Mountain ultra-athlete Patrick Caron runs 6,000 miles a year. He also runs Move Free Designs, an outdoor active wear brand based in Bar Harbor, Maine. Neither of these accomplishments would be possible without the invaluable running community that helped propel him there, he says.
“I really enjoy the pure movement of running. The speed, the personal challenge, the team aspect of working together, the people, the community – all that attracted me to running. I really found my home there.”
Starting with his hometown ‘Bearathon,’ a 26.2 meter race for toddlers, Patrick, now 24, has been running all over New England for as long as he can remember. His success in the sport as a teenager landed him a spot on the Salomon US Team of professional athletes, a position he’s held since 2018.
After earning this distinction, as well as achieving dozens of record-breaking wins in the road, trail, and ultra-running circuits, Patrick sought to put his platform as a professional athlete to greater use.
“I found this supportive community in the ultra-running scene, a family that I didn’t have before. I wanted to give back to the outdoors and running community in a larger way, reach new people and create bigger change.”
Patrick brainstormed fun and unique products that he would like, in hopes other people would like them too. “I love hats,” he laughed, “so I started with that.”
He worked with different artists and designers, many in the running and biking community.
“The sourcing of materials is important to me. I wanted everything made in the USA with sustainable materials.”
The trail-tested, moisture-wicking, antimicrobial, adjustable-back Summit Cap came to life in 2019. After a self-built website and a fun photoshoot with some friends, Move Free Designs was off and running, literally.
It’s hard to miss the bright, vibrant designs throughout the product line. “Running brings me a lot of joy,” Patrick said. “I think of the outdoors as a playground, and I wanted to bring that out through these designs and colors. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but I love the vibrancy and joyfulness of it.”
Initially, it was just friends and fellow runners who were purchasing caps to lend support. “I didn’t have a plan at that point, just the one hat. But, after the feedback and excitement, I thought, ‘I’m on to something.’”
As Patrick filled each and every order himself, he recognized most of his customers. But following a positive review of the Summit Cap by Runner’s World, the support compounded. Patrick laughed, “That’s when I started seeing orders from people I didn’t know.”
Move Free Designs now offers a variety of caps, buffs, singlets, and hoodies; all of which are characteristically colorful and fun.
Since its inception, a percentage of the brand’s proceeds gets donated to nonprofits. Its team of ambassadors also spreads the Move Free message as they participate in trail runs, road races and clean up days in their own communities.
One of the nonprofits Move Free Designs supports is the Boston Bulldogs Running Club, a community for those affected by addiction. Patrick helped start a chapter near his home, and has been active with the group since 2015.
“Throughout my time in the running community, I have met many people who have been impacted by addiction, and it has been really special to be involved in the work of the Bulldogs and see how the power of running and community can help anyone.”
Right now, it’s just Patrick behind all the operations of Move Free Designs. “I wear many hats!” he laughed. “I play many roles in the company, from designing, marketing … it’s all fun, but I’m realizing as it’s becoming more popular I may need a little help!”
Seeing Move Free Designs’ gear out on the trail never grows old for Patrick. “Having friends text me photos of someone they met on a run wearing Move Free gear is still surprising to me. It’s crazy – I connected those two people.”
Cultivating those connections has always been a part of Patrick’s mission. “People who wear Move Free have similar values and interests, and to help bring those people together and create community around the brand and the values we share has been awesome.”
“It’s why we do things, not how fast or slow we do them. This is not just for a professional or hard core runner. This is something for all who share a love for the outdoors and want to celebrate movement.”