Welcome to the ninth in our series of articles showcasing specialty run and outdoor retail stores focusing on their commitment to trail running through their in-store programs, brand inclusion, events and more. Spotlight on Specialty is presented by Saucony.
Home to The Runner’s Flat specialty run store, Cedar Valley is one of the coolest outdoor adventure areas in the Midwest. The store is owned by long-time trail runners Sarah and Scott Gall previously lived in Colorado. Near the store you’ll find over 85 miles of paved bike trail, as well as more than 20 miles of dirt single track within city limits of Cedar Falls, Iowa, along both sides of the Cedar River in George Wyth State Park and Hartman Reserve Nature Center. The Runner’s Flat is in the center of the Cedar Falls Downtown Main St. District and just one mile from single track dirt trails.
Our executive director Nancy Hobbs spoke with store co-owner Scott Gall to learn more about The Runner’s Flat and the local trail running community. Scott was the top American at the 1999 World Mountain Running Championships in Malaysia finishing 5th.
[Nancy] Share three of your featured trail running-related programs you promote at The Runner’s Flat.
[Scott Gall] We have a grade school cross-country program in the Fall (Tiger Cross Country) and run single track once a week as one of our practices.
We also host Hilltoppers, which is a junior high, high school program that runs through the summer and they also run dirt trails twice a week for 8 weeks. Last summer Hilltoppers had over 100 athletes in the program!
And, for years we hosted Monday Mayhem for all ages. It was an off-road adventure run every Monday no matter the weather or time of year. We’ve snowshoed on frozen lakes, forded the river, explored every trail within a 20 mile radius, and witnessed so many trail running baptisms that we no longer have Monday Mayhem but now offer Monthly Mayhem in a newly expanded format.
[Nancy] How have you showcased trail-running brands and products in your store?
[Scott Gall] We’ve held group demo runs, clinics for training and gear testing, and have enjoyed being able to bring in new product lines that we feel hit the sweet spot for usefulness and fun. We also frequently offer adventure trips to other states to run wild, while using a lot of the gear that we trust and offer in our store.
[Nancy] What is one positive lesson you’ve learned from integrating trail running programs into your store?
[Scott Gall] We’ve learned to not worry too much about trying to ensure that everyone loves it. Instead, we offer it as a guided run and let people find their own pace. Once they feel comfortable with the area and the trails network, we find that many of them begin to frequent the trails with others whom they introduce to trail running as well.
[Nancy] Do you have any advice to offer other store owners who have yet to feature trail running?
[Scott Gall] Here in the midwest it felt like a slow and sometimes possibly hopeless process, but 14 years in and we’ve begun to see huge growth in trail running in our area. Enjoying it ourselves as part of our lifestyle has probably done as much to encourage others to check it out as anything else as well.
[Nancy] Can you share three tips for individuals considering getting into trail running?
[Scott Gall] First, don’t over-think it. Just do it. It takes no new gear to get started. Second, don’t go far. Stop before you run further than you are comfortable, and come back for more. Third, take a friend to join you in the adventure.
[Nancy] What percentage of sales does your store generate from trail running shoes/gear/products?
[Scott Gall] I would say we’re at about 15%.
[Nancy] Has your percentage of trail running related sales increased over the past three to five years, and if it has, to what do you attribute the increase?
[Scott Gall] Yes. I’d guess that much of it has to do with the growth in people taking their endurance running off-road, into ultras and adventure racing, and an increase in overall activity levels of those in our community and throughout the United States.
[Nancy] What are some trail running races or other events that are supported through the store?
[Scott Gall] Trail runners should be sure to check out the No Coast Trail Series, the Pleasant Creek Trail Run in September and The Frosty Buns Adventure Race Series which includes a January snowshoe race.
The Runner’s Flat Contact Information:
Years in Business: 14
Owners: Sarah and Scott Gall (pictured top of page at the 2020 U.S. National Snowshoe Championships)
Manager: Bryan Rutledge
Store Location: 120 Main St., Cedar Falls, IA 50613
Phone: (319) 277-1154