As soon as the conversation turns to running, Chris Dickerson's entire composure transforms. He straightens his back, smiles broadly, and begins to talk with his hands while explaining the thrill (and pain) of running, and how in every race he thinks to himself, "why am I doing this?" only to push beyond his doubt and physical exhaustion and toward his "limit." Dickerson's running friend, Jack Coutts, now the manager of Dickerson's newest running store, Woodbridge Running Company/Brookfield, can relate. "Every time I run I ask myself the same question!" But, Like Dickerson, Coutts continues this grueling, yet rewarding sport, finding a tremendous high in overcoming pain and fear to achieve a personal goal.
Dickerson and Coutts even chuckle among themselves when describing the hours of pain and exhaustion that ravage their bodies in a competitive race. Clearly, running is a passion. Dickerson has taken this passion, since his days as a track and field runner in high school, into the business world, opening his third running store just off of Route 7, next to Rocco's restaurant, in Brookfield.
A native of Woodbridge, Connecticut, Dickerson owned a landscaping business and was the high school's track and field coach when he opened his first store in 1999. "I had to send my kids to Darien to buy shoes," Dickerson explains, "So I saw a need in Woodbridge for a running store, and filled it."
Soon after, he opened another store in Northampton, Massachusetts, which happened quite accidently. A woman from Northampton asked to meet Dickerson in his Woodbridge store because she was interested in re-opening a running store that had just closed its doors. "I asked her two questions," explains Dickerson, "Do you have a running background and have you ever owned a small business?" The woman answered no to both questions, and never opened her own store. Dickerson, however, went to see the space himself and in 2005, store number two, Northampton Running Company, was born.
Dickerson's third store, The Woodbridge Running Company/Brookfield, opened for business on June 24, and once again, it all happened quite naturally. When Dickerson heard that Road and Track Sports Brookfield closed its doors this past winter, he knew there'd be a need for a running store in the area. Dickerson appears to have all the ingredients to making it a success.
According to Dickerson, it's a job requirement to be a runner in order to work in one of his stores. (Manager Jack Coutts is a competitive runner and member of the Milford Road Runners in Milford, Connecticut.) Dickerson is also proud that his stores are "running specific," and are able to help roadrunners, treadmill runners and walkers with their needs, selling all the major brands including Asics, Nike, New Balance and Adidas. Prices range from $80 to $140. Also available is a large assortment of running apparel, shoe inserts, reflective gear and massage sticks.
More importantly, the store contains a healthy passion for the sport of running, seen throughout with framed newspaper clippings of famous runners, alongside a sign-up sheet with a half-dozen names of local runners committing to meet up at the store at six in the evening for a group run, an activity the store will keep in place every Wednesday. As Coutts explains, "Running can be a solo sport — rarely do you find a runner boasting about themselves. For the most part, runners support and encourage each other." And encouragement is evident as Dickerson talks proudly of an 80-year-old Vermont man he met who just began to run for the first time in his life, and today, 10 years later, that same man is still a runner.
"We're here to help people at any ability, from little kids to that 80-year-old man," says Dickerson, who admits to falling into running after finding little success in other sports. However, Dickerson has certainly made the best of a sport he fell into. Not only has he found success on the running track, but also on the track of life, where he finds the opportunity to live his passion and share it with those around him on an everyday basis.
Woodbridge Running Company/Brookfield is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Find out more about Woodbridge Running Company at their website.