ST. GEORGE — Few people have made a bigger impact on the Southern Utah running scene than Steve and Kendra Hooper, the duo who keep most of the community in proper running shoes and gear, and armed with the best training and running tips.
The Hoopers own and operate the St. George Running Center – a specialty running store located at 2736 W. Red Cliffs Drive in St. George – and they formed and facilitate the St. George Running Club.
Additionally, the pair operate Red Mountain Races which stages three races a year – the Red Mountain 55K, 30K and Dirty Hurty Half Marathon in March, the Southern Utah Half Marathon in April and the Run, Run, Reindeer 5K in December. Kendra Hooper also co-owns Vita Headwear, which makes activewear headbands for runners and athletes.
The St. George Running Center opened doors in December of 2006. For nearly 11 years, runners, would-be runners and walkers have been coming to the running center to be fitted for shoes and to find the latest and greatest in running apparel, gear and fuel.
The store began as Steve Hooper’s dream, said Kendra Hooper. While the couple were still dating she asked her prospective husband how he planned to make a living. Steve Hooper’s response was that he hoped to one day open a running store.
“And I said, ‘can you support a family doing that?’ I had never even heard of somebody doing that,” Kendra Hooper said.
But Steve Hooper believed he could indeed support a family owning a running store so Kendra Hooper supported him. When the couple moved to St. George they opened the running center and they have been supporting not only their family but an entire community of runners ever since.
Running has been an important part of the Hoopers’ lives since they were both young. Steve Hooper began running when he was 13, he said. He ran in high school and in college at Utah Valley University. Kendra also began running in her teens, she said.
It could even be said that running was an integral part of the couple’s courtship. Kendra Hooper said that the couple met at a dance where Steve Hooper asked her if she liked to do outside activities. Kendra Hooper replied in the affirmative adding that she liked to run.
Often while they were dating Steve Hooper would join his girlfriend on her evening runs. But unbeknownst to Kendra Hooper, her beau had already run several miles – sometimes as many as 10 or 12 miles – with his cross-country team before joining her to run.
It wasn’t until she called him out for being rude for starting to walk alongside her during a run, that she found out that he was attending college on a running scholarship, Kendra Hooper said.
“I said ‘why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?’ And he said it was because he thought I wouldn’t let him run with me if I knew.”
Though she said her husband is faster than she is, they still enjoy running together.
It is a passion that they share with the greater community through their interactions with customers at the store as well as through the running club.
“Seeing people set goals and achieve them and have something positive in their life that’s really making a difference and influencing them for the better … and just being a small part of that is why I love it,” Steve Hooper said.
Both of the Hoopers said that they have seen so many people who have come into the store for their first shoe fitting or have joined the running club and consistently come to workouts that have made major transformations in their lives. The couple said they have witnessed people lose large amounts of weight and have watched as a runner goes from only being able to do a mile to running the St. George Marathon.
The St. George Running Club is open to runners of all levels and speeds. They meet three times a week for three different workouts; a track workout, a tempo run and a long run. Kendra Hooper is the president and generally organizes the workouts.
Workouts and other helpful running information is posted on the club’s Facebook page.
Runners can sign up for the club for a $30 yearly fee. The fee includes a technical T-shirt and a 15 percent discount on merchandise at the St. George Running Center. But runners do not have to sign up and pay the fee to join in on the workouts, Kendra Hooper said.
Membership in the club also comes with more intrinsic benefits such as helpful training tips, running motivation and the opportunity to make lifelong friends, Kendra Hooper said.
For the Hoopers, being able to share with others, something that is so important to their lives, is what makes it all worth it.
Though they will not be running this year’s St. George Marathon which takes place Saturday, the experienced runners – both have run marathons fast enough to qualify for the prestigious Boston Marathon – offered some last minute race day tips:
- Don’t start too fast.
- Make sure to hydrate early on in the race.
- Make sure your electrolyte levels are good.
- Trust in your training.
- Enjoy your day.
Not only is running a major part of their lives, but it was also instrumental in saving Steve Hooper’s life this year.
While out on a run in July, Steve Hooper said his chest began to feel heavy and he was having difficulty breathing. The family had just completed a bathroom remodel and he blamed the shortness of breath on having sucked in too much construction dust and continued his run and completed his week’s worth of training.
Though he felt fine during normal activities, each time he would run, the heaviness in his chest would return. After his wife insisted and made an appointment, Steve Hooper went to the doctor. A treadmill stress test showed that his heart was strong but there was something wrong with his blood flow that required further tests.
An angiogram revealed that his left coronary artery was totally blocked and the doctor said he needed immediate heart surgery, Steve Hooper said.
Steve Hooper said he was told by physicians that because he was a runner and aware of his body, he was more easily able to notice the symptoms of what could have been an approaching heart attack. Along with being able to get the surgery he needed in time to save his life, his physical fitness aided him in a quicker recovery. He is already back to running.
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