Catherine Foerster has a simple rule for the “No Boundaries” running program at her Fleet Feet Sports store.
No one walks or runs alone.
It doesn’t matter what your pace is, you run or walk in pairs or in a pack. And you wait at the finish line to cheer on runners as they arrive.
The “No Boundaries” program is sponsored by the New Balance shoe company and is offered at all 130 Fleet Feet Sports stores. The program is designed to teach a novice how to run. The “graduation” exercise is running a 5K, or 3.1-mile, race.
For Foerster, the “no one runs or walks alone” rule has a deeper, more personal meaning.
Foerster knows what it means to walk alone, to be so overcome by grief she didn’t know what to do.
Running was her life saver.
Foerster was 28 and had recently given birth to her second child. Her weight had ballooned to 198 pounds on her 5-foot, 4-inch frame. She knew she had to get into shape and had started running.
Then her brother Joe died unexpectedly. Foerster was so overwhelmed that she struggled to do the simplest of tasks.
Her fellow runners, she said, “got me out of the house when I didn’t know what to do.”
While others in her family “ate their grief, I ran my grief,” she said.
“That’s when I started my fitness journey,” said Foerster, 48.
Stop at her store on S.C. 160 next to Harris-Teeter in Fort Mill and Foerster will share a wealth of health information.
She will talk about the importance of the right fit, having the heel of the foot correctly positioned so it takes all the weight of the body, allowing the arch to do its work and the toes to expand inside the shoe.
She might also talk about comparing shoes to cars. Shoe manufacturers change models every year just like cars, so a shoe that “fit” last year might not “fit” the next year.
She will also likely talk about how to get through the aches and pains all runners experience, or, if you’re female, the importance of a properly fitted sports bra.
Her knowledge comes not only from her Fleet Feet training, but experience. Foerster knows that inexperience often sidetracks novice runners. “You need someone to help you through the aches and pains,” she said.
She remembers her first half-Ironman triathlon of swimming, biking and running. To sustain herself during the bike race, Foerster planned to tape a banana to the top tube of her bike. She stopped at a vendor selling nutritional supplements and asked what they were. The vendor was surprised she would try such a grueling, six-hour race without the proper nutrition.
She ran her first marathon in Chicago, her hometown. It was unlike any other sport, she said. The slower runners are on the same course as the elite runners. Like the elite runners, Foerster said she got nervous before every race, but now she wonders why. “I knew I wasn’t going to win.”
A more relaxed Foerster ran a half-marathon at Disney World with her husband Dave. He complained he could never get on pace because every time they hit stride, she would stop to have her picture taken with one of the many Disney characters along the route.
When the Foersters became empty nesters, they started examining options for the next phase of their lives. Fitness, and the experience they had at specialty stores such as Fleet Feet, convinced them to open a running store. They signed a Fleet Feet franchise agreement about a year ago.
They approached the process of finding the right store location like a major corporation. They knew they needed to be close to a major airport so Dave could fly out on business. They wanted an upscale location as Fleet Feet is a higher-end, niche store.
They spent a year looking at locations between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi River. When it came time to choose a site, “we kept coming back to Fort Mill,” she said, and so they moved here from Chicago.
The store held a “soft” opening May 1 with an official grand opening on Father’s Day. She had a table made in part from trees grown on land owned by the Springs textile family. Pictures of York County – from a runner’s perspective – line the walls of her store.
With the store open, Foerster wants to devote more time to marketing it. And she wants to better understand how she can help her community.
She wants to find more time for her own running. She is not sure how fast she can run, but that’s no longer important, she said.
Years ago “running was a life saver, it cleansed me,” she said. Now, she runs because it “feeds other portions of your life.”