SKIP BRAND: BORN TO RUN
One of the most vibrant communities within the Healdsburg community comprises customers of Healdsburg Running Company, or HRC. The shop, which opened in 2014, is the brainchild of Skip Brand, who has almost single-handedly cultivated an active running community in and around the Healdsburg area. He’s also become a force of positive energy in the local community and Sonoma County overall.
Skip wasn’t always into running; he came to the sport later in life to clear his mind while writing up his doctoral dissertation in computer science at Arizona State University. “The more I ran, the easier it all came,” he says. Once Skip earned his Ph.D. and moved to Silicon Valley to start tech companies, the running stuck.
Sometime around 2007, the native of Red Bud, Illinois, started coming to Healdsburg. On one of his first visits, he “discovered” Lake Sonoma. “Not only was it great single-track, but there was virtually no-one out there,” he remembers.
Skip moved to Healdsburg full-time to start HRC. Since then, the business has developed a cult following, attracting dozens of amateur athletes to participate in weekly group runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. HRC also sponsors several local races, including the annual Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving and the Fitch Mountain Footrace every June. The shop even works with local hotels to get visitors running clothes and sneakers if they left theirs at home.
Skip’s goal is simple: To make Healdsburg the fittest small city in America.
Of course, he also continues to serve the professionals. In 2018, Skip took over as race director for the Lake Sonoma 50. For the 2020 race, scheduled for mid-April, his goal was to recruit a field that is half women—an unusual accomplishment in a sport dominated by men. He accomplished his goal, then Coronavirus struck.
Since then, Skip has pivoted his business online. He and his staff members provide same-day delivery to Healdsburg and the surrounding area, and have doubled-down on charity work with local nonprofits. During one recent promotion, for every pair of running shoes that customers purchased, HRC donated another pair to the local Boys & Girls Club.
“There aren’t many communities as kind and supportive as this one,” he says. “I’m just glad to be a part of it.”
Photo credit Howie Stern, @howiesternphoto