Kona Running Co. is known for its numerous races held throughout the year in Michigan — the Kona Run in Northville, the Kona Strawberry Run in Belleville, and the Kona Shamrock Run and Kona Chocolate Run, both in Plymouth, to name a few — and in the weeks and months to come, MRG will go behind the scenes of these events and share interesting runner stories here on the blog. (The Kona Running Co. race coming up next: The Wicked Halloween Run 10K, 5K and Monster Mile on Sunday, Oct. 30 in Plymouth. More details coming soon…)
To get things started, MRG caught up with Alan Whitehead, founder of these events and owner of Kona Running Co., which has two stores in partnership with Road Runner Sports. Alan, who has completed over 25 marathons and half marathons, got into race directing when he joined the Detroit Free Press Marathon staff in 1999. He’s also served as co-race director of the Parade Company Detroit Turkey Trot in 2004 and 2005. “I founded my first race event, originally called the Solstice Run, in June of 2003,” he says.
Read on to learn about Kona Running Co.’s connection with Michigan runners.
Kona Running Co. has two stores, in Canton and in West Bloomfield, in partnership with Road Runner Sports. When and how did these two operations get started? Why was it important to you to partner with Road Runner Sports?
We have a long-term license agreement with Road Runner Sports Inc. out of San Diego. I came in agreement with their owner Michael Gotfredson of Road Runner Sports — it’s a perfect running specialty store partner for us. They provide all our store products which includes all major shoe and apparel companies including Nike, Asics, Brooks, Adidas, Saucony, New Balance, Hoka, Reebok, etc. We also received their technology with the Shoe Dog patented analysis process, providing the perfect fit and produces custom made insoles.
How would you describe the experience runners have in your stores?
After owning Kona Running Co. since 2004, we obtained the experience of servicing the running and exercise community with our professional and fun race events. Our two Road Runner Sports stores here offer professional trained sales and fitting associates so our customers receive a “wow” experience at each store visit. We offer the unique Shoe Dog analysis process to provide them a perfect fit and also offer our VIP membership which provides many special amenities including 10% discount on all store products plus all those major shoe and apparel products. (Some exclusions, including select Brooks, Nike, Asics, Adidas may apply.) Our private label R-Gear products are of high design quality. An example is our Drymax socks which are guaranteed for 3,000 miles and prevent blistering, slippage and of no odor material.
We offer weekly R2 square store training groups with members receiving a shirt, training and discounts to our Kona race events. We also offer monthly free Adventure Runs with beverages, snacks and a great prize raffle. We also work with local community charitable groups for fundraising efforts and sponsor all the local high schools near our stores.
How do your stores interact with the local running communities?
We donate funds to our race event volunteers from local running clubs, school cross country and track groups, and key local non-profit organizations like the Karmanos Cancer Institute and University of Michigan CS Mott Children’s Hospital. We sponsor many local race events and have expo booths at the Detroit Free Press Marathon and Dexter-Ann Arbor Run plus offer an expo booth at all Kona race events.
We are the largest running and walking store, yet our stores are owned locally, so our connection is to the Michigan athletic community and marketplace. We carry all major shoe and apparel brands at market pricing plus we train all our store sales associates investing up to 100 hours of training and ongoing programs of support from Road Runner Sports headquarters. We believe in the Kaizen philosophy which is “continuous improvement.”
Stay tuned for more Kona Running Co. store and race updates here on MRG in upcoming blog posts and podcast episodes. Learn more about Kona Running Co. here >>