APRIL 2017: The name RUN is about as minimalist as the store itself.
Whenever I walk into the RUN shop on Blatchington Road in Hove, I feel an immediate sense of calm, often with light classical music playing in the background.
Rather than be bombarded with heaps of stock and a hard sell, what you get at RUN is good, honest, independent advice from someone as passionate about running as they are talented.
Kurt Hoyte opened RUN in 2001 and subsequently, in 2005, opened a sister store with the same name, in Worthing.
With no obvious plans to expand into a much larger business, Kurt always seems quite content with where he’s at.
He is clearly in his element serving the local running community, watching them leave happy with their latest acquisition of shoes, apparel or sports bra. Not only that, they’ve probably just picked up some great training advice from him – all part of the service!
So, now that Kurt is beyond his days of PBs, and with children showing prospects of good running things to come, what motivates him?
I caught up with Kurt to find out more about his running background, how he got into retail, and a bit about his business ethos.
Kurt, what do you recall about first getting into running? Did you do well as a teenager or was it much later that you started competing at a high level?
My father was a huge sports fan, and of track and field especially. As a child, I vividly remember the excitement in the household if athletics was going to be on the television.
My first memories of athletics are of the Kenyan middle-distance runner Kip Keino in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
At school, I played most games but never shone at anything in particular, although I always possessed a turn of speed and the ability to keep going where I lacked skill.
As such, running suited my talents perfectly.
As with many things in life, it would take serendipity to place me in the right place at the right time, as far as my athletic ambitions were concerned.
I came to Brighton in 1981 to study and the sporting gods shined, as Steve Ovett was a local resident.
Ovett was the 1980 Olympic 800m champion and multiple world record holder. This was the perfect storm for any youth growing up in the Ovett-Coe middle distance era.
As an undergraduate, I joined his athletics club, Phoenix AC of Brighton.
I remain a member to this day.
What would you say was the highlight of your running career?
Training with Steve Ovett back in 80’s was just a total thrill. Being a member of a great club exposed me to world class athletes, both male and female, and gave me a great appreciation of the physical and philosophical process of running.
I always considered myself a middle-distance runner, although my most memorable races have been on the road. Possibly because track is so intense and the pace is so on the limit, road races feel so much more civilised!
The standout memory for me would be winning Brighton Half Marathon 20 years ago. That performance and my road 10k PB of 30:16 are probably the only two races I’ve walked away from, thinking the ‘Train Hard, Race Easy’ mantra came close to being true!
And running has given me the opportunity to travel broadly and meet people from all walks of life. It continues to do so and, at only 54, I’d like to think there are some adventures and experiences yet to unfold.
Your wife, Caroline, is also an awesome runner – one of the all-time best distance runners in Sussex. How did you meet?
In truth, meeting Caroline still ranks as the highlight of my running adventures. We had both finished first in a race and were being interviewed by the press. I remember asking her if she would like to do a warm-down run with me and we’ve been running together ever since.
As a former smoker and party-goer, she was late to the running scene in her mid-twenties, but threw herself at running as she discovered a previously hidden talent. Over the next 20 years, whilst working full time and bringing up two children, she has won the British 10k Road Championships on three occasions, a record breaking seven Sussex County XC titles and has also represented Great Britain at international level. At 47, she still refuses to slow down and she continues to be my inspiration.
And your son Reuben has been showing signs of a promising future as an athlete too. Do you coach him and would you say your focus is more on his potential now, rather than on yourself?
Reuben would never sit still as a child and running was something he found easy – he was running 18 minutes for 5k at the age of 10.
In hindsight, we pushed him too hard early on and inevitably he fell out of love with running in his early teens, which was probably the best thing that could have happened. He would re-discover running for fun around the time of his GCSE exams as a stress relief.
We realised it would be advisable for Reuben to have someone, other than his parents, coach him and for him to take ownership of his own development path. He is coached by Worthing RUN store manager, Geoff Hill, who himself is a former junior international and a 29-minute 10k runner. Geoff’s coaching places an emphasis on long term improvement and the need for the athlete to gain an understanding of the coaching process, ultimately to teach the athlete the skills to do the job for themselves, for a lifetime.
Currently, as a 17-year-old, Reuben is at county level standard for cross country and runs low 16 minutes for parkrun 5K. He is making steady progress as he matures, but importantly it remains a hobby, which he has a natural talent for. I’m sure it will remain as a healthy part of his adult life.
Is running a regular topic of conversation in the Hoyte household, or do you manage to find a balance with other common interests?
For sure, running is inescapable and I suspect, from an outsider’s perspective, that it takes up a crazily huge amount of our lives. Luckily, with two growing teenagers, there are plenty of competing activities and interests that thankfully add balance!
What was your work background before getting into retail?
I was an illustrator, and art/design still runs through my core and touches everything in my life and work.
We’ve witnessed a great deal of advancement in shoe technology over the years. What do you think has been the most significant development in recent years?
Interestingly enough, whilst material and manufacturing technology has made extraordinary advances, the black art of making great shoes remains as elusive now as it was many decades ago.
How would you describe your business ethos, and what drives you in terms of the RUN business being successful?
I’m just grateful that I’m in a position where I can get to curate wonderful shoes and clothing that can help make running more enjoyable. I love what I do and I hope that it makes a difference.
Kurt, you’ve been a great supporter of RunBrighton and I’m delighted that RUN is now our official retail partner. Also, our sponsors, Brooks, are offering our members and ambassadors an attractive discount on their shoes and kit when purchased at RUN. Notwithstanding that you continue to provide shoes and kit of a range of manufacturers, what is it that you like about Brooks’ products and way of doing business?
I remember Brooks as one of the pioneering brands of the 70’s and 80’s. They have always purely focused on running shoes, the people who wore them and the link to those shoes – the specialty running shops. Their CEO Jim Weber is very much one of the good guys in the industry and he sees the independents as the fundamental link between Brooks and runners. A corporate monster they are not!
Thanks Kurt. It’s been a pleasure to chat, as ever. Thanks for sharing a bit of the behind-the-scenes stuff about yourself and the shop. See you in RUN very soon!
By Mike Bannister