grandparents didn't live too far away, but two of them died when I was pretty young. My other two grandparents died when I was in my 20s. So, I never really knew what it was like having a large extended family.
Even as an adult with my own kids, we had a pretty small family unit - my wife, our son, two daughters, and me. My in-laws weren't too far away. My parents were about 3.5 hours away. Close enough for a visit, but not on a weekly basis. We were a pretty tight family. We had friends, but mostly we had each other. When we moved to Greensboro in 1998, I was a solo runner, but eventually joined a group called the Blue Liners and developed a small tight network of running buddies.
In 2010, my experience with an extended family changed dramatically. That's when I opened RunnerDude's Fitness. My small group of running buddies were quick to support my venture and many were my first clients. Gradually, as I started having beginning running groups, race training programs, and personal training clients, a sense of family began to form. Clients were returning and bringing friends. It was kind of like suddenly having brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. We all supported one another in our running and fitness ventures.
I soon realized, that this support was spilling out into our "outside of running lives." The running programs were bringing strangers together who otherwise would have never met. Best friends were forming. Some even found love. Yes, a few in the various groups have met, fell in love and gotten married. Entire families have come to programs and I've seen little ones grow in to awesome young adults. Sometimes I feel like "PapaDude."
The awesome thing about family is the support they show during the difficult times. Even way before the pandemic hit, RunnerDude's Fitness dealt with growing pains. Small groups were becoming large groups. Saturday runs of 10-12 were becoming 80-100. All good things. But, I have to admit, I struggled with not wanting to lose my personal connection with everyone. Some shared that they missed the smaller group. It weighed heavy on me. It's a challenge all small business owners deal with....how to grow and still retain all your original values and goals. At times you have to remind yourself you are a business and you're in the business not only because you love what you do, but also because you're providing for your family. Yet, still it's hard.
This is where my RunnerDude family has been so awesome. I can't tell you how many of my clients (some who have been with me since the start) have been like surrogate welcome wagons. They'll see new people and welcome them with open arms, introduce them to others in the group and help make them feel at home. That's what family is. Welcoming open arms. These same people are also often there offering to volunteer at programs and events throughout the year. They'll see a need and step right in. That's what family is all about.
Over that last year and a half, Covid-19 has really created quite a challenge for small businesses. RunnerDude's Fitness was shut down for 5 months and even when gyms and fitness centers were allowed to open, I still was not able to do much in my studio because of social distancing requirements. Races were non-existent and so income from race training was non-existent as well. My corporate fitness classes (a large part of RunnerDude's Fitness) were halted and so was that income. I eventually had to let the studio go.
But during all of that change, I had such strong client support. They supported me through participation in virtual fitness classes, purchasing own-their-own running and fitness plans, and more. They were also there when the outside gathering numbers slowly began to allow for outside training, boot camps, and running groups. Boot Camps outside in 25° F....now that's support!! Not only were they there physically participating as much as they could, many were there emotionally, providing support by checking in to see how I was doing.
I can't thank the RunnerDude Family enough for begin there not only over the past year and a half, but over the past 11 years. Yes, change is hard, but good. The RunnerDude Family has helped me see the good in all of that change. While I don't know what the future will bring. I do know there are some pretty awesome people who will be in that future. Some I know and some I've yet to meet.
Trust. Believe. Conquer!