“You never think your dream can be a reality. The fact that it did is amazing,” says Becky Smith, who opened the sleek new Vancouver Running Company in Kitsilano with her husband Rob in April. The fit, young couple—new parents to Leighton, a one-year-old with an enviable mop of curly blond hair, and a regular at the store along with their gentle giant of a dog, Hunter—met in Whistler 15 years ago, brought together by their shared passion for fitness and the outdoors.
While on parental leave after the birth of their son, the couple, both veterans in the tech world, envisioned a beautifully-designed retail concept that celebrated both trail and road running, supported both new and experienced runners, provided a highly personalized customer experience, carried thoughtfully-sourced shoes, apparel, and accessories from faraway places such as Tokyo and Denmark, and, most importantly, created a vibrant community hub.
To run, you must start with the proper footwear. Rob, a competitive runner and progeny of a marathoner, prides the rigorous shoe-fitting experience he provides. “I can put my knowledge into practice,” he says. “I know how people should feel when they run.” The feature shoe wall is not only a work of art (crafted in collaboration with their designer Amber Kingsnorth of MāK Interiors and in keeping with the bright, modern, Baltic birch and polished concrete aesthetic), it’s a curated collection of shoes, presented in great detail with custom information cards highlighting the fit, intended terrain, drop, and price.
The visual experience was an important consideration for Becky and Rob, from the minimalist display of high-end apparel, clean athletic fuel, and recovery accessories, to the hand-painted topographical map of North Vancouver (a favourite spot for trail runs) across the feature wall, and the custom modular display units that roll aside for yoga classes led by beloved local instructor Carolyn Anne Budgell. Their weekly events—group runs, yoga classes, and maintenance clinics—affectionately called the VRC Flight Crew, already draw dozens of participants. “The social aspect of running has been huge,” says Rob. Multiple group leaders maintain their no-drop policy, so any level of runner can challenge their pace without losing their crew. As Rob says, “We want people to run how they want to run.”
Vancouver Running Company, 1886 West 1st Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6J 1G5, Canada, 778-379-8511.
Click here for more Active Vancouver stories.