As Pacers Running expands to a sixth location in the District, they reflect on the value of community.
By Catherine Trifiletti
Earlier this year, Washington, D.C. defended its title of being the fittest city in the U.S. The ranking came from the American Fitness Index’s annual grading of metropolis’ based on a range of environmental and personal health factors.
The proverbial fitness-crowning came as no big surprise to DMV residents who have watched specialized exercise studios pop up on every corner. SoulCycle, Flywheel, Solidcore, barre studios galore- you name it, the District has it. Despite the popularity of boutique fitness spaces, the running community has endured and actually prospered. In addition to Washington, D.C.’s friendly sidewalks, it is the strong communal aspect of the running culture that has elevated its staying power.
With over 15 running-based Meetup groups in the area that range from marathon trainees to barefoot sprinters, there is something for every taste. Such a range is representative of the diverse running culture in the District. Though for some pounding pavement is just a mode of exercise, for many it’s a lifestyle.
Local retailer Pacers Running appreciates the sentiment and aims to cater to the aforementioned runners and everyone in between. President and owner Chris Farley, an Arlington native, bought the small Alexandria shop in 2003 with the help of his parents and their generous financing plan that included another mortgage on their house. As the growing retailer celebrated the opening of its sixth location in Navy Yard on Wednesday, Farley and CEO Kathy Dalby see it as much more than just a place to buy gear.
“We are coaches, cheerleaders and partners,” says Dalby.
The community-based retailer has become a haven for runners to swap stories, buy merchandise and show off battle blisters. According to Dalby, it is the strong focus on community that sets Pacers apart from other local businesses. Through specialized training and educational programs, the team aims to get to the core of their consumer’s specific needs.
The common thread between trendy exercise studios and places like Pacers is a solid sense of community through a teamwork approach that encourages individual success. Todd Sadowski, 33, has benefitted from Pacers daily fun runs where groups casually get together to exercise. He admits that winning a marathon is probably not on the horizon, but support from fellow runners is encouraging nonetheless.
“I just know that this community, this lifestyle I am so fortunate to be a part of, will get me to where I haven’t been before,” Sadowski said of his running future.
Pacers embraces the social aspect of exercise by stripping away the exclusivity and competitive nature of running. Dalby emphasizes accomplishments relevant to each individual over races and winners. She finds this approach to be the most inclusive because, at the end of the day, most people aren’t marathon runners.
“It’s not about the guy in the front,” she says. “It’s more about the people in the back.”
Pacers Navy Yard, 300 Tingey St, SE #160, 202-554-1216.