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Running for MS

Posted by on Monday, December 1, 2014 @ 1:56 pm | Leave a reply

Country singer Julie Roberts has seen many ups and downs. Through it all, she’s thankful for a lot, including, running.

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What are you thankful for? There was a time when this was a tough question for country singer, Julie Roberts, to answer. But these days, she is thankful for a lot. For one, she is thankful for running, but more so, for her ability to run.

You may be familiar with the blonde country singer through her music, or even through her brief stint on the music show, The Voice. But what her fans did not know until 2011 was that Roberts had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2005.

Although her first album was certified gold, selling more than 500,000 copies, Roberts’ second album did not perform as well and she parted ways with her recording label in 2010. Then, as she began to work on an independent album, the Nashville, Tennessee floods hit and she lost her home. “That was a difficult time. I had planned on being home to work on my record and then the flood came. We lived in four different places as we rebuilt our home.” To boot, in 2013, Roberts was a contender on The Voice, but surprisingly was not picked for a team. “There are ups and downs in life in general. Things are good and bad and you just have to keep going.”

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The Diagnosis

When she first started to notice her symptoms, Roberts says, “I had just released my first album and was touring non-stop…while I was on the road, I was holding the microphone like I always had for years and my hand went numb and I couldn’t hold the microphone. It wouldn’t happen all the time but every once in awhile my hands would go numb or my vision would get blurry, like when I was signing autographs.”

With the symptoms becoming more noticeable, Roberts visited her doctor, who sent her to a neurologist and the diagnosis was confirmed. Not wanting to admit the diagnosis publically, Roberts began to exercise more, and even to eat healthier. In 2006, she joined her first running group, in her hometown of Nashville. “I love this group because some people are in the music industry, but there are a lot of people who do so many other things…We stay in contact throughout the week and every Saturday we meet.” And, they race together—5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons.

Running for MS

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“Running is definitely an escape for me, whether I’m with someone or alone. I feel like it centers me in my day. And it gives me a chance to see the cities.” These days, Roberts and her Newtons are seeing a lot of cities, approximately one to three a week. In addition to touring for her music, Roberts is also touring with the National MS Society, doing talks, presentations and playing her music. Work, which she says has given her a new purpose. “This work has honestly changed my life.”

“Most people think they can’t exercise with MS, I tell people how important it is for me physically and emotionally to be active. I say just ‘start walking, walk 10 minutes.’ Whatever your goal is start with small goals.”

One of Roberts’ goals is to show the world that MS doesn’t have to define your goals in your life. “There are challenges in my business. People are sometimes afraid to book you because you have MS and that you won’t be able to play a show. I want to show my industry and everyone else with MS that they can do whatever their goals are and that MS doesn’t have to define your goals in your life.” She adds, “A lot of people I meet work in the corporate world and they’re afraid to tell their boss they have MS. If I can go out and use my platform of music and show what MS looks like for me, hopefully it will help people around the country that face the same challenges I do.”

New Inspiration

“When I look back 10 years ago, I was on my first radio tour, trying to get them to play my music. Now, I’m flying into the same airports, but I’m going to visit people with MS and to try to inspire them to not give up. I know my music also inspires people, but I feel much more fulfilled than I did 10 years ago.”

As for her running goals, Roberts just ran the 5-mile Boulevard Bolt in Nashville over Thanksgiving with her running group.  And in addition to trying to run in her Newtons in each city she visits, Roberts has a 50-mile Walk for MS, in Savannah Georgia, scheduled at the beginning of March and a half marathon in Nashville in April (as part of the Rock’n’Roll marathon series). “I always like to have goals,” she says. Ultimately, she adds, “My goal is to continue to be active and healthy. It energizes me and makes me happy.”

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Fleet Feet Store Partners with Newton to Put the Special in Specialty Running

Posted by on Monday, March 24, 2014 @ 9:02 am | Leave a reply

Every New Year’s Eve, Stephanie Blozy and her sister set goals. In 2005, with both of them looking for a change, they agreed they should go into business together. Next, they considered what kind of business. “We listed our passions, and we only had 2: chocolate and running. We liked to bake, but it never looked good, so we decided we should open a running store,” Blozy explains. And they were serious.

Three-and-a-half years later, the sisters took over Fleet Feet Sports in West Hartford, Connecticut (coincidentally located just a mile and a half from their parents’ home). “The world still doesn’t think women are the most capable business people for one reason or another. We wanted to show them that 2 sisters could do this.” They’ve never looked back. Blozy is the extrovert, who loves mingling with customers. Her sister runs the backend of the business and their dad, who is 67, runs the kids’ program.

Blozy’s dad has run 30 marathons, including Boston every decade since his 20s, her sister 12, and Blozy has now run 7. “But I have done a 50K, so I’ve topped them all.” And that competitive nature is what brought Blozy to Newton.

Blozy admits she was initially skeptical about Newtons and the benefits of the lug system.  But then, Blozy put a woman in her beginner program in a pair. She returned to the store raving about the shoes and talking about how she was running 2 minutes a mile faster in them. Then a family friend came into the store talking about how he was faster in these shoes.

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“My sister and I are pretty competitive. We were going to run the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon. I needed any advantage I could get,” she says. She started running in Newtons. But much to Blozy’s chagrin, her sister caught wind of how well Newtons were working for Blozy, and changed, too. “She beat me by 30 seconds.” Now her dad is running in them, too. “The Newton shoes make you so much more efficient in the turnover/gait cycle,” she enthuses.

As Blozy continues to see customers have success with the shoes, she says, “I think Newton puts the special in run specialty. As a specialty store, we’re always trying to differentiate. To be able to offer a solution like Newton, when it’s appropriate and works for them, it’s an amazing thing.”

Seems like Blozy and her sister have also put the special back in specialty with the community they have created around the store. After the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, they collected shoes for survivors. “We were hoping to donate a couple hundred pairs of shoes. We ended up with 20,000 shoes.” Then, more than 100 people showed up to help match shoes and load the truck. And after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the store put together more than 100 care packages for families. Last spring, more than 500 participants showed up for their run for Boston.

To boot, their kids program has a robust offering for kids with autism and every four years they give out a college scholarship to a local high school runner. They do it every four years, so they can support a student through college, not just for one year. In all of this, they expanded the store from 1500 square feet to 3500.

Who knows what’s next. If they set out to show the world two sisters could do it, they have.

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