Not Today, Fleet Feet. Not Today.
We live in cities you’ll never see onscreen
Not very pretty, but we sure know how to run things.
Livin’ in ruins of a palace within my dreams
And you know we’re on each other’s team… (Team by Lorde)
I won’t tell you not to shop at any Fleet Feet locations, but I will try to express my opinion with this keyboard. You can make up your own mind; you’re a grownup.
Without any discussion or warning (seemingly, from my humble point of view as a runner and shopper), Tim and Jill Murphy were removed from their Fleet Feet franchise in Longmeadow, MA, after five years of “building and supporting the Longmeadow community and the local running community” (thank you for that, Allison L.). Corporate swooped in and got rid of them. Yep, after they spent five years taking the store from nothing to a family of hundreds of runners and shoppers. They’ve supported hundreds of races and events in our area!
It feels like someone tried to burn down my living room to hurt my family. I don’t think that is overly dramatic. We’ve been through a lot together – mostly laughter but many tears. Births, deaths, trauma, celebration, stress, injuries, joy, even a wedding! What a diverse family! We are all ages and from all sorts of backgrounds. We are fast, slow, small, tall, serious, funny, dorky, smart, tough, nervous, annoying, all of it! We have a supportive environment and get pushed to be our best. We are instant friends.
So, what? Maybe there were other factors going on, like profit, inventory…who knows? It’s retail! I do not care. I don’t need to know. I do want to know what sort of “community oriented” firm treats its owners and employees like this. Fleet Feet, you are not getting one single dollar from me. I have happily spent hundreds in your store over the years. You can keep your app and your magnets and your bullshit stories about how you treat people fairly.
I was 47 in 2015 and had never been a runner. I had muddled through one 5K on my own to see what it was like. When I started out, I could only run across a street. After a few weeks, I could run a block. It took me months to run a mile without stopping. I joined a Fleet Feet winter training to do a 10K; I had no idea it was known as one of the most difficult (and fun) 10Ks around, St. Patrick’s Day in Holyoke. I joined the group without knowing a soul and also dragged a friend along. I was truly nervous. We followed strangers through the streets of Longmeadow in the dark, through a snowstorm. We didn’t know the roads. We didn’t know the people. I was petrified. I had the best time. Those strangers are now friends, you know, the kinds of friends that become your family. I never knew I would run several half marathons, continuous 5K races or begin coaching Girls on the Run.
It’s the collective awesomeness of the people I have met and their inspirational and amazing feats, from the speedy marathoners to the people who are simply walking; the people who bounce back from health challenges and get back out there. Tim and Jill are the center of this family. It feels, Fleet Feet, like you’re trying to send our family scattering. I’m here to tell you we are a tribe and we will survive without you. Now, four years later, I can’t imagine rewinding and never wearing running shoes, and never having met everyone. I’ll probably never be fast. I’ll never “break the tape”. I’ll never stand on a podium. But I’ve already won. These people push you further, they call you out on your baloney–THEY are the community. Some corporation with a focus on its bottom line is NOT our tribe. This makes me sad. We were always so proud to be part of the Fleet Feet family and its history.
Hours after hearing the news, I returned to the store to see of couple of part-time employees looking shocked. The “corporate employee” was having trouble figuring something out at the register, which, inwardly, brought me joy; but it’s sad to see something so valuable be driven into the ground by its mother ship. Corporate Employee made no eye contact; didn’t ask who I was, no “good morning, how can I help you today?” Nothing. Good luck, Fleet Feet, with your ice cold corporation. Our little family may not have a “living room” at the moment, but we will thrive without you. I know that Jill and Tim will continue to do great things, even though their corporation tried to clip their wings. Fly, guys—fly!
We joke that runners are “weirdos” (we use porta-potties during winter races where it’s way below freezing); we are “freaks” (we go out to run 12 miles on frigid, pouring mornings) and sometimes we are “stupid” (we run while eating donuts and doing burpees). So yeah, we are – we are freaking devoted. We are weirdly supportive. We are stupidly aware that big business sucks sometimes. We are stubborn, determined, and we know when to call “bullshit” when we see it. I was reminded by one in our running family that this actually can be looked at as a blessing. Imagine what comes next. We will be stronger. Imagine what we can do together. Yes. But I am still mad.
Read a guest blog post for the Longmeadow Shops by Jill Murphy HERE, about motivation. Does this sound like the voice of someone who is not interested in seeing people succeed?