A couple of weeks back I was in one of my favorite Jacksonville neighborhoods, San Marco. I decided to stop in to visit with the staff at 1st Place Sports and was immediately introduced to Emily Manning who is the store manager at 1st Place Sports San Marco. She has been with the company for over three years and is an expert not only in running as a sport, but the physical science of it as well. Emily has a PHD from the Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and in her current role doesn’t just run the day to day operation of the 1st Place Sports business, but also consults the business’s clientele in what they should wear for their optimum performance and the health of their feet.
Doug and Jane Alred opened the first 1st Place Sports over thirty five years ago in it’s original location on Baymeadows Road in Jacksonville. Since that day the company has opened six stores throughout Jacksonville and St. Augustine and employs about forty team members. It’s clientele come from as far north as St. Marys and Brunswick for the unique services that 1st Place Sports offers. Emily told me that, “The Alred’s started the company through the love and passion of running. They saw an opportunity and need for a specialty retail store where they could educate customers on health as it relates to running.”
Emily told me that even though 1st Place Sports specializes in the selling of running gear and footwear they are so much more than your traditional footwear retailer. They are constantly engaged in health fairs and educational seminars. They offer the “good form running clinics” which are done in the store. In addition 1st Place Sports has it’s hands on some of the biggest running events held on an annual basis in North Florida. The Gate River Run is a good example of this where 1st Place Sports handles the logistics of the event in partnership with the JTC (Jacksonville Track Club). The company holds races almost every weekend for a total of about one hundred races a year. Every January they host both the full and half Jacksonville marathon which is also used as an Olympic trials qualifier. Emily told me that the good weather as well as flat and fast courses found on the First Coast are a big draw for runners all over the country. A portion of each race’s proceeds that are collected from race registrations are also donated to a charity of choice.
Emily told me that she is the coach for the Episcopal School of Jacksonville and assistant coach for the boys distance for track and head coach for boys cross country. To no big surprise she told me that her favorite hobby outside of work is running and that both of her parents were runners. She grew up in that environment and setting that fostered a learning for proper health and strong focus on fitness. One of her personal draws for the sport is the freedom and therapeutic nature that running provides.
For more info checkout their website at www.1stplacesports.com.
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Written and published for BUZZ Magazine, May 2016.