Located in Cape May, NJ, the Cape May Running Store is the source of all things running in Cape May County. Owners and fellow runners, Harry J. Back and Michael P. Mader strive to share their passion and experience with running to everyone in their hometown and to everyone who loves Cape May.
As part of our Cape May Influencer Blog series, a new series where we sit down with local, influential businesses and understand what makes them so successful and unique, we sat down with Harry J. Back. Check out part 1 of our interview with Harry to understand the history of the Cape May Running Store, get the details on upcoming events, and more.
Cape May Running Store Q&A With Harry Back Part 1
Lisa: Can you tell our audience a little bit about your background and what brought you to Cape May?
Harry: I was born and raised in Cape May. I went to Cape May Elementary, Lower Cape May Regional High School, the whole nine yards.
Lisa: Can you tell us about your experience with running and how you got into it?
Harry: I really got into running as exercise for other sports, like hockey, surfing, and lifeguarding. So I wasn't actually a runner competitively per se, until probably my early-20s. My passion for the sport really just grew once I learned the science behind it.
I spent 19 years teaching at Binghamton University in upstate New York. I basically taught anything that had to do with exercise, like nutrition, stress management, marathon training, triathlon training. That started to even peak even more for me in terms of the running industry.
I started doing some adult coaching with the local running store in New York and I just kind of carried that through. Then a good friend of mine (Michael Mader) that I grew up with here also got involved in running later in age. We got together and decided we were going to open up a running company in Cape May. He thought it was going to be much later than it was. We were kind of looking at it as a retirement thing for us, and then the ball started rolling, and it all happened very quickly. We opened up in 2017.
Lisa: So Cape May was an obvious choice for you since you were born and raised here and it’s a great place for running. As you know, there are a series of various runs offered throughout the year, like the annual Cape May foot race as one of the most popular. What would you say is one of your favorite races?
Harry: Well, it's soon to be. My favorite race is the Beach to Brewery race, which will be the first one ever run will be this year, September 21st. The Great Cape May Footrace has been a staple of this town for 40 years, and that was really our first order of business when we started the company. We met with the Chamber of Commerce and took that over. We've been running it since 2017. So the Great Cape May Footrace is always going to have a dear place in my heart just from watching it as a little kid and then actually eventually taking it over. This is our second year with the Cape May Hallowed Half Marathon.
The first year was difficult. We had a full-blown Nor'easter that day, so the numbers shrunk a bit, but hopefully, we'll have a nice turnout this year. And we've added to it a 5K, which we're calling the Nemour's Fright Night 5K where all the proceeds from the 5K will go to the Nemour's Children Hospital for the Cardiac Center.
Lisa: So in looking at the upcoming events, when is the next run?
Harry: September 21st is the Beach to Brewery (Cape May Brewery) 6.2 miles.
Lisa: Did I see that this inaugural race sold out already?
Harry: It sold out in nine days. We will shuttle the runners back from the brewery.
Lisa: I'm glad they don't have to run back after enjoying time at the brewery. I know this is a 21 and older race but tell us about other family races offered?
Harry: Certainly. The Cape May Race is, the Great Cape May Footrace, and the Murph Mile. The latter is the race I started to raise money for the Clete Cannone Scholarship Fund. This scholarship awards Cape May lifeguards and their families including current or past lifeguards of the City of Cape May. I am the chair of the committee that reviews the applications to decide who receives the scholarships. This year, we were able to donate $2,500 directly to the scholarships. We already gave out five scholarships this year at $2,000 apiece.
Lisa: That's fantastic. It’s great to see such community involvement.
Harry: Yes, we try to be. I think our goal is to really build a strong running community in general, but we support all the local athletes -- everybody that's a high school athlete in the county, they would get an extra discount. We do promotions for them. The same thing with all the lifeguards, we take care of all them as well. That's really what it's about and we try to give back as much as we can.