If you live in the D.C. area and are even slightly into fitness, I’m sure you’ve heard of Pacers Running. With neighborhood shops in D.C. and Virginia, they’re a must-visit for your apparel and footwear needs. They also offer training runs and a variety of fun races throughout the year! Pacers Running is such a D.C. area staple that it can be easy to assume they’ve always populated this space – but that’s not the case.
The Pacers Running story begins in 1999 with fresh out of college Virginia native Chris Farley. We had the opportunity to chat with Chris about how this local business came to be the success story it is today.
On a stroll through Alexandria one day, Chris (a government contractor at the time) noticed a sign in a storefront. The sign read, “Help Wanted. Runners Needed,” and was posted outside of a running store. Having always been an avid runner, Chris decided this was the perfect opportunity for part-time work. He quickly realized he was passionate about the store and inspiring people to get out and be active. After two weeks of working, Chris said, “It was very clear to me that this is what I was meant to do.”
He quickly jumped into a managurial role, working weekends and evenings – four days a week after his contractor job. Around 2001, Chris decided it was time to quit the day-job and open his own store. “I was so singularly focused on my mission to build a running community”, Chris explained. He wanted to take the business to the next level – not just a small local running shop, but a brand.
In 2002 , the owner of the store offered to sell it to Chris. On June 23, 2003, after his parents mortgaged their house to buy-in with him, the new store opened. Success, however, didn’t just happen overnight. Chris told us, “It’s all about showing up every single day. It’s got to be incremental – really servicing the runner, listening to the runner, and hiring the right people.” Between 2003 and 2009, aside from the occasional family vacation, Chris was in the store every single day working to make his vision come alive.
The brand faced challenges as it grew, but Chris knew how to keep pushing and keep succeeding. He said, “Pivot, change, evolve. You’re only going to continue to be relevant if you’re ever-changing.” Luckily, the nature of the business helped it to grow. Building a community of runners who didn’t really have anywhere else to go gave them an instant customer base. The store provided information on the best shoes, best trails, and provided services and expertise not found elsewhere.
As the years went by, Chris opened several additional branches of the store around Virginia and D.C. While Pacers Running has its roots in Virginia, there is a heavy presence in D.C. proper. Chris told us, “People think of the brand as an urban, downton D.C. brand, and that’s perfect for me.” In order to reach the goals he wanted to reach, Chris said, “You have to be in the Nation’s Capital.” Pacers Running has fully embraced the urban vibe, even creating a “Represent the District” apparel line.
What started as a little local business has skyrocketed to be the larger-than-life brand that we in the D.C. area know and love. Chris says he won’t stop there! If the opportunity presents itself, he’s ready to expand outside the D.C. area. Pacers Running already has a New Jersey marathon and a half marathon in Annapolis.
Chris also had advice for other D.C. area locals ready to take their first step to chase their dreams: “Put yourself in an uncomfortable position with no back-up plan. Set yourself up well, but if you go in thinking you’ll have an out, you will take it. It’s amazing what we can do when we have to.”
Did you know Pacers is just one of many run clubs in DC that combine fitness and fun? Here are some of our other favorites, which is yours?
View More Articles By Ashlee Smith
GET OUR WEEKLY EMAIL »