Run and Become, Become and Run

Run and Become owner, Ongkar Smith, writes about the inspiration behind the Run and Become Stores.

Run and Become owner, Ongkar Smith, writes about the inspiration behind the Run and Become Stores.

Run and Become LogoWe go back to the year 1979. Many members of Sri Chinmoy A.C. were inspired to take a marathon and 'why not?' thought I. There were few choices of marathons in these days. It was before the London and all the other city marathons had come to fruition, but there was an established event down in Surrey. Known as the 'Masters and Maidens', it had been organised for some years and took in scenic and hilly stretches over the countryside around Guildford.

So along with several other members I decided to give it a go and several months training lay ahead of me before the fateful day in October. I started my training in a pair of training shoes that I had had for some years. Very soon I was being encouraged to go and get some 'proper' shoes. I was not sure what was meant by 'proper' and in those days I was unaware that there were shoes designed specially for road running.

There used to be a sports shop close to where I worked on Victoria Street, so I went in for my 'proper' shoes and I came out a short while later with a pair of Adidas Jeans training shoes. It was much later that I was reliably informed that these shoes were designed for beach wear and generally loafing around in. But I was happy, I had my shoes and my training began.

The marathon was hard work from 19 miles onwards but I finished it in 3.47 in my Adidas Jeans.

Run and Become LondonNow I was hooked and promptly decided to enter the Barnsley Marathon in November. This time I did 3.39 but in a proper pair of running shoes. (Adidas Marathons)

After both of these marathons I could hardly walk the next day and had to hobble around my quantity surveyors office, where my fellow surveyors showed me no sympathy at all. Rather they thought I was pretty foolish o be attempting such events at my age. I was only 40 but it had been fourteen years since I had chased a rugby ball in earnest and in the intervening years I had done nothing. But it was a great feeling and a real sense of achievement and I was hooked. When's the next one? I asked.

I realised that there were other people around who felt likewise and before I knew it, for once in my life, I was helping lead a boom in road running. The first London Marathon followed in 1981 and then the phenomenon of marathon running exploded.

Now one thing really seemed to be missing. There seemed to be no sports shops that catered for this boom. So I thought, why not start my own specialist running shop? But I would have to give up quantity surveying, the profession I had been in for 25 years. It would be a wrench moving away from the safety of regular income and entering into the unknown of retailing.

It was at this time that Sri Chinmoy was very supportive and encouraging. He liked the idea of me having a running store and assured me not to worry. So I decided to make a break ~ a mid-life career change. Reason suggested it was fraught. How could I earn enough from a specialist retail outlet to fund a mortgage and bring up a family with two small children? But my heart was set on the course and with Sri Chinmoy inspiring and encouraging me all the way, I could not resist.

London store staffSo I terminated my partnership with quantity surveying and set off to find a suitable location for the shop. After many mishaps I finally settled on a store at 42 Palmer Street, London SW1 and Sri Chinmoy named the shop 'Run and Become, Become and Run'. The name comes from one of his aphorisms:

Run and become.
Become and run.
Run to succeed in the outer world.
Become to proceed in the inner world.

I was overjoyed at this name and we finally opened on 7th June 1982. Yes we are still there and have now joined up with no. 40 Palmer Street, as well as opening Run and Become stores in Edinburgh and Cardiff.

So the change was made from quantity surveying to running shoe retailing. Looking back now I am not sorry to have left surveying and I am very happy to be ensconced in 'Running Retailing'! It was not an easy transition but it worked and I have to thank and offer gratitude in abundant measure to Sri Chinmoy, whose inspiration and encouragement was so great to have, not only then but right through to the present day.

So let me conclude by saying that without Sri Chinmoy this enterprise would never have started and that with Sri Chinmoy it has blossomed into something real and I hope, a great benefit to runners.

Ongkar Smith
Owner, Run and Become

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