The Retailer Network
Surrey has an excellent network of independent running retailers which cover the county from Oxted (Simply Sports) in the east to Camberley (Runners Request) in the north-west to Caranleigh (Tortoise & The Hare) in the south. In addition the larger chains are represented by Runners Need in Chertsey and Sweatship in Woking. Plenty of choice and quality in depth.
Malcolm Croft and Derek Ripley are a great example of a local store where runners can get advice about local clubs and groups, events and services as well as full details about a comprehensive product range. The pair have a great affection for their local area and in a recent conversation told southernrunningguide.com: "We don't get as much publicity as some parts of the country but our shop here near Cranleigh is located in the heart of the Surrey Hills. It's an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - a landscape of rolling chalk downs, flower rich grasslands, heaths and ancient woodlands. It provides some of the best trail running in southern England so we have to make sure that we keep a good stock of trail shoes. You'll find Montrail, Walsh, Inov8 and New Balance on our shelves. Match a hard-working pair of shoes with the clothing of Craft, OMM or Helly Hansen and you'll be well equipped for even the most inclement day in the hills."
Later the guys added: "We aim to build up a relationship with all of our customers so that they look forward to dropping in and looking around. When you get to know people you can advise them on hydration and nutrition (we stock a terrific selection of gels and bars - SIS, Powerbar, Clifbar and Elite all have their devotees)."
It's clear The Tortoise and Hare team are entrenched in their local community - they help behind the scenes at the Cranleigh 10K and the popular Cranleigh 15/21 (a pre-London marathon event that lets you run either 15 or 21 miles depending on how you feel on the day) and they have close links with a host of clubs.
It's a similar story in Guildford where Paul Galley leads an enthusiastic team at FitStuff on Chapel St. Great in-store facilities across two floors plus an on-site sports clinic and an association with lots of local races including calendar features like the Hard As Snails, Brutal 10, Bolt Around The Holt and Night Fright.
Across in Reigate and Oxted owner Adrian Pointer highlights the approach at Simply Sports: "At both of our stores expect the Motionquest gait analysis procedure which lets our well-trained staff make an accurate assessment of your running gait. This combined with a discussion around the customer's personal goals lets us identify a number of potential shoes. Then it's trial and error to pinpoint the optimum model - we've a great selection, clearly displayed. This can be time-consuming but it's worth the effort."
Looking after new runners is important to Simply Sports and they've created a brochure with lots of good advice and some tempting offers. One page addresses 'Your First 10K' and advises on progressive training, the importance of building core strength and hydration, another focuses on common injuries and tackling them.
The independents are ably supported by Sweatshop in Woking and Runners Need in Chertsey while Alton Sports are now established at Farnham. Run To Live in Ashtead, Runners Request in Camberley and Surrey Sports in Walton-on-Thames complete the picture of a well-served county where runners have informed and helpful retailers close at hand.