Trail Chat with Anders Brooker: Founder of Runners Edge

Casey Jermyn, Meg, and Anders running on the Up Up Trail in the St Regis area.  Runners Edge hopes to put on a race in this area at some point.  Photo from Carol Brooker

Anders Brooker, owner of Runners Edge store in Missoula, former race director of Missoula Marathon, head high school cross country coach and husband to ultra- fast, inspiring and kind person, Meg Brooker is the feature of this trail chat.  After a stellar high school cross country career, he ran for the University of Montana. While attending college at UM, he decided to take a leap of faith and opened a running store in 2001 with his parents, Tim and Carol Brooker. Through his hard work, generous giving of his time and sincerely caring about others and worthy causes, Anders has transformed and bonded the running community and created a movement that is inspiring and motivating runners far and wide.

What led you to open Runners Edge? What created the idea in your mind?

A combination of a passion for running and business, lack of direction, and blind stupidity.  I was enjoying running for the University of Montana, but like a lot of students, was struggling with where I saw my education heading.  I was home for the summer and can still remember the day we first started talking about opening a running specialty store.  A good friend of mine, Casey Jermyn, and I were working for my parents that summer and we spent the day talking about a running store in Missoula.  I went back to school that fall, but struggled to get the idea of a running store in Missoula out of my head.  I grew up in a family that operated a few small businesses and the thought of opening a business didn't overwhelm me. That next spring we decided it was time to get things rolling and opened The Runners Edge in the summer of 2001.  I can tell you I had no idea what I was doing, but with the support of my family and a banker willing to give us a 20 year a loan, we found a way get the doors open.
State xc 2015. Anders is head coach of the Hellgate Knights.  PC: Melissa Kirgis

Was there a time when you thought that you would fail? How did you overcome that?

Of course! :)  We actually went through a short period of time where we thought we had no choice but to close the doors.  At this time, Missoula was the smallest market in the country that we could find to have a shop that specialized just in running.  With the size of town and seasonality, it proved to be very tough.  Now we have a very vibrant running community but you have to remember it wasn't always this way.  There were many factors to help overcome that.  We found that we spent so much of those first 5 years with our heads in the day-to-day operations, but we needed to get out and help grow the running community.   I have failed plenty of times in my life and I'll continue to make mistakes I'm sure. I believe failing is not a motivator and it isn't  something that scares me.  I was always told if you worked hard enough and tried to do things right, things work out.  

If you could ask for one wish, what would it be?

Clean brain MRI's for my wife, Meg every 3 months.... 

Meg and Anders at the Narrows in Zion National Park.  PC: Unknown

How could you describe yourself in 5 words?

Stubborn, happy, energetic, impatient, and ... is there word for terrible grammar?

Adam Peterman and Paige Gilchrist after they both won the 3200m state championship in 2013.  Photo from Paige Gilchrist

What’s the next great thing on the horizon for trail runners?

We are really excited about trail running right now!  It is fun to see folks get so excited about getting outside and enjoying what Montana has to offer.  We are always looking for fun ways to get runners out in the woods and we have a couple new events coming in 2016.  This year we are adding the Bitterroot Runoff Trail Races and we hope to add another event or two for next summer.  We are also partnering with RWM to offer a new trail training class this spring.  This will be a class geared more towards the experienced runner.  There are also a few exciting trail projects on the horizon in Missoula that will just add to already amazing trail access. 
Meg and Anders checking out Seattle. PC: Unknown

What is your vision for Runners Edge for the next 10 to 20 years?

Wow, I am excited you think we will be around in 20 years! :)  It is an interesting time for brick and mortar retailers right now with increased competition from the internet.  We have a few goals, but the biggest thing on our minds right now is finding ways to give our customers an epic experience, whether that is in the store or at one of our events.  We don't just want to ask customers for support; we want to give them more reasons to support us.  

And as we look forward, we hope we can help give kids more opportunity to run. Whether that is through clubs, schools, teams or events, we want to share our passion for the sport with the next generation. 

Through your passion for running, generosity, and selfless giving toward running causes, you have made a difference in other people’s lives. Everyone who knows Meg, shares your one wish for her to have clean brain scans. Thank you Anders, Meg and Runners Edge for all that you do for the running community.


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