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400 faces: Alex Rodriguez, North GA Running Co.
North GA Running Co.

This article appears in the May issue of 400 Life.

Alex Rodriguez started running about 20 years ago. He racked up mileage on the road, and eventually started running trails and finishing races, doing all three in the best shoes on the market. They looked awesome, but trial and error made him realize he needed expert help to find the right fit for him to be able to go farther. 

One problem — the closest spot to snag smarter sneakers was in Atlanta. 

Recognizing a need for the right running gear in his neighborhood, he opened Forsyth County’s very first running store in 2008, and hosted its first race (one to benefit Autism awareness) shortly after. 

Today that store is North GA Running Co., a retail storefront with industry expertise that sells everything from track shoes to gym shoes, service industry footwear and more, and a race management company producing 10 races per year in Forsyth County, each drawing around 600 runners. 

A community partner, the store hosts numerous running and walking groups that meet on a regular basis at the store or at various locations around the city. In fact, located right off the Big Creek Greenway, it’s the perfect meeting spot to make friends, learn about running, get the right gear and stay fit in a fun way.  

The most successful running group is called Dream Runners. This lively group is for kids and families with disabilities, and meets weekly for walks or runs depending on their ability.

“My daughter was diagnosed with Autism at age 3,” said Rodriguez. “[This group] allows me to be involved with other parents on the same journey I am, and we’re able to share challenges and offer encouragement and support to each other.”

Groups like this are also a fundamental reason Rodriguez operates his store. They prove that runners don’t have to fit into a mold — there’s no required socioeconomic level, gender, height, shape, nationality, etc. to be one. You just have to want to do it. 

“Like any relationship running goes through different phases,” said Rodriguez, who runs around a new schedule of store ownership and dad life. “It has taught me patience, how to deal with peaks and valleys, but most importantly it has provided me with a huge collection of best friends. Running can be intimidating, but when you align yourself with like-minded individuals, then it becomes the most joyful and most rewarding activity.”

What makes Forsyth County perfect for runners?

One, the Big Creek Greenway is about conservation, recreation, environmental education and alternative transportation. It’s ideal for walking, running and biking … and it’s a direct path to the store. 

What are your favorite places to run?

Other than the greenway, the Laurel Ridge Trail offers great outdoor views of the Buford Dam and the Chattahoochee River. 

How many marathons have you completed?

I’ve done 25 half marathons, 9 marathons and three ultra-marathons. 

What is an ultra-marathon?

An ultra-marathon is a race greater than 31 miles. I’ve finished three: One was 56 miles, one a 50K and one was 35 miles. 

Have you found the perfect shoe?

I have two favorite brands of shoes I like — Brooks and HOKA. It’s all about function, function, function, regardless of the color. 

What is the biggest misconception of running shoes?

People think buying shoes online is cheaper than in the store. Cheap shoes doesn’t mean they are the right shoes. We don’t carry all the brands available to the big box stores, but we have the right one for our customers. Our goal is to find the right fit, size, width and support, and provide functionality over brand, price or color.

Who do you spend your time with?

I am a single dad with two beautiful daughters (Sophia Alexis, 13 and Isabella Marie, 11.) They don’t love running as much as I do, but they are proud of what I do and often spend time with me at the store. They melt my heart and are my driving force.

Where do you guys indulge?

We love to visit Mr. Jason and Ms. Tiffany at Chili’s; and we love bundts, so whenever possible, we treat ourselves to Nothing Bundt Cake. 

What’s next for NGRC?

Our goal is to be the first company to bring a marathon to our city, but we’re also very close to launching the area’s first walking club. 

What’s your ultimate goal with NGRC?

My vision is that the passion for walking and running continues to grow for all the folks in our community and offer a place where everyone feels accepted and knows that they can achieve anything they want to do. 

- Article by Jennifer Colosimo