On the way home today, I heard a story about a man who was closing up shop on his hardware store after 54 years in business. He started the shop when he was just 22 years old. The interviewer asked him if at the young age of 22, did he know that this was going to be his life’s work? His answer, ‘Yes, absolutely.’
My life’s work. Is Fleet Feet Sports Seattle going to be my life’s work? I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this question. Brian recently reflected on his ten years in this business, and I only joined him full-time a year and a half ago (this month!). Brian is the one who races. I’m the one who got a shockingly large stress fracture on my knee just from a month’s worth of running leading up to high school cross country tryouts. Needless to say, I never even got to try out.
As a kid I wanted to be in international business. I secretly thought this would be my ticket to letting me travel back and forth between here and Portugal where my family lives. I started my business degree, and instantly knew that business wasn’t for me. I wasn’t profit driven like my classmates, and I never quite felt like I fit in with their mindset.
So the decision was made that I would keep studying business but work for non-profits. I did that for several years and then worked for a public university. In my various positions over the years in both non-profit and the university, I thrived on the fact that my work was helping people explore and learn things that I believed were important. I was making a difference.
Fast forward to Fleet Feet Sports Seattle. I joined Brian because it was the right decision for our young and growing family. Here I was joining a business…. and working with my husband no less, but that’s an entirely different topic for another day. I was really nervous. After all, I had never worked retail, I wasn’t an expert runner, and I was losing my connection (my identity) to the public and non-profit sector.
But that’s what’s so funny. In a very meaningful way, this work is the combination of it all. I get to use my business skills (boy do I love me some marketing and numbers), but I’m helping people explore and learn very important and oftentimes life-changing things. Day in and day out, I help walkers and runners learn how to run a 5k, teach them how to alleviate their plantar fasciitis, introduce the female ones to their life-changing sports bra, and connect them to other runners when they are new to town. And most of the runners I meet are much more like me than they are like Brian. Most of the people we meet at the store are looking to get started running, are returning to running, or are perfectly happy with their 3 – 10 miles a week. I am as much our customers as Brian is.
And no, the feet don’t bother me (even though my best friend doesn’t believe me), and I don’t bat an eyelash at fitting a sweaty woman for her sports bra after she’s finished one of our practices.
Instead, I get a huge kick out of connecting with our training program participants both new ones who are joining us for the first time as well as alums that come back time and time again. I love talking to folks at the fit bench. Brian is always remarking about how much I appear to enjoy it. How can you not? Fascinating people walk through our doors every day! Just this month alone I’ve talked to a male kindergarten teacher who had hilarious and eyebrow raising stories, a singer who was getting ready to do the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, an older man who spent most of the year on a container ship and still managed to train for the Boston Marathon, a woman who finished up ‘The Year of Cakes’ and spent it making elaborate cakes for different friends (I believe one was a slug cake), and a five year old girl who discussed her upcoming first camping trip in a tent and how her cat wouldn’t be joining them.
I guess only time will tell if Fleet Feet Sports Seattle is going to be my life’s work, but in a very unexpected way it’s bringing together so many of things that I wanted to do with my life. And I get to do it in a very fun and healthy environment alongside my husband, awesome staff that we’re really proud of, and oftentimes with our two little ones running/scooting around. The only thing missing is the Portugal piece. We’ll just plan on opening up Fleet Feet Sports Porto in five years, and the puzzle will all be complete! And yes, you are invited to our grand opening party.