Losing Weight to Triathlon: Fleet Feet Spokane’s Wade Pannell

Posted by on Tuesday, August 27, 2013 @ 2:14 pm | Leave a reply

FleetFeetWadeSix years ago, the owner of Fleet Feet Spokane, Wade Pannell, was living in Bozeman, Montana. The former competitive cyclist — in both road cycling and mountain biking — was working in resort real estate development and wining and dining more than he was working out. “I was sixty pounds heavier and needed to get fit,” says Pannell. “I would say I was big boned. It was a good excuse. But when I lost the weight, I realized I really wasn’t.” Finally, a friend with whom he grew up suggested he was out of shape and Pannell says, “I took it to heart.”

He began to run. “I couldn’t run a quarter mile without stopping and walking.” Yet, for Pannell, running took the least amount of time and was the easiest to do on the road when he was traveling for work. He also found the running community much more accepting than the cycling community, whose participants he says can be more competitive and critical. “In running you’re always in a pack and it’s much more community based.” He found the community he needed at Fleet Feet Bozeman. The store offered a plethora of programs to help people like Pannell get started. Pannell found this invaluable. And, he says, “Once I ran my first 5K, the old competitive juices were back.”

Back in shape, and 60 pounds lighter, Pannell began to enjoy riding again. From there, he set his sights on triathlon. “I ran the Boston Marathon in 2010, and in 2011, I completed my first Ironman Coeur D’Alene.”

While his training was picking up speed, Pannell’s work moved him to Spokane, Washington. Before leaving Bozeman, Pannell had been dabbling with the idea of opening a Fleet Feet or changing his line of work to training and helping people get fit. Once in Spokane, he and his wife decided that the city presented the perfect opportunity to open a Fleet Feet. They opened Fleet Feet Spokane last summer, in August 2012.

Spokane County has a population of roughly 450,000 people, and it only had one real specialty running store, explains Pannell.  “It was an underserved market and historically a very running focused community. We send about two or three high schools to national high school championships each year. Yet there was only one main specialty store.”

With an inventory focused on triathlon more than the average Fleet Feet, Pannell reached out to Newton Running in April, 2013. Ever since, Newton has been the store’s number 2 vendor with the Gravity leading the way, then the Isaacs and Pannell expects the Energy to do well, too. “I’ve been running in Newton for the last five years. Newton is not one of those brands most Fleet Feet’s open with. But we are very tri oriented. A few employees and myself coach a tri group and we were in a tri club with about 250 people. So for our audience it makes sense to find some brands with more of a tri focus.”

Newton’s message also aligned with that of Fleet Feet Spokane. “As we worked with training people and talking about minimalism and everything people need to do to become better runners, Newton’s education and biomechanical feedback was a nice segue for what we were doing and what we were about,” Pannell explains. “Not only has Newton given us fantastic support with their tech rep and corporate backup, but we’ve probably held five run clinics. Each time we get 20-30 people. I love the drills that Danny gives. And they brought in Chris Legh during Ironman Coeur d’Alene.”

Pannell says more than 50% of people who come in to his store probably should be introduced to Newton. “It’s the person who wants to run better, more naturally and improve their form, and who likes a lighter shoe or is a triathlete. All of those categories add up to a large portion of our customer base, so it’s a natural fit to bring out a Newton.”

And it’s not just triathletes and serious runners who like the shoes. Who is his unexpected customer? “We have the unexpected walkers who love Newtons. We fit a fair amount of people who are baby boomers who just want to be in comfortable footwear. I’m surprised at how many choose Newtons. The Energy will be great for that group.”

Personally, Pannell runs in the Distance. “If you want a shoe to be a stronger, better runner, I can’t think of a better shoe to give you that feedback than the Distance.” And for people who are worried about the transition and strengthening process that accompanies running in Newtons, he says, “You’ve lifted weights before right? Did it hurt? Well, if you’re going to increase your strength in your legs, you should have some muscular discomfort. It’s nothing to be scared of, just manage it properly.” He adds, “Once people commit, they get it. Even those who were skeptical about Newton are now very excited about running in them.”

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