The Top 50 Running Stores in America

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As the Running Event ended its third day, the highlight of the evening was the top 50 Running stores of America event. The night announces the best stores in the Northeast, South, West and Midwest, IRRA's top vendor and top product, the Ubutu Award, from Balega and the best store in America award.....

About 350 people attended the cocktail party and the Top 50 Running Stores in America event on Tuesday night, November 13, in Austin, Texas.

There were some good changes made from 2006 and it made the list of stores, in my mind, stronger and much closer to where the list needs to be. 2000 votes came in from Running Network readers-an ad was placed in the Spring shoe review-and the industry was also asked to nominate important stores as well.

The grading of the silent shoppers was cut to 50 percent of the score, then financial strength (paying their bills) and support of the running community were the other half of the scoring.

This year, the competition was so tight that a score of 76 percent in the silent shopper part of the scoring did not land someone in the top 50-that is ten points above last year!

IRRA, the independent running retailers association named a vendor the year and a product of the year. The product was Saucony and the vendor was also the same. Tom Carleo, a VP at Saucony got up and thanked the team for the product of the year. On the vendor of the year, Richie Woodworth, the President of Saucony showed some of the true class of the evening. He spoke about the team at Saucony, and how they love working on running and he then dedicated the award to Ryan Shay, a Saucony athlete who died last weekend at the Olympic Marathon Trials. There was a standing ovatation for Woodruff's comments.

Two of the moments that were special for me were the Ubutu award, sponsored by Balega sports. This award recognizes the good works of a local running store and that was given to the team from Pacers, in Arlington, Va and their support of local causes and Hurricane Katrina Relief.

The second moment, the final moment of the night, was the award for the Top Running Store in America. The Clearys, a couple married 56 years, were the winners, with their Nine Street Active Feet in Durham, North Carolina. Walt Cleary, the former AD at Duke is a character, his acceptance speech was the highlight of the evening.

A superb evening celebrating the best of the local running stores in America, and the good a local business can do, and the 350 revelers went to many a local watering hole that night to celebrate their good fortune.

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