Gotta Run

R unning is simple—and hard. 

So observes Chris Dickerson, owner of the Woodbridge Running Company. The simplicity of running has made it especially attractive in recent months, as people have sought exercise they can do without a gym. “You can literally put your shoes on, and you can go out the door,” says Dickerson, who’s been running since he was a kid. “You can go in the dark, you can run in the snow, in the rain. I’ve run on the track in a snowstorm before. You can do it basically at any time.”

Anyone who runs or has tried to run knows what the hard part is. “It’s a sport like swimming where the only way to get better is to put yourself at a greater level of discomfort,” Dickerson says. Unlike, say, practicing basketball free throws over and over, which requires the same amount of energy whether you make the shot or miss it, if you’re going to run, “You’ve got to be comfortable being uncomfortable,” Dickerson says. “You’re breathing really hard, it hurts a bit. [But then] you get through it, and you get a sense of accomplishment that you wouldn’t generally have.”

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Dickerson opened Woodbridge Running Company 21 years ago after he tired of sending the athletes he was coaching at Amity High School down to Fairfield County to shop. Eventually, he opened two additional locations—one in Brookfield that’s still going strong and one in Northampton, Massachusetts, which he sold after 12 years because the distance made it unmanageable.

A small tent in the parking lot behind Woodbridge Running Company’s modest building on Landin Street, just off Amity Road in Woodbridge, shades several racks of sale clothing for runners. No cotton here—just high-tech fabric to wick away sweat. The shop itself, which sold curbside during quarantine, reopened back in May. Customers, many of whom Dickerson greets by name, are masked as they browse the shop’s wares: high-performance apparel, handheld water bottles, headlamps, reflective vests, socks, sports bras, expandable belts for carrying gear, watches, running sunglasses, nutrition supplements, pretty much anything a runner’s racing heart could desire. And, of course, running shoes.

Perhaps the biggest argument for shoe-shopping at Woodbridge Running Company instead of a big box store is the staff. The brands may be the same—Asics, Brooks, New Balance, Hoka, Saucony, Mizuno, Nike—but the shop’s employees know the difference between feet with supination and feet with pronation and all their variables. New runners who need a pair of sneakers (which cost between $100 and $130 for a good pair) will be asked to walk, Dickerson says, so staff can observe the movement in the foot’s arch. “We’ll talk about what their current running level is, what their running goals are, and we’ll pick out different types of shoes from different companies that we think… will match their foot, because they all fit differently.”

In addition to simplicity, the health benefits of running have also brought new customers in since the advent of COVID-19, Dickerson says. “We’ve seen a lot more people interested in getting in better condition because the healthier you are, …the stronger you are, the better you’re going to be able to resist it.”

Maintaining health also means not getting injured. That’s a lesson Dickerson has been preaching to high school and college athletes over the course of his long coaching career, first at Amity High School for 16 years and now, since 2009, as assistant coach of the women’s cross country and track teams at Quinnipiac University. In 2015, he helped take the team to its first-ever Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) championship. “We might run a little bit less than, say, another program that’s more aggressive,” Dickerson says, “but if we’re all healthy at the end of the season, we’re all going to be successful.” The same philosophy applies to regular runners, he says. “You can’t accomplish your goals if you’re injured.”

As a longtime running booster, Dickerson feels for all those runners who are missing their races this year. Virtual races just aren’t the same, he says. “When you’re out running a road race, you see a person ahead of you, ‘I’m gonna try to catch that person.’ You can’t do that in a virtual race.” His solution? Host a race. In fact, Woodbridge Running Company is hosting two cross-country races, to be held October 11 and November 15 on the old Woodbridge Country Club golf course. Signup is open to all runners. They will go out in waves of no more than 25, and masks will be required before and after running. The cost is $25.

“I think people are just dying to get out and race,” Dickerson says. Whether their run is easy or hard, he hopes competitors will get “a little bit of normalcy” out on the trails.

Woodbridge Running Company
7 Landin St, Woodbridge (map)
Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun noon-4pm
(203) 387-8704 | woodrunco@yahoo.com
www.woodbridgerunningcompany.com

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is Daily Nutmeg's associate editor. She's also a fiction writer, writing teacher and book club troubleshooter. Her perfect New Haven day would involve lots of sunshine, a West Rock hike, a concert on the green and a coffee milkshake.

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