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October 26th, 2011 - Heide Brandes

Ready, set, go!


Local runner, entrepreneur creates brand targeting women’s health and fitness


 

Jeffrey Kidder of Oklahoma City knows running, but even he wonders how he became a national advocate for women, specifically women runners.

As a former vice president for the Oklahoma City National Memorial Marathon board of directors, and an avid runner himself, Kidder has had the opportunity to attend hundreds of 5K and 10K runs, half-marathons and full marathons.

While running alongside throngs of anxiously active men and women, he started to see a trend and a yawning gap between how men and women experienced fitness.

“Men, when they run, they get out there, run the course, slap each other on the butt and leave,” Kidder says. “Women, they run, and then afterward, they get together and talk and solve each others’ and the world’s problems. Fitness is a bonding thing for them.”

What came next was a social experiment. The women he ran next to made it clear that the running culture wasn’t their goal — they wanted something more.

“Women are way more encouraging. To them, it’s not ‘just a run,’ it’s a lifestyle,” he says.

From that observation, Kidder now imagines a nationwide network of a female-centric fitness system, reaching out to women involved in running, walking, skiing, surfing, dancing and more.

Although he recognizes the irony of a man starting the business, Kidder founded runHers, one of nine branches of the “Hers” fitness brand.

“We want to have all the possibilities covered of what this brand can be," he says. "We can have a huge national impact on women’s health.”

HERS and MORE
runHers is a women’s club focused on developing healthy lifestyles through running and walking in Oklahoma. The club encourages women of all shapes, sizes and ages through education, social networking, a website, training programs, socials and educational programs.

The runHers logo already adorns T-shirts and other apparel, donned by participants at runs and walks in Oklahoma and beyond.

“The runHers culture is going to be dynamic in this and other communities,” Kidder says. “Besides being active in the health of the community, the members also connect with each other through social networking, and will participate in forums, civic events, health fairs and big events.”

Already, the organization has held the Princess Run and Gala for Girls, the Run @ Work Day flash-mob run and recruiting events to drive membership, which costs $20 a year. By targeting women, Kidder says he’s reaching the decision-makers in the home who affect health the most.

“Women control the money in most households. They control the food choices in 90% of households, and they have the most interaction with the kids,” he says. “With the right information and support, women can change the health of this country.”

Launched in August, the women’s club already has running and walking groups nationwide are taking notice.

“Changing Oklahoma one woman at a time and bringing the focus back to women being at the center as a model of healthy behavior in the home can dramatically change the fabric of our community,” says co-founder Wendi Weaver.

Even Bart Yasso, Runner’s World magazine’s chief running officer, is involved, claiming that the runHers club design could have a huge impact nationwide.

Profit is one part of the Hers movement, Kidder says, but it’s not the main thing.

"Profit allows us resources that bring in creative people to inspire women and their lifestyles,” he says. runHers aims to reach and recruit 1 million women. That means collaboration with large and small brands, including reaching out to trendsetters including gymnast Shannon Miller, Cirque du Soliel and Rodale Press.

“Women are the answer,” Kidder says. “If we embed that healthy lifestyle thinking in women and we give them resources like a goals network and training runs that fit their schedule, then they will make connections with other women.”

Sara McCauley, the “energy director” for runHers, designs the programs, such as the Sofa2Success 5k training program, that get women moving. As one of the key players in the brand, she says it has to be as appealing to women as possible.

“The name and the brand speak volumes,” she says. “When I moved here, I looked for running groups, but when you see the name runHers, it says everything. Women have a connection with women.”

So far, Kidder is the sole financial backer, but he says more and more people will bring in ideas and financial support.

“When you have something that people are excited about, the money will come,” he says. “The creativity comes. There are avenues, like selling apparel and products, and events are a big business, too.”

Photo by Shannon Cornman

 
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