I’ve always enjoyed the concept of shopping local. My best friend’s dad had a local fertilizer/sporting goods store. You could buy your lawn care and softball glove at the same place and have neighborhood-type service for both. Walking into his store, Ranch & Home, was like walking into your own garage.  There was always someone there, hiding behind a random tool – or baseball bat – hanging from the ceiling, who could recognize your voice as you walked in.  Before you could see the person saying hello, he was asking you how your mom or dad was doing.  The store made all of the city’s softball and baseball jerseys and knew what team you were on before you did. Big Arch, the owner, lived the life the store represented. He got down and dirty on the lawn-care side yet could always be found on the softball fields after business hours. That’s what made him so special. He was his store. His personality, dedication and soul were personified in his love of coaches shorts and illuminated in his smile. He didn’t run a store, he exuded a love of life…and it was contagious. He passed away unexpectedly in 2006 but his life lives on. That’s the beauty of a small, locally-owned store. You’re not a business owner, you’re family.

In 2009, after a horrific hurricane nearly destroyed our island, Galveston was blessed with Kim and Steve. They opened Fit to Run, now Fit Tri Run, hoping to bring the community together and inspire people to get out and run and come together as a community.  Over the years, they have worked tirelessly to organize runs, design training programs and sell everything you need to look, and feel, the part. I remember coming home for the weekend while I was in the Air Force and gradually getting to know Kim. She was so full of energy and encouraging. Her vibe was contagious. She gave you the feeling that you could conquer anything. You want to run 2 miles? You can do it!  You want to run a marathon? Nothing is outside of your reach. She gave you the power to achieve your goals. She believed in you. And, really, isn’t that all we really want…someone to believe in us when we aren’t so sure? We all want that one person who sees your potential and thinks you can dominate the world. Well, Kim is that person. Over the years, she has cheered me on.  And, by me, I really mean us. Us, as in my family…my mom and dad, my running buddies. Mom, age 68, and Dad, age 75, who have each run 13 half marathons in the last four years. See finds them in a crowd and cheers them on. She sees me in the store and stops what she’s doing to ask how I’m doing.