Words by Chris Farley
In 2003, my parents helped me buy Pacers Running. If I was considered employee #1 of the new ownership group, my parents were #2 and #3.
They were amazing partners in the early stages of our growth, and I'll always be grateful to them for their support in enabling what I've been able to do in this career. My mom ran the operations of the business, even though we didn't call it that at the time. My Dad was our bookkeeper and ran finances. I was the face of Pacers and made decisions on people, products, and the direction of the business. We all had our roles and respected each other's decisions without fail.
My Dad had no interest in decisions on products we carried–he couldn't tell the difference between a neutral shoe or a stability shoe. When it came to the apparel we carried, he knew even less. He never voiced a preference or opinion and viewed the products for their value to the customers, but it never went past that.
Except for one shirt we carried in 2005. It was a logoed shirt with President George W. Bush's impressive marathon time of 3:44:52 stamped on it. Above his name and time, the shirt said: "Run against Bush."
Now, whether the shirt was cleverly encouraging people to run against President Bush's marathon time or playing at the double entendre of his politics, who's to say. I found it clever, and I love a good play on words. Either way, my Dad had an opinion. To my surprise, he took the shirts out of the stores immediately.
It had nothing to do with his politics, but I realized he did feel strongly that Pacers shouldn't mess with parties, politics, or public opinion. Now, from his mindset, inundated with the finances and protective over Pacers' success, he was of the generation's opinion that neutral is always best, don't rock the boat, and keep your head down. He feared controversy and anything that might alienate one group by taking the opinion of another.
In our present social environment, I'm so grateful we've grown out of this mindset. That there's a space for us to be vocal about what's important and advocate for the voice of others that might not be heard. That speaking up isn't at the fear of alienating a specific group, but rather representing them, standing up for them.
I learned many incredible things from my dad and am so grateful for the help he lent in growing Pacers into what it is today. But I also learned from his own fears and the limited mindset of his generation, a result of the environment he grew up in. I learned that these limiting fears could inhibit us from using our position, our voice, and our privilege to show unwavering support for what we believe in and what is right.
Now, I can confidently and proudly say what Pacers believes in. Knowing that it doesn't alienate others but invites them into our community and offers visibility to those that go unseen. I can say that Pacers firmly believes in supporting every runner. And in helping every runner achieve the best run of their lives and have the best running experience possible with the products they need to do so.
And in theme with sharing what we believe in, I'm so excited to share that we launched a new product line last week. We partnered with Mark Searcy, former Creative Director for Nike, to launch the "Love Is" collection. This collection unites the LGBTQ+ running community and allies around the simple but bold message of love. I'm so proud to see this collection hanging in our store in 2023, communicating a message that invites & makes space for every runner.
This year, for June's Pride Month, we wanted to do something different.
We proudly sell all of the top line's Pride collections–Nike's rainbow gear, Adidas, NB, Asics, all of it. But to show our support to our diverse running community, we wanted to create something new, to display what we believe proudly.
Because Pacers firmly believes in supporting every. runner. And helping *every* runner achieve the best run of their lives and have the best running experience possible with the products they need to do so. We believe in serving a customer base that is as diverse and dynamic as the communities we're a part of.
So we partnered with (@) Mark Searcy to create the "Love is" collection to unite the LGBTQIA+ running community and allies around the simple but bold message of love.
This collection is offered in "Athlete Sizing," Pacers' new inclusive approach to comfort and shape that allows the athlete to determine their perfect fit based on their body and desired performance. We have moved beyond men's and women's sizing to build a product that fits the shape of the individual athlete.
And because Love is eternal and not limited to a month on the calendar, this collection will live exclusively on runpacers.com all year long.
(10% of sales from the collection will be donated to the DC Front Runners Pride Foundation, the charitable arm of the DC chapter of the Front Runners, one of America's oldest run clubs. Front runners have been a home for the LGBTQ+ runners since 1974, with the DC chapter in operation since 1981.)