A run for the money
By Linda Lipp | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly
Trails in several northeast Indiana counties are among the quality-of-place projects that have won funding assistance from the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority through the $42-million Regional Cities Initiative.
Although it’s too early to say for sure, some retailers that sell bicycles and running and walking shoes believe the investment in the expanding trail system may be helping people to get out and get moving. That’s good for them, and good for sales.
“We do get a lot of people using the trails,” said Debbie Seigel, co-owner of Legends Running Shop in Angola. “Most of the runners and walkers I know like to make that part of their routine.”
Seigel uses the trails herself, and said the other people she sees on them are “all different ages, all different abilities, all different fitness levels. It’s for everybody and everybody does use it.”
The trails give runners and walkers another option besides streets and sidewalks, and the trails are not as hard on the legs and feet as concrete.
Lynn Altevogt, of Three Rivers Running Co., agreed with Seigel’s assessment.
“I definitely think that…anything that positively affects that (the trails) in the city will affect our business,” she said. “We’re really plugged into the community with all that stuff so I think it really plays a part.”
Altevogt said she’s seen a big uptick of interest in particular in running the more rugged trails.
“More people are getting out and trying that out instead of just running roads,” she said.
Leisure cyclists may also be taking advantage of the trails, but serious bikers prefer roads.
“They don’t want to be impeded by anything. They’re doing it for their speed and their training. You don’t see those people on the path and you don’t want them on the path if they’re going fast,” Seigel said.
“They just want to get out in the country and hammer,” agreed Larry Buzzard, owner of Spokesmen Cycling shop at 247 N. Main St., Roanoke.
Fortunately, Huntington, Whitley and southwest Allen counties all have great networks of county roads for serious bike riders, Buzzard said. Trails are another option for more casual riders. Either way, the biggest impediment this spring has been the unusually wet weather, which has kept people from getting out as much as they’d like.
Spokesmen was located in Huntington for five years; Buzzard moved to Roanoke over the winter and opened there in March. The store sees a good mix of riders who have been biking for years and newer riders who are getting into it not just for the fitness aspect of it, “but the social aspect,” he said. The shop carries a line of bikes for kids as well as equipment for adults.
Because Roanoke is a small town, Buzzard said he sees a lot of families who ride there together. Bicycles were out of favor for awhile among kids, who apparently decided walking was cooler, “but it’s coming back, for the better for me.”
A lot of campers also are including bicycling in their plans.
“They park the RV, put up the tent and go for a ride. That’s the biggest uptick I see,” Buzzard said.
Three Rivers started Appleseeds, a youth-based running group, so middle and high schoolers can learn about the sport. Some are very competitive — participation in track and cross country seems to have become more popular — and some students get interested because their parents are running, Altevogt said.
The Three Rivers coaches who work with the youngsters try to make sure the kids get what they want out of it, whether they’re competitive or not.
“It’s a good way to get them into something they enjoy, keep them healthy, making sure they don’t get over tired or burned out and don’t want to do it anymore,” Altevogt said.
Three Rivers Running Co. started in 2004, and moved to its current location at 4039 N. Clinton in 2011. The store is about a half mile from the greenway, which makes it easy to do runs right from the store, she added.
Seigel said she has had customers who come in, noting that they “obviously” are not runners. But she’s also seen those who’ve lost a lot of weight, and they started just with walking. No matter what their fitness level is to start, “walking is fantastic. Walking is good for all of us,” she said.
Legends, at 1601 N. Wayne St., in Angola, is hosting a “Run Safer Clinic” at 10 a.m. July 22 featuring Olympian Todd Williams. The clinic is for men as well as women, many of whom run or walk the streets or trails alone because that’s what fits their schedules, Seigel said. The workshop will offer tips and techniques in safety awareness and self-defense.