Running Bear was the brainchild of Geoff Pettengell and Anne Stentiford, who were both fanatical fell runners. To give you an insight into their world: Geoff completed the Bob Graham Round at the tender age of 28 in 1986 and Anne set the Ladies record for the challenge in 1990, that’s 66 miles including a 27,000 ft circuit of 42 of the highest peaks in the English Lake District within 24 hours! Anne also held the record for the Paddy Buckley Round in Wales, a similar challenge. Both were members of Macclesfield Harriers when they first met.
Listening to Geoff, the only decent fell running shoes in the 1980’s were Walshes and they were hard to get hold of (long before the internet!). It was also hard to buy decent fell running gear, so he and Anne decided to take the shoes and the gear to the runners and went about setting up in business. They were successful in their application for a government scheme to support start-ups, which paid Anne for the first 12 months. Their first challenge was to find a name for their business idea. At the time, Congleton Harriers had a newsletter called Running Bear, being the “bear town”. Geoff developed a logo for “Running Bear”, with a bear inspired from a baby food packet, wearing Walsh shoes and a Helly Hansen top and running against the hills of the Fell Running Association logo. He then traded the Running Bear name with Congleton Harriers (where he was also a member), in return for them using his newly developed logo. A fair deal!
In June 1990, he and Anne bought a ford transit van, which was painted in the distinctive blue and yellow colours of the new brand and decorated with the bear logo and Walsh stud prints running across it. They started attending races on Saturdays, Sundays and weekday evenings (Geoff remained full-time Head of Science at a local secondary school). They sold Walshes, bought through Pete Bland as a wholesaler, Running Bear T Shirts and Sweatshirts and other specialist trail and fell running gear. They also offered teas, coffees and cakes to hungry runners and supporters. Anne completed the Running Bear service by setting up mail order from home. Geoff remembers them being very trusting: “If people didn’t have cash on them at races, we’d just ask them to send us a cheque when they got home.”
After spending a year covering many races across Wales, Cheshire the Peaks and South Lancs, they were able to work out which races gave them the best return for their travel and time. The second year was more targeted, but they realised that they were going to the races where they sold the most for Running Bear rather than where they most enjoyed running and competing. Still at their running peak, they both had much that they wanted to achieve. During this period in their lives, they were amongst just a few people in the country tackling the UK 24 hour
Challenges. Geoff was the 8th person to complete all three: The Bob Graham Round, The Paddy Buckley Round and The Ramsay Round .
With a reluctant heart, Geoff and Anne sold the business and very soon afterwards, the first Running Bear Shop was opened in Alderley Edge. Whilst we’ve moved a few doors down London Road, we’re still there today and the business is looking forward to celebrating its 30th anniversary next year.
Nowadays, Geoff is founder and chairman of Mow Cop Runners, who host the famous “Killer Mile” and Mow Cop Hill Race. Both he and Anne are still running enthusiasts: Anne preferring triathlons and duathlons (Anne represented GB at Triathlon as a V50 last year) and Geoff tackling any distance from track middle distance to the occasional ultra challenge.
We always look forward to their visits to Running Bear and to running the Mow Cop Runners’ races.