Welcome to the final installment of the Quarantine Q&A. We hope that by sharing the stories of our neighbors these past weeks you found some inspiration, solidarity, and connection as a community. We certainly have enjoyed getting to learn from and share the stories of those who are adapting to a new way of life in these unprecedented times.
For our last Q&A we are excited to visit with the one and only Anders Brooker. As the owner of The Runner’s Edge, the Hellgate High School XC coach, and a steadfast Montana running community leader, Anders hardly needs an introduction. Like so many others, he and the Runner’s Edge family have had to pivot, adapt, and navigate uncharted waters these last couple of months. Read on to learn how he is working hard to continue adding value to his employees, athletes, and community during these challenging times.
How many years ago did you open The Runner’s Edge?
We opened up in July 2001 on the weekend of the Sundae Run. Sundae Run was put on Missoula Road and Track Club (now RWM) and used to be on the weekend that turned out later to be the Missoula Marathon weekend.
As a small business owner, how has the COVID pandemic most significantly impacted your business?
Obviously we closed down and that had a huge impact on our day to day sales. Lucky for us the Missoula community is so supportive, so we were able to fill some orders with in-town delivery and curbside pickup. We have also had to postpone or cancel our spring and early summer events. We are hoping that Montana will be in a position we can host some of those events this fall.
Can you share some ways you are getting creative in trying to engage with the running community and your customers?
One of the opportunities that came with the store being shut down and our events being either canceled or moved to the fall was being able to now look at other ways to interact with the running community. We have tried to get creative by hosting weekly virtual events and things like the Quarantine Q&A.
You are also the coach of the Hellgate High School Distance Runners. How have you navigated this time with your athletes as races and seasons have been canceled?
That has been one of the more challenging parts of this for me personally. I love to coach and am heartbroken for the seniors who have worked so hard and now won’t be able to finish their last track season. In the end, missing one season might feel small in the grand scheme of things, but I know the effort and dedication these kids put in year-round. We can’t have physical contact with kids, but we are finding other ways to engage through Zoom meetings, virtual strength training, and helping guide them through this uncertain time. I miss our kids and coaches.
Have you taken a moment to get out for a run yourself during these uncertain times?
I usually get out 4-5 days a week. In the last couple of weeks, we have gone to my parent’s house and ran the 11 Miles to Paradise trail. It has been a great way to get out of town and find a quiet trail. I am trying to at least be in good enough shape to run with the high school kids as we can start meeting again. 🙂
Are there ways you are investing in your mental health right now?
Spring is usually the busiest time for me, between the shop, events, and coaching, so it feels weird to have a few weekends off. Like I mentioned before, getting out of town and that has been really refreshing.
Are there any silver linings or positive moments you have experienced in the last couple of weeks you would like to share?
Of course. It has been hard, but I have tried to look at the opportunity of this time we are all in. We have made some nice changes inside the shop that we wouldn’t have been able to make if it wasn’t closed down. We have also learned other ways we can serve our customers like in-town delivery and I could see us continuing some of those moving forward. It has also given us reason to communicate with other running stores around the country and learn from them. I am also trying to take the time away from practice to grow as a coach and getting through some books and podcasts that have been on the list for a while.
Where are you finding inspiration right now? (books, music, podcasts, people, etc.)
Oh man… inspiration is coming from everywhere right now. At home Meg and Will are my number one motivators, we are having some much fun watching Will change each day. Whether it is working on our events or in the shop, we have some amazing co-workers who are trying to be creative and help us make the right decisions. In my coaching life seeing the engagement and excitement of our other coaches is awesome and watching these kids stay motivated even with their season is canceled is so inspiring. My parents have supported everything I been part of it and some crazy decisions I have made. They continue to do that.
I am just so lucky to have all these people in my life.
How are you connecting with others during quarantine and social distancing?
Thank god for Zoom. Lucky for me, I see a lot of people in my life either on the computer screen, at home or at work.
Do you have a favorite place to run in Missoula?
That is an easy answer for me. I love that trail at the end of Duncan that runs behind “JB’s property” and up to the Rattlesnake corridor. A lot of folks in the running community know JB and he was nice enough let to Meg and I get married on his property. So not only is the trail nice, but it is a special place for us.
If I am leaving town, I would pick the 11 Miles to Paradise trail. I grew up running that trail with my dad and high school teammates. It is one of the places I fell in love with running.
What does the Missoula running community mean to you in a time like this?
The Runner’s Edge mission is “to enhance lives through building community, developing relationships, and having fun.” We love the products we carry and think they make the running, walking, and fitness experience more enjoyable, but we are in business because of our community and the relationship we have built. Every time we talk to other stores around the country, it just reminds us how lucky we are to have a community like this one.
I can’t tell you how many people have reached out or made purchases during this time just to make a point to support us. We are so grateful to live and work in Missoula.
Well, that’s a wrap for the quarantine Q&A. We hope it brought value to you in one way or the other the last 5 weeks. If there are other ways you would like to see us out in the community, e-mail Mike@runnersedgemt.com and let us know!