A stalwart of the Minneapolis running scene, Marathon Sports is the oldest continually operating specialty running store in the Twin Cities. The neighborhood shop, located at the intersection of 50th Street and Penn Avenue near the south side of Lake Harriet, will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2015. Along with shoes, apparel, and accessories, the store’s walls feature old black-and-white photos of many of the state’s running greats dating back many decades.
Marathon Sports first put down roots in South Minneapolis in October 1985 and was once part of Garry Bjorklund Sports. The original owner was none other than Steve Hoag, a local running legend with a 2:11:54 marathon personal best and a runner-up finish at the 1975 Boston Marathon. After spending two decades establishing one of the most successful running specialty shops in town, Hoag sold the store to current owner John Long, who also boasts an impressive running resume. He was the 1985 Minnesota State High School Champion in cross-country and the captain of the Big Ten Championship University of Wisconsin Badgers cross-country team in 1989 and 1990.
These days, Long has surrounded himself with an army of staff including doctors, professional runners, collegiate stars, and seasoned local recreational runners, all employed by the store, making Fleet Feet Marathon Sports a unique resource for local runners of all ability and experience levels. Far more than just a shop stocking excellent running gear, it has also become a place to get advice on everything from injuries to training for the Twin Cities running community. RootsRated connected with Long to get the scoop on how the shop has maintained such a loyal following all these years.
You rely on something you call the “26.2 Fitting Plan” to get customers in the right shoe. Can you explain this approach?
The formula breaks down like this: 26.2 equals 2 questions, plus 6 shoe fitting steps, plus a 2-week trial. The 26.2 fitting plan is the process we have developed with our on-staff doctors that allows us to individually fit each guest to help them select the best possible shoe for their specific needs. It follows a consistent format working with the guests that allows our staff to share our expert knowledge of footwear, apparel, and accessories. At Fleet Feet Marathon Sports, we like to remove the guesswork from the running/walking shoe buying process. One of our shoe fitting experts will take you through our comprehensive 26.2 Fitting Plan, ensuring that you’ll walk out with the best shoe for your active lifestyle and foot type.
What kinds of community events and group runs do you sponsor?
We offer a free group run—called the Winged Foot Club—Tuesday nights at 6:30pm, and it has been a part of our community for over five years. We have held the run on days as hot as 100 degrees and as cold as -17 degrees. This group allows us to offer runs/walks from our excellent location on the trail system in the heart of Minneapolis. More recently, we've started to make these runs more interactive, and often the Winged Foot Club is sponsored by vendor partners such as Asics, Nike, and Saucony to name a few. It’s fun because they offer wear test shoes and often have great prizes and awesome treats and libations. We also support over 30 other events from health fairs, to farmers markets, to schools, and run/walk events each year in our community.
You have several different doctors come into the store to be a resource for your staff and customers. Why has that been important for your business?
We have been offering free medical consults at the store for over 15 years and it started with Dr. Paul Langer, DPM, working with our staff on the floor and providing information for runners and walkers regarding injuries and injury prevention. This became so popular that we started one of the first committed “Doctors Nights” in our industry every Tuesday to provide support for our clients. Dr. Chris Leisz, DO, joined our Doctors Night in 2005, and we have one or both docs in every week, in addition to their support staff, including physical therapists and sports trainers. This has been important on so many levels, from providing industry-leading education for our staff and guests on remaining healthy and healing from injuries, to being a great resource for both doctors to become leaders in the medical field in running and aerobic activity on a national level.
What are the doctors’ backgrounds?
Dr. Langer's passion for endurance sports led him into the field of podiatry. He has run more than 25 marathons and completed an Ironman triathlon. He currently practices with Minnesota Orthopedic Specialists, a division of Twin Cities Orthopedics, and specializes in lower-extremity sports medicine and surgery.
Marie-Christine Leisz, DO, is board-certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine. She is a staff physiatrist at Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Associates at United Hospital in Saint Paul. She has advanced training in diagnosis and treatment of running, cycling, Nordic skiing, and other endurance sports injuries.
What's the best part of operating a running shop in Minneapolis?
The amazing community and our world-class park system, which allows us to get outside and enjoy everything each season has to offer, from hot and humid, to cold and snowy. Minneapolis strongly supports locally owned businesses and is a city committed to a healthy lifestyle.
Talk a little about your new No Boundaries Training Group for spring 2015.
With our exciting partnership with Fleet Feet Sports finally complete, we are happy to announce the No Boundaries beginner 5k/10k training program. This program is a great way to introduce beginners to running for the first time, as well as a great way to re-introduce running into your life. The program is between 8-12 weeks and will focus on a goal race at the end of the session. It is designed for both runners and run/walkers and all ability levels are welcome to come and join for what promises to be an exciting and supportive atmosphere .($100 cost includes race event number/shirt.)