Sometimes you forge a career path through detailed planning and deliberate choices. Sometimes, a career chooses you. Todd Jangula, co-owner of Forerunners on Main Street in Vancouver, started part-time at the location on 4th Avenue while he was a runner at the University of British Columbia, where he studied history in 1998. “And they never let me leave,” he laughs.
“I thought I would be a history teacher,” he recalls. “Then I realised that I really liked what I was doing at the store.” Working under Forerunners co-founders Karen and Peter Butler, Todd was witnessing first-hand what it takes to run a successful business.
“I started managing in 2004,” Todd says. “And then Peter started involving me more and more in things. Even just sitting in on different planning sessions, I started to learn. I started to think to myself, I’d like to have a store.”
Unbeknownst to him, his future business partner was having similar visions of the future. Carey Nelson is a two-time Olympian and a long-time coach with Forerunners. He had an idea for a new store on Main Street, which was developing rapidly with new housing, businesses and young families. When Todd brought up the idea of his own store with Peter, the three men worked together to make it a reality. “Carey deserves all the credit for the location,” Todd says. “He really spearheaded this spot.”
Now, both Todd and Carey bring their individual skills to make a pretty perfect team on Main Street. “All the pieces kind of came together,” Todd says. “I had all the store and retail experience and Carey brought all the running and coaching experience. So our two skill sets actually match up really well.”
It’s been a boon for the run community in East Vancouver, where Forerunners has been warmly embraced, just as the store has welcomed the community. “Lots of our regular clinic runners have young families,” Todd says, “so we make sure kids are always welcome. It keeps it fun if you involve families. There’s more life, you know?”
Fun like their frequent Pancake Social Runs that serve up a mess of pancakes to hungry runners after a light 5K around the neighbourhood. Or the 7 Summits of Vancouver Urban Challenge that has runners climb each of the seven peaks in the city over a sprawling 47 km course. Both involve a small entry fee which in turn goes wholly to a local charity.
It helps the store stay connected to a community that Todd has seen grown in leaps in bounds since they opened their doors. “It’s been pretty neat to see people who at first aren’t sure they want to step into the store,” Todd says, “because it can be intimidating. And by the end, they’re full-on runners, and are still running with us.”
So, if you’ve been thinking about taking that first step towards a running life, and you’re lucky enough to live near the Forerunners on Main, there’s no reason to wait. “The first thing people need to learn is that they can do it,” Todd says. “Running can seem like something that’s not fun, not comfortable, but we keep it loose and have some laughs and before you know it you’ve ran a 5K! You can do it and we’ll help you do it.”