Supporting long distance, at a social distance.
“Love the run” is a motto Rob Smith lives by. And it’s not just his running shop’s tagline—it’s in his DNA.
It was Rob’s paramedic dad who got him into the sport. After witnessing heart attacks at work, his dad was keen to take care of his own heart for the benefit of his family. And young Rob would tag along.
When Rob welcomed his own son to the world, him and his wife Becky started thinking about opening a running shop. “Honestly, it was a circus we were already in; it wasn’t weird for us to add more to it,” he remembers. “My wife was on mat leave and she actually picked up the business plan to keep busy…and we just kept crossing the bridges and going and going.”
Five years in, they’ve built a full program of training programs, clinics, and community runs. Rob is quick to point out that it’s all about loving the run. “There are things around body image, athletic ability…we want this space to be so comfortable that when people come in, they don’t think about those things. Maybe they identify with a staff member or with somebody who’s come out to a community run; or maybe it’s just a shoe brand. But there’s some sort of entry point that makes people feel at ease and they want to be a part of it, and love it.”
In the shop itself, Rob seeks to supply gear that’s both highly functional for running, but also unique. “If it weren’t for Adidas, we wouldn’t have opened with any really big legitimate brands. They believed in what we were doing and came on board right away.” Now, adds Rob, the store is at a point where it offers a curated selection of products from big brands–and also supports newer start-up brands like District Vision running sunglasses and local brand Reigning Champ’s collaboration with Asics.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the shop is open online with some unique features: virtual fit sessions, motivational tips on what to do when races are cancelled, in-depth video product reviews, plus 30 per cent off footwear for frontline medical staff. Despite new challenges, running remains a perfect activity to stay fit and positive in today’s environment.
Rob’s enthusiasm is inspiring, and, unsurprisingly, he credits the sport. “If you can figure out what it is that drives you as a runner, it makes you happy.”
Below, Rob shares two of his favourite routes.
Route #1 Vancouver Variety
“This route is really enjoyable on an early morning as it passes through so many different areas of Vancouver. The best part of this route is leaving Gastown and looping through Crab Park as the early sun rises. From here, you head under the Conference Centre and pop out at Coal Harbour. At this point, you can loop back through English Bay or if you’re feeling good, take the full lap around Stanley Park. I’ve done this a few times when training for the marathon distance.”
Route #2 University Endowment Lands
“This route stretches around the edges of the University Endowment Lands. The first half of this route is moderate with a little bit of technical trail to it. You can warm the legs up with some nice flowy downhill before spending the latter half switching between flat sections and some small climbs. It finishes off with a bit on the road, then some nice hardpacked trail to cruise back to–it’s also a great area to run with a dog!
“The best part of the Endowment Lands is that the different sections make you feel as if you’re in different worlds. The most Northern section that runs parallel to Spanish Banks always makes me feel like I’m in California (but better!).”
Vancouver Running Company – currently open online at vanrunco.com
1886 West 1st Ave
Vancouver, BC V6J 1G3