The last post I wrote on choice was about WRC’s focus on great trail running gear. As opposed to knit scarves and such. That’s still pretty general and I think there is just a bit more to say to close out this topic, at least for the time being.
The WRC Sweet Spot
The bull’s eye for me personally, and for WRC by extension, is the incredible feeling that comes from moving swiftly and quietly through a raw natural setting. Wilderness + Running.
Aiming at this target leads to a slightly different place than if we were ultra- or race-centric. I don’t know the exact number, but at some point sharing the trail with more runners means less wilderness. And, for mere mortals, going really long means going (relatively) slowly.
That’s not to knock either ultra-length outings or racing. Going longer than 26.2 miles when chasing a particularly compelling line on a map makes perfect sense. I also completely get the social and competitive pull of racing. As much as anyone, I enjoy following the jaw-dropping achievements at the front of the pack and the inspiring stories from the middle and back of it.
It’s also fair to say I’ve found myself drawn toward going longer and racing more since starting WRC. But those remain secondary considerations. The primary goal is still to chase down the experience, the feeling, of wilderness running. It follows that WRC’s goal is to advance that chase, for myself and hopefully others.
So, on the store side of the equation, it means we are most interested in gear that works well for up-tempo running and challenging trail conditions. For instance, shoes that are pretty traditional but relatively light, low and firm. The point is to have excellent trail feedback and good protection with as little weight penalty as possible. Shoes that top out at around 11 oz for a men’s size 9. Think Crosslite, Speedcross, Mountain Masochist, Transistor: each has a different personality but a similar reason for existing.
In the past, we probably erred too much on the wilderness side of the wilderness running equation, stocking, for instance, heavier shoes and larger packs than I’ve ever really used. We aren’t going to continue with that tendency, especially since the minimalist movement has shifted the trail running paradigm towards a place we always preferred to be.
Besides intentionally choosing gear based on its utility to wilderness + running, we are of course limited by budget. As our sales volume increases we’ll carefully expand.
We are also sometimes limited by the challenges of doing business as a small, narrowly focused, internet-only shop. For example, some larger shoe companies don’t get particularly psyched about a retailer that wants to stock just one shoe out of their full product lineup, but in some cases that’s all we’re interested in carrying.
So our current selection is limited both in ways we like and ways we don’t. There is certainly some gear I use and believe in fully but just haven’t been able to get into our mix yet, for one reason or another. Hopefully, that situation will improve as we grow.
It Takes a Village
On the other hand, there are a few factors that have the effect of expanding our selection. We want to be pretty narrow with our product mix but not completely insular.
Probably the main way we have tried to expand our product awareness is through relationships with a few trusted gear connoisseurs. From initial product reccy to the time we place an order with a vendor, I strongly consider the valuable insights of guys like Bryon and Donald, especially since their preferences are complementary to my own but not a carbon copy.
We also try to put a bit of the gear we offer in the hands of a few other credible runner-reviewers in order to get additional feedback on our product choices. Going forward, we’d also love to hear more from folks we don’t officially know yet. By blog comment, email, Facebook, Twitter, carrier pigeon, whatever, we’d love to know what’s on your mind.
In the end, our intent is to offer some selection not just more selection plus the information you need to take it from there. If we’ve done our job, the process of selecting gear will be easier and its use more enjoyable for trail runners who share a similar passion for wilderness + running. In the bargain, you can spend your energy on more important decisions, like where your long run will take you this weekend, or on trivial yet daunting decisions like picking out your Pringles.
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