:19.
The fastest-finishing Arlingtonian was prolific international marathoner Michael Wardian. The 42-year-old finished with a time of 2:31:39, good for 41st overall and 2nd in his age division.
The top three Arlington-based male finishers, based on unofficial net finish time:
The top three female finishers:
After nearly two months of renovations, the Pacers Running Store in Clarendon reopened last week.
The store’s interior was totally revamped to offer a “shopping experience” similar to the new Pacers stores in the District, on 14th Street and in Navy Yard. The new space is more open, more organized and features more natural light.
Pacers is located at 3100 Clarendon Blvd, across from the Metro station. The store moved to an ancillary space along N. Highland Street during construction, offering a scaled-down selection of running shoes, apparel, nutrition and accessories.
Even with the renovated space open, Pacers is still adding product displays and making some finishing touches to the store.
One of the most prominently-located retail stores in Arlington is getting a makeover.
Renovations are currently underway at the Pacers Running Store at 3100 Clarendon Blvd, across from the Clarendon Metro station. The interior of the store is being renovated, following a recently-completed exterior renovation.
Pacers is still open and selling shoes and other running gear, but is operating out of a small space next to the store, along N. Highland Street.
The company says the construction is expected to last about two months. When completed, the newly-revamped Pacers will offer a “shopping experience” similar to the new Pacers stores in the District, on 14th Street and in Navy Yard.
Al Richmond, 74, is preparing to run the 40th annual Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday. He’s one of the Groundpounders, the increasingly exclusive group of people who have ran all of the marathons. (The group had four active members as of 2013.)
The original group has dwindled down to two, both of whom are retired Marine Corps colonels.
While Richmond has run multiple marathons, including the Boston Marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon has a special place in his heart. The retired colonel was part of the original team that set up the marathon, then called the Marine Corp Reserve Marathon.
“They were using it as recruitment when the all volunteer team first started,” Richmond said.
Richmond decided to run the race, even though he was not a long distance runner, and he got hooked.
“I ran the three miles for the Marine Corps and that was basically it,” he said. “And after running that first marathon I said that wasn’t bad and kept continuing to do it.”
Richmond started running multiple marathons, up to three or four a year, he said. While he used to run for speed — his top speed was a six minute mile — he now runs a slower mile and aims to finish.
He is lucky he hasn’t sustained an injury that would prevent him from running the race, he said, noting that there was one time he almost didn’t run.
Richmond was shot in a mugging in 1990 and underwent three serious surgeries. As a result, he was having trouble training and was going to throw in the towel, he said. He ultimately decided to run the race after reading an article in a newspaper.
“I was eating breakfast and I opened the paper and there was an article about the other colonel and how he was the only Marine to run all the marathons, and my wife looked across the table and said you’ve run all of them,” he said.
This year, Richmond will be running the course with one of his daughters. After the race he’ll go home to his house in the Maywood neighborhood, sleep and then either laze around or go for a walk.
“I’ll come home and take about a 20 minute hot shower and then I’ll go to bed for a couple hours because I’m exhausted,” Richmond said.
He doesn’t have a particular part of the race that he likes, he said, adding that he prefers the parts that have larger crowds.
“I wouldn’t say I really don’t like any of it except for 26.1 miles,” Richmond said.
The senior marathoner doesn’t have any longevity tricks for other runners, but he advises people to make sure to stay hydrated.
“It helps if you have a goal,” Richmond said. “If you are trying to get ready for a half marathon, a 10K, a 5K, that helps.”
It’s also important to listen to the body for when to push it and when to take a break. Sometimes a person has to push it in order to get past the mental wall, he said.
“Everyone’s different,” Richmond said. “You just have to go with it or play mind games.”
A 14-year-old Arlington resident will be the youngest female runner in this year’s Marine Corps Marathon. As if that wasn’t unique enough, she’ll be one of the few to be running the race with her entire family.
Ella Alliston and her parents will all be running the marathon, the first for any of the Allistons.
The Marine Corps Marathon is open to anyone 14 years old and up, said marathon spokeswoman Tami Faram. Alliston said that she was surprised she was the youngest runner but was happy she could compete in a marathon at her age.
“When my friends found out they had kind of the same reaction, they were like ‘wow you are so young, I can’t believe you are doing it,'” Alliston said.
Alliston and her mom, Martha, and father, Ross, have run multiple races since Ella joined Girls on the Run in third grade. Ella and Martha started running 5K races, and encouraged Ross to join them. The family has since completed multiple races, including a half marathon last year.
“We did a half marathon and we didn’t want to get out of our routine so we decided our next step was a marathon,” Ella said.
The family has been training for the marathon for at least 18 weeks, Martha said. To prepare for the marathon, the family would run three days a week, with long distance runs on the weekends, Ella said.
“For the last month or so we’ve been running a half marathon or more on Saturdays,” Ross said.
The Allistons have run all over Arlington and D.C. in order to find enough miles for their long runs. They’ve run around downtown D.C., up the C&O Canal Trail and through Georgetown.
“I really liked running downtown and around the monuments,” Ella said. “It was another distraction to look at the monuments and everything. It was flat and there weren’t many hills.”
The family takes turns picking out which trail they’ll run. Ross likes the C&O trail, while Martha likes to run the urban environment of the District, they said.
“We run almost everywhere,” Martha said. “We’ve been through all parts of downtown by the Capitol, the monuments, all through Arlington.”
During the week, the family runs up N. Glebe Road and Old Dominion Drive. Ella mapped out the exact routes that would meet the required mileage each week, Martha said.
After each run, the family heads home to shower and eat breakfast, a routine they plan to keep after the Marine Corps Marathon.
“We’ll probably head home. We have two little dogs we have to walk and then we’ll have lunch,” Ross said.
The family is looking forward to the marathon, they said, adding that they have already tested parts of the course, including the famous long first hill in Rosslyn.
“We’ve enjoyed training for it and we can’t wait to do the Marine Corps Marathon,” Martha said.