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clearing hurdles in life and business: an interview with RunningCo leader dave welsh

posted by
Ian Campbell

he used to be known as the "pig runner" - now he's the real deal, crushing it in Philly...

Dave Welsh is a runner, hurdler, restaurant owner and the guy behind RunningCo

Ian Campbell is the founder of the sports app, eseo. Ian recently interviewed Dave about life, business and running. Here’s what they shared.

Dave, share a little bit about your background.

I was a high school runner and collegiate runner as well as an engineer. I followed my dream, had one initial job and ended up working at New Balance as a footwear engineer. That was where I really got into the industry. My running took off. My interest in shoes took off. 

I’ve always had a love for Philly. So when I was working in Boston at the time and got the chance to buy a little store in Haddonfield, I left Boston and did it. That first store was followed by three others, then a restaurant— soon to be two restaurants. 

Were you always involved with running? How did you get into it?

No…. Running was probably the furthest thing from my mind. I was a skateboarder. I wanted to be a football player. I hurt my back skating so I decided to skip football, and somehow got roped into going out for cross country. 

I was okay at it, but I got made fun of a lot. When I first started running I was known as “pig runner”. I was naturally heavier than many of the scrawny guys in the running space. I took that as a good thing, though— it motivated me.

Right away in high school, I got into hurdling. That’s where I really fell in love. I’m a huge fan of hurdles— short hurdles, long hurdles, steeplechase. That’s what I did right into college.

What did you like so much about hurdles?

I think I have such bad ADD that if I tried to run continually I’d just get bored. If you throw a 36-inch object in front of me that I gotta jump over, it gives me more of a rhythm. 

Marathons went well for me. I made the jump from being a hurdler in high school to an 800-meter runner in college to completing a half marathon to a full marathon… all the way up to 50k after college. The 50k is probably where I had the most success.

I’m not someone who likes to go out and run for two hours. I run to clear my mind but I have to have some sort of a goal with it. I break it up into segments. I need consistency. 

One of the things you did almost 20 years ago is what a lot of people are trying to do now, which is mixing your passion and profession. What advice would you give to someone who wants to do their passion for a living?

You have to take a calculated risk. That’s the hardest part. 

Back when I bought the running store in 2004, money was easier to come by. It’s way harder to get loans now to start a business. You have to either have the money or be able to get it from somewhere, then be willing to take the risk. 

It’s funny because I hate to gamble— I never bet on sports or anything. But I’ll take these risks on businesses because I can control them. I feel like I have way more control over my destiny and lifestyle, which, I mean— my lifestyle is my work. It never goes away. But it’s enjoyable. 

I’d also say you need to find someone who can be there when you’re not; someone you can trust to run things. You need to give your employees your trust.

What are you most excited about in the future of running? 

I think and I hope that the club aspect will come back. Now that we’re seeing a lot of focus on diversity and racial issues, specific groups are appearing. 

These groups are great because they have a little bit of competitiveness, and they push each other within their group. But then they also want to beat other groups. It spreads camaraderie and competition while bringing diversity to the sport. 

And look at track: it’s one of the most diverse sports in the world. You have champions from every country. That’s the cool thing about running. You don’t need any equipment or even other people to start. All you need is your mind, which can be your friend or your nemesis. 

How can people get involved with what you’re doing?

I’m really big on helping runners find other people to run with. In our group, Run 856, people share concerns about harassment or someone bothering them during their solo runs. Today, a lot of runners are uncomfortable because this problem seems like it’s becoming more prevalent. 

Whether it be sexual harassment or the theft of smartwatches and electronics runners tend to use, solo running just isn’t as safe as it used to be. Especially at night. The whole reason we created Run 856 is so you don’t have to run alone; you can run safely. The group is on Facebook and also on Strava, so if you’re in the area, I really encourage you to use these platforms to connect with running partners. You can also use an app like eseo to find local run buddies.

Come in and shop one of our run specialty stores, RunningCo. We’re in Medford, Moorestown, Mullica Hill and Haddonfield. Visit the site at runningco.com

We’d love to see more runners at The Mile Pub and Grill, the spot for runners and beer lovers in South Jersey. We have a second indoor-outdoor restaurant, Reunion Hall, coming soon.

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he used to be known as the "pig runner" - now he's the real deal, crushing it in Philly...