THE words, on signs prominently displayed in every RUNNR store, says it all.
“Defy your limits.”
Depending on whoever is reading, it can be a motto, a slogan or a challenge.
It also tells the story of a man with a bad back who put up one of the first specialty stores for runners in the country.
In 2006, Toby Claudio was told by his orthopedic doctor that he had suffered a debilitating slipped disc injury as a result of the years of wear and tear his body sustained while playing competitive sports.
The doctor told the avid 32-year old sportsman that he had to stop all of his strenuous sports - or risk the consequences.
“Basketball, tennis, soccer, mountain biking and golf. Walang natira. Sports was my life and that was devastating for me,” Claudio remembered.
“I was flat in bed for six straight days … I had to lie low for a while and accept that my back was busted up,” said the scion of the giant Toby’s Sports sporting goods chain. When he was finally able to get out of bed, he had to rely on crutches to move around.
Instead of accepting the situation, however, Toby decided on an alternative.
“Who listens to their doctor’s advice? Not me! So after a few days I got out to jog. At first, I was in pain even just to reach the corner,” he recalled.
Toby said he ran the wrong way - he would hit the ground heavy on his heels, had poor core strength and was 10-15 pounds heavier.
“I just didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t find running fun at all.”
Despite his early apprehensions, Toby stuck with running long enough that it became a habit and soon registered for his first 3K and 5K runs.
As part of his efforts to improve, Toby did research online and talked to people - runners in particular - on what he needed to do.
“It was only then that I started to enjoy after I looked up on the web proper running form, how to strengthen your body for running and proper equipment," the businessman/ sportman said.
"I realized I was running in the wrong shoe - it was way too built up, it had no arch support, no medial support. I just couldn’t run any decent distance without pain.
"But then I discovered I needed to get fit. I needed the right shoe and to prepare my body for running the proper way and learn to run with proper gait by landing under my center of gravity and landing with a light and fast turnover.”
Toby was soon finishing in longer races and came to a realization that would change many aspects of his life and career. “It dawned on me that when I finished my first 10K, finally did the 21K - but that wasn’t the big thing.”
The big thing, according to him, was he was finally running without pain.
“From having a really bad back … to finishing a 21K, I realized I have come so far. What really helped me was the equipment and getting properly fit. I realized back then in 2009 that this was something maybe worth putting up - a store to help other people to enjoy the same thing. So that led to RUNNR," he said.
Since RUNNR opened in 2009 at Bonifacio High Street, it has grown several branches in TriNoMa, Alabang Town Center and Ayala Center Cebu. There are also RUNNR sections in several Toby’s outlets: Shangri-La, The Block, Mall of Asia and Abreeza Mall (Davao).
“At RUNNR we really hope to help people with that kind of know-how, to teach them proper form, the right equipment that matches their level,” said the businessman-triathlete who decided to use his personal experience as the business model of the country’s first-of-its-kind retail store tailored specifically for runners.
Toby pointed to selecting the proper type of footwear as an example. “The shoe also matches your level - if you’re new you don’t want to want in too minimal a shoe but if you’re already strong enough and have great form, running in a shoe that has too much support may also be detrimental to you, so it’s a science."
This type of attention to detail is a policy shared by members of his staff - who are not only familiar with their running brands but are themselves runners armed with a vision and a mission.
“RUNNR’s vision is to combine cutting edge, high-tech products that were not here before (and) combine it with instruction and highly trained personnel who would not only sell people equipment but teach them how to run properly,” Toby explained.
And it’s mission?
“The mission of RUNNR is to help people defy their limits.”