A Sustainable Loop
Photography by Weston Carls
Running serves a purpose. In the new year, many set goals to lose weight or complete a marathon. During the year, running can be used to destress or catch up with friends on Lady Bird Lake Trail. There are dozens of reasons to run, but they all come down to the joy that running produces in every aspect of our life. When done right, it is everlasting. And for marriages, business, and running—sustainability is what you want.
Pam and Ryan Hess preach and practice one word in every aspect of their life—sustainability. I had the pleasure to sit down with business owners of The Loop Running Supply Company, a new boutique running store looking to become the beacon of the running lifestyle. As talented runners, they have been a part of the Austin running community for years.
Their passion for running started at different times in their lives. For Pam, she started running in college with a lofty goal to train for the Austin Marathon in 45 days. As rough as the training and race were, she completed it and was hooked on a path to a 3:03 personal record. Ryan started running as a child and walked on to a Division II at Adams State. Thanks to the guidance of his coach Gilbert Tuhabonye, Ryan holds personal best of 2:41. For eight years, Ryan picked up shifts at RunTex and learned from the great Paul Carrozza. This is where his passion for running exploded.
In 2014, with 14 running stores in Austin area, Ryan opened Ready to Run. Slowly, running stores started to close; stores like Luke’s Locker left a gap in the running circle, but also an opportunity. Now, 10 weeks into the opening of The Loop Running Supply Company, Pam and Ryan are excited for a new chapter in their life together as they unite and grow the “Ring of Runners.”
Q+A with Pam and Ryan
How did you meet each other? What is the story?
Well, it was not love at first sight. We remained friends for a long time, and I would bring a friend along on all of our “dates.” We dated for a couple of years and at the end of a marathon, he proposed to me. Ryan was running his first marathon, and I was trying to Boston Qualify at the 2014 San Diego Marathon. It was not the most ideal race due to weather. Ryan planned to finish before me so he would have time to recover before dropping to one knee. He hit the wall at the halfway point, from depleted electrolytes, but still came in about 15 minutes before me. Needless to say, I am not in love with our engagement photos.
What was the biggest challenge in starting the business?
Some of our biggest challenges have led to the most rewarding results, and we have been so thankful for the people and friends who have come into our lives that have guided us throughout. From naming the shop and determining our brand elements to doing a gut renovation, we’ve thought about every little detail but not without the wisdom and consultation of others. Quitting both our jobs to be all-in was another obvious risk, but it was an easy decision to make—we couldn’t be more excited to lose this much sleep!
What is your favorite post-run meal? Pre-run meal?
We’re pretty similar in our post-run meal—we always go for tacos. Ryan prefers Torchy’s, but I’ve been hooked on the tacos from Lazarus Brewing. For pre-run [meals], I have to have a slice of peanut butter toast every morning as soon as I wake up—I always wake up starving! Ryan doesn’t have to eat first thing in the morning like I do, but when he does, it’s usually the same.
So what happened to Ready to Run in Far West?
Being a part of Ready to Run was a great experience, and we loved getting to know our neighbors in the Northwest Hills. At the end of the day though, we saw a hole in the market when Luke’s Locker closed last year, and we felt we could team up together to bring something fresh to the evolving downtown running culture. It felt like a no-brainer.
What is the most Austinite thing you will carry in your store?
We actually have a greeting card that we collaborated with Tyler Guinn on. The front of the card has a bunch of Austin running scene doodles, and the inside is left blank. I had always wanted stationery that was run-specific without being goofy. I hope people will use them to encourage their friends before races or to ask someone to be their training partner. We’re kind of obsessed with them! We also have a matching bandana that is adorable and so Austin.
What is your inspiration? How do you hope to cultivate a community for runners?
"Ring of Runners" was the phrase we fell in love with. The running community is so tight that it can feel both inclusive and seclusive. But at the end of the day, no matter what you do—run, walk or jog—you can be in the ring of runners if you want to be.
What advice do you have for new runners?
Be consistent. You don’t have to run a lot, just a bit each day. Finding a group is the easiest way to get started. As a beginner, it's very important to start doing core workouts. It may not seem important, but you'll thank yourself when you don't get hit by the injury bug. Be smart and don't increase your mileage more than 10 percent week over week. Lastly, have fun with it and don't put massive expectations on yourself.
Growth with Smaller Footprint in Large Community
Sustainability is not opposite to growth. Sustainability is continuous, much like a loop. From their business to the sport they love, they aim to shape one of the largest running communities in the U.S. through an inviting space, curated products and top notch customer service. In order to be impactful, you have to be around.