“London is one of those towns that’s not too small, but it’s not a big city either, so the community is really close knit. You get to know the runners because you see them all the time.”
Runners’ Choice has been at the center of the run community in London, Ontario since it opened in the summer of 1990. Owner Brian Hagemeier has been at the helm since 2013, but his history with the store goes way back to 1994 when he began working part time at the store while attending university.
Brian began his running life as a teenager in Tara, Ontario, a decidedly small town near Lake Huron. After moving to London for school, one fateful day, Brian dropped in on a friend that worked at Runners’ Choice. He ended up running with the club there for a couple years before a job posting caught his eye. He had worked his way up to manager when he came to the crossroads familiar to anyone following their passion.
“At that point I was sitting on a bubble between owning my own store or following what I trained for professionally, working in the medical field,” Brian recalls. “But running was something I was passionate about.” The decision, it could be said, soon made itself. “I loved working in the store. It didn’t really feel like a job when I went in.”
And it still doesn’t. Testament to that is the staff that have stuck with Brian over the years – over ten years, in fact. There’s even a wave of the next generation as a son and nephew have joined the ranks. “It’s nice,” Brian says. “It keeps that family feeling within the store.”
Outside the store, Runners’ Choice has woven itself tightly into the London area run community with its clinics – that run the gamut from Learn-to-Run classes to marathon training groups – and the London Honda Race Series they sponsor, yet another inclusive series that incorporates all distances, from marathon to Kiddie Trot!
It’s important to Brian for Runners’ Choice to stay as involved in the community as they can. “Even if we’re not putting on the event, we like to help out,” Brian says. “Everything from prizing for events, to providing expertise or equipment like our event clock, finish line, things like that. Being a part of the community is huge because it keeps you going.”
And it’s not just the run community that benefits. “All our events have local charities tied to them,” Brian says. “We pick charities so that we know that any money raised stays in London.” Just a few of the charities Runners’ Choice supports are the London Abused Women’s Centre, the Ivey Eye Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital, and YOU: Youth Opportunities Unlimited.
As Runners’ Choice has grown, the one thing that has stayed constant is the neighbourly affection, perhaps only possible in a town that’s “not too small, but not too big.”
“Now we’re starting to see kids that used to run high school track now coming back,” Brian says, “bringing their kids into get shoes. It’s been really neat to see.”
If you're in London, make sure to visit the team behind Runner's Choice at their brand new location near Springbank Park and the Thames Valley Parkway. They moved just a few weeks ago to a great spot at 520 Springbank Dr. We might just see you there!