Randy Step a runner of many hats

Randy Step a runner of many hats

Randy Step a runner of many hats

Randy Step wears many hats in the running community. His impact on the sport as a runner, race director, store owner and coach reaches across the state.

Step started running in 1975 after graduating from Redford Union high school. He did nothing athletically until he met his wife Kathy, who was captain of the men’s swim team at Redford Union. As he puts, “I went to her meets and witnessed a true product of the Title IX.”

Several of Step’s events are the biggest trail races in Michigan. It stems for his first athletic endeavor, a fifty mile hike through the forests from Marquette to Champion. He said he’s been addicted to the woods ever since.

His first college roommates were runners but he didn’t start running until he transferred to Michigan State to be near Kathy. Step said he would run two miles to her dorm and back almost every day. He eventually started running with friends in his dorm and built up to over fifty miles a week.

While attending mortuary school at Wayne State, he ran his first race called Run for the Money which was organized by the Playboy club. Since then he began running races almost every weekend.

In 1982 Step founded the Redford Roadrunner Club as a way to find other people to train with while he and Kathy prepared for the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon. “I didn’t know how to start a club, so I just put an ad in the paper and a dozen people showed up. We created a wonderful community of people that are still are best friends today. As many as seventy people started coming every week to run together.”

“I was never a great runner but I loved running marathons and qualified for Boston as well as Ironman. Triathloning really made me appreciate the simplicity of just running.” To date, Step has run forty some marathons. He said he still likes triathons and that they are making a comeback after interest suffered in the 90’s.”

After seven years as a funeral director at Step Funeral Home in Redford he opened up his first Running Fit store in Ann Arbor as an investment with someone else managing the store. At the same time he also started selling treadmills which became so profitable that he left the funeral business and opened several fitness equipment outlets as well as selling to commercial venues.

“As a funeral director I was a young man in an old man’s profession and I never felt as old as I did then with all the functions I was required to attend. When I switched to the running business it felt like I was on vacation every day.”

In 1992, he decided to sell his portion of the treadmill business to a partner and focused on the promotional end of his running stores. His Running Fit partner Steve Angerman runs the retail operations which includes Northville and Traverse City. One of his former employees, Karen Holappa now owns the Tortoise and Hare running shop down the street in Ann Arbor.

As an event coordinator Step said, “I now feel like an old man in a young kid’s business but I’m more excited now about the growth potential of the sport. Events bring you closer to your store customers.”

Step said creating the Martian Marathon (which drew over 3000 runners last week) was an accident. He said it blossomed from organizing 20 mile training runs to prepare runners for the Boston Marathon. The hokey theme came from the celestial month of Mars and he added the aliens stuff since the pig theme was already taken.

Step feels fortunate to be successful through his obsessions. It also prompted him to become very involved with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. He was a running and fundraising coach for several years and helped people prepare for several destination marathons including Alaska. Step recently received the National Chairman’s award after he helped the program start from ground level to where it now raises over 4 million annually in Michigan.

Step is also fortunate to be alive. While running the Free Press marathon in 1992, he thought he was coming down with pneumonia. After consulting with several running doctors including the famous George Sheehan, they determined that his aortic heart value was gone and he was in congestive heart failure. He decided on a risky human valve transplant that fortunately worked. In fact, he’s run twelve marathons since. Step said he went into surgery still running 6:00 per mile pace and came out able to run at 7 minute pace because of the size of the valve.

Step is now working on fighting child obesity. He has been giving talks in local schools every week to promote collecting miles by starting a running log. One of his grant programs culminates in running the last 1.2 miles of the Martian Marathon. His two children Trevor and Anna became runners in high school.

Running Fit sponsorship includes the Michigan Trail Marathon, Dances with Dirt, the Big House Big Heart Run and it offers classes to prepare people to run these races. As Step sees it, all of his store staffers have become an adult physical education department with the opportunity to have an impact on people’s lives.