Curt Kinghorn is Spokane’s running retailer. After buying The Human Race from Bloomsday founder Don Kardong in 1986, he opened Runners Soul downtown in 1999. While taking a break at his second store, which opens this week on North Division, Kinghorn talked about Spokane’s running scene.
S-R: How did you get started in this business?
Kinghorn: I’ve been in sporting goods since 1973, when I played baseball for Idaho State and got a job at Sunset Sports in Pocatello. Three weeks later I was offered the department manager job in footwear. I moved to Spokane in 1980.
S-R: Why did you open your own store?
Kinghorn: I learned that in a (retail) corporation the people in charge have distanced themselves from the public. To me that’s the most important thing. For a big corporation that seems to be the least important part. Granted, you have to be profitable, but you can do things correctly. I left because I didn’t agree.
S-R: How has the economy affected your business?
Kinghorn: Oddly enough our business gets a little bit better. Running is relatively inexpensive. You don’t need anything but a pair of shoes and a front door.
S-R: Why do you volunteer at so many races and give away so much merchandise?
Kinghorn: It’s the right thing to do. It makes the event better and it’s a small price to pay to keep our name in front of all those consumers. In our case, the right thing to do helps our business.
S-R: What do you most enjoy about your job?
Kinghorn: Runners are the greatest people in the world. They care about their health. They care about other people. It’s not like that in a lot of sporting events. In running you encourage your opponent to do even better. Only one will cross the finish line first, but that doesn’t mean the rest aren’t winners. A runner PRs (sets a personal record) and they’re ecstatic.
S-R: How has Spokane’s running community changed over the years?
Kinghorn: There’s a much bigger percentage of women running than in the mid-’80s. Women look at running as a health and fitness issue instead of competition. More people realize that it’s not how fast you go, it’s the fact that you go. It’s a lifestyle thing.
S-R: How does Bloomsday impact Runners Soul?
Kinghorn: Bloomsday is our Christmas. It’s Christmas on steroids. Coming into spring, it’s busy with a lot of races leading up to Bloomsday and high school track and field. As much as I love Bloomsday, I love Bloomsday being over.
S-R: What advice do you give to new runners?
Kinghorn: Number one, be patient or become one. You don’t have to get all your miles in the first week. If you choose not to be patient you will probably get injured. Number two, get analyzed and get in the right product. It greatly reduces the risk for injury.
S-R: How do you help runners choose the best shoes?
Kinghorn: We look for body structure that would lead to excessive stress on muscles, ligaments and tendons. We look at old running shoes and injury history. The wear pattern and construction of the shoe and what it’s designed to do will tell if you need something more stable or less stable.
S-R: What is the biggest trend in running right now?
Kinghorn: The barefoot running movement. Though I’m not sure it’s as hot as it was, it’s still hot. At one time it was just the Vibram Five Fingers. Now manufacturers are coming out with regular-looking shoes that mimic barefoot running. Ten to 15 percent of our business is that kind of shoe.
S-R: What’s the biggest misconception people have about running?
Kinghorn: One I thing I hear is, “I ran till my body couldn’t take it anymore and that will happen to everybody.” No, that’s totally bogus. It may come earlier because of running, but overall health will last longer. Running is the safest way to maintain health and control weight and make a positive in your life. If you run 25 to 30 minutes a day, you’ll be healthy as a horse and it isn’t going to tear down your body.
S-R: What do you look for in an employee?
Kinghorn: I look for passion. We want people that enjoy running and enjoy it enough to want to work to help people run better. I look for personality. They’re dealing with the public. People will ask them questions because they recognize them.
S-R: Do you run?
Kinghorn: I used to. I ran until rheumatoid arthritis beat me up. I was never fast, but there were days I felt fast. To me, that’s more important than anything else.