Broward County is fortunate to be home to a couple of major independent running stores that serve the needs of the local running community in unique and personal ways. One of the these, Running Wild, located on Sunrise Blvd in Fort Lauderdale, is owned and run by Don Wennerstrom. Wennerstrom has been a leader in the local running scene since 1999 when he started his career in the retail trade as what was, for him, a natural adjunct to his self-evident ability as a talented runner.
Wennerstrom is a rare example of a genuine “local” from South Florida rather than somewhere else! He is a proud Dolphins and Miami Heat fan and truly represents the area he comes from. Born in Fort Lauderdale in 1973, he was raised in Boca Raton.Wennerstrom attended Spanish River High School where he was a standout on the track team and more particularly, the cross country team. Indeed, he was so good in the latter discipline that he gained a cross country scholarship to Flagler College in St. Augustine. As with so many runners, the lifelong passion that is running was well established before getting to the more organized environment of a a high school. He recalls attending a Junior Striders track meet when he was eight years old and falling in love, no doubt aided by considerable ability. He never looked back and now running is his life and livelihood.
Runners love to talk about PR’s in races. It’s part of our culture and varies in expression from hard core endeavor and pride, to pleasant surprise at race times depending on our ability. Wennerstrom is a little different. He rarely trumpets his achievements and does not currently race a regular calendar season. He can often be seen to jump into a race at the lsat minute and usually places very high. On one occasion, he entered a marathon with practically no training for the event and ran a 3:30 – a time many runners only dream of reaching.
A naturally gifted runner, Wennerstrom has an impressive list of PR times in SK’s, 10Ks, half marathons and full marathons. He has races at the major marathons of Boston, Chicago, and New York.
Wennerstrom is as much a passionate entrepreneur as he is a runner. He loves what he does and takes pride in serving local runners with great products, advice and support throughout Running Wild. The new store premises in Fort Lauderdale are modern and welcoming with an excellent core of staff including the peerless Robert Hendrick, indefatigable Lauren Fuchs and frighteningly fast Mike Stone among others. It is testament to the store and its stewardship that two staff members have worked there for over 20 years.
The road from runner to businessman started in 2007 when he teamed up with Tom Vladimir and Carol Verga- current owners of Runner’s Edge in Boca Raton – to buy Running Wild which had been in business since 1986. He had managed the Runner’s Edge store since 1999 and with this solid grounding felt it was time to have a 100% stake in a business. Hard work, long hours and passion for the sport carried Wennerstrom forward to the point where he bought out Vladimir and Virga and became the sole owner in 2011. Since then, Running Wild has gone from strength to strength. Wennerstrom even met his wife, Beth, at one of the many fun runs and training sessions held at the store weekly.
In keeping with local tradition, Wennerstrom sponsors a running team which competes with teams from Runner’s Depot and Runner’s Edge at local races year in and year out. This friendly rivalry adds spice to races and even allows older runners (like myself) the opportunity to ‘represent’ in races. Team racing is a lot of fun when older runners, like me, can rub shoulders with elite athletes and enjoy the camaraderie unique to our sport.
The team environment, great service and advice based on having ‘done it’, are all examples of what specialist running sores give to the community and the sport. It is something that the large chains cannot emulate. Wennerstrom, like other specialist store owners, is a genuine character who tirelessly represents the sport he loves and is always ready to welcome the novice racer, fun runner or elite competitor to all that the local race circuit offers.