By Michelle Graff
Michelle-blogIt was only the second half-marathon I’ve done, and it was my first since I switched from running with an iPod to running with an iPhone.

After holding the device in my hand for most of my training, I reached two conclusions: a) I don’t want to carry this thing for 13.1 miles, and; b) I need to quit being cheap and just go ahead spend the $30 to get an armband like I had for my old, trusty iPod before I got caught outside in the rain and the screen went black on me.

Like so many consumers today, I started my search online. I Googled “armband for iphone 5,” scanned past the sponsored ad by, skipped over the organic results for the Apple store and (again; this is why it’s a billion-dollar business) and then was drawn into this article from Mashable on the “10 Best iPhone Armbands.”

After scanning through all 10 I settled on the Sporteer Armband because it has a pocket in the back for cards and I needed somewhere to stash my MetroCard and a little cash while I ran.

Normally, I would have just ordered the Sporteer on Amazon, my go-to, because they have everything, they let you return anything and it arrives quickly. But I was up against a tight timeline with the race approaching so I opted to--gasp--buy something in a store.

But where would I go? What store in New York would carry such a thing? Buying in a brick-and-mortar store can be a perplexing proposition when you don’t do it very often, and so I relied on my friend Google’s help again, and the search engine guided me to CitySports, which is right around the corner from my office (who knew?).

This particular CitySports store is located in a cavernous space on Broadway in Lower Manhattan. It’s a really beautiful older building but the store was, sadly, fairly empty.

I immediately located the aforementioned armbands and engaged a saleswoman, who was very helpful, friendly and knowledgeable, in a discussion on what she thought was the best armband, mentioning the Mashable article and the online advice I had received in the process.

We chatted as I was checking out and I told her why I was buying the band, for my upcoming half. After wishing me luck, she let me know about a running club CitySports hosts.

Created, obviously, for runners, the group meets every Tuesday night and does relatively short runs around the Lower Manhattan waterfront. From time to time, she says, vendors come and ask you to try out products, and the store gives you $1 in CitySports credit for every mile you run with the group.

What a great way to get people engaged and shopping in your store in an era when they don’t really need to; anything that you see in a CitySports store easily can be purchased online. And, if most runners are like me, they have a favorite brand of shoe and know their size. When it comes time to reorder, they simply plug the brand and style name in online, choose a new color and click.

I didn’t get to try out the running group this week because it was raining, but I definitely plan to attend the next Tuesday night I am free.

Unfortunately, I don’t think my new Sporteer armband will be logging too many more miles with me. Though it was marked small/medium, it must be made for men because it’s too big for my arm.

I don’t know if CitySports will allow me to return the armband, considering it’s more than slightly used at this point. But you know what? I think that seems fair and it certainly won’t put me off the retailer. I am excited about joining the store’s running club, potentially meeting new people (meaning single men) and using my CitySports cash to purchase my next pair of shoes--right there in the store.

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