Culture

San Francisco Running Company Embodies Community

The specialty retail store has contributed to the area's vibrant trail running community by fostering an authentic and accessible vibe.

The specialty retail store has contributed to the area’s vibrant trail running community by fostering an authentic and accessible vibe.

In early 2013, friends Brett Rivers and Jorge Maravilla opened the San Francisco Running Company, a specialty retail store that sits in the Tam Junction neighborhood of southern Mill Valley, just a mile from the vast labyrinth of amazing trails that make up the Marin Headlands. Rivers had worked for a San Francisco-based tech company and made some money when the company went public in 2011. Instead of remaining in the tech world, he opted to invest his time, energy, passion and money into running.

“When we set out to open up San Francisco Running Company, we were simply trying to build a community running store that we would want to support even if we were not actively involved in the store,” says Rivers, 33, who was initially going to open the store in the city until the Mill Valley location became available.

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In addition to offering a wide range gear and accessories, SFRC, as it is known locally, has contributed to the vibrant trail running community by fostering an authentic and accessible vibe. The store has become the hub of the local running community, attracting runners from near and far to its increasingly popular Saturday morning group run, as well as hosting other events throughout the year and serving a resource for anyone who’s keen on touring the local trails.

“At SFRC we want to provide incredible service and carry a breadth of quality gear,” Rivers says. “We also work to create products that are really cool and set up runs and events that are a blast for the community—because in the end we are also members of the running community, and all of the same things get us fired up.”

Rivers and Maravilla, the store’s general manager, both actively participate in the store’s twice-a-week group runs, collectively building a community—and a brand—that has spread like wildfire throughout Marin County and beyond. It’s hard to run the trails in the area without seeing a runner wearing SFRC-branded apparel. Even outside of the Bay Area, international trail running star Killian Jornet has been seen rocking a SFRC trucker hat in his exotic mountain running adventures, along with recognizable American runners Sage Canaday and Max King.

“What SFRC has done for the community is incredible,” explains Galen Burrell, an elite mountain runner who lives in Mill Valley. “It’s not that all these runners didn’t exist in the Bay Area before the store opened, it’s that there wasn’t anything to draw them all together. SFRC has really galvanized the community by giving it a collective sense of identity.”

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Majestic Marin Trails

Here is a glimpse at three must-run routes in Marin County.

1. The Dipsea Trail

Following the course of the 104-year-old Dipsea trail race, the Dipsea Trail is a popular 7.4-mile stretch of mostly singletrack dirt trail that starts in downtown Mill Valley and ends at Stinson Beach, offering magnificent views of the San Francisco Bay, Mount Tamalpais and the Pacific Ocean along the way. This one-way grind is complete with hundreds of stairs, uneven footing and about 2,200 feet of elevation loss and gain. A 15-mile roundtrip run can be grueling, but you rehydrate and refuel at Mill Valley Beerworks, Joe’s Taco Lounge or Vasco.

2. Phoenix Lake-Lake Lagunitas-Bon Tempe Lake

At the base of Mount Tamalpais near the town of Ross sits Phoenix Lake, Lake Lagunitas and Bon Tempe Lake, where you have the option to go short, medium or long on a mix of wide dirt fire roads and shaded singletrack trail. From the parking lot at Phoenix Lake, loops around one or all three lakes can range from 4 to 12 miles or more with anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand feet of elevation change. After your run, stop in to M.H. Bread & Butter, which is owned by local trail runners Devon and Nathan Yanko, for breakfast and wide range of tasty baked goods or hit up Half Day Café in Kentfield or Taqueria Cancun in San Rafael for a late brunch or lunch.

3. The Ninja Loop, Marin Headlands

This popular 11.5-mile loop begins at the Coastal Trail on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge and heads up into the Marin Headlands, with its hilly fire roads and singletrack trails offering spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline and the Pacific Ocean. Featuring 2,200 feet of elevation gain, the Ninja Loop also includes parts of the SCA, Rodeo Valley, Miwok, Old Springs, Marincello, Bobcat and Alta trails. Finish your day at Fish or Fred’s Coffee Shop in Sausalito. Cibo, also in Sausalito, is the other hip spot worth checking out.

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