A place for all your running and walking needs!
In June 1998, Mike Toolen founded Toolen’s Running Start in a quiet strip mall in Fairview Heights, Illinois. Now, 20 years later, he’s so grateful that he did.
“I retired from the government after 32 years and knew I wanted to get a job at or open a running store,” Toolen said. Having spent most of his life in St. Louis, Toolen decided to open his own shop in Fairview Heights, IL because there was nothing like that on this side of the river.
A former racer who competed in about 60 events a year, from 5ks to marathons, Toolen credits his many running friends for the store’s initial success. “In the beginning our core group of running friends supported us immensely and we would not be where we are today without them,” he said.
“Our continued dedication to offering superior products with exceptional customer service holds true from the day we opened to today,” Toolen said. “The biggest highlight of our 20 years, for me, is our dedicated customers.”
Toolen’s Running Start moved to a larger store in Shiloh, Illinois 13 years ago. Over the years, they’ve increased their product offerings and added race management and timing to its services. The shop now has a hand in about 100 events each year, including the annual Top of the Morning 5K in March and the Belleview Main Street Marathon in September.
The store also offers marathon training and weekly speed work sessions. Toolen’s sons, Andrew and Sean, work side-by-side with their dad in a store filled with his old trophies, medals and race bibs. While his best racing days may be behind him — “there’s nothing fast in these legs anymore,” he said — Toolen’s wit is still quick.
“The boys will probably kick me out of here someday, but I hope to be useful until I’m at least 80,” he joked. “I think we’ve been really lucky. I couldn’t have accomplished any of this without my family and friends and the support of the running community. It’s amazing, it sure doesn’t feel like 20 years.”