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Law professor launches running apparel line

Karen Fultz, a local attorney and law professor, has launched a line of running apparel  that allows the fitness-focused running in cooler weather to access their wrist monitors while wearing a long-sleeve top.
Karen Fultz, a local attorney and law professor, has launched a line of running apparel that allows the fitness-focused running in cooler weather to access their wrist monitors while wearing a long-sleeve top.
Published Feb. 22, 2017

TAMPA — Six years ago, she became a runner, first barely making it to the end of the block, constantly putting one foot in front of the other.

She gradually caught the fever, eventually loving that she found a friendly community of like-minded people.

Today, she has completed six marathons.

Karen Fultz, an attorney who became a professor and assistant dean at the Tampa Bay area campus of Cooley Law School in 2013, has realized that runners come in all shapes, sizes and motivation levels. But they are more similar than different.

"I have met people from all over and we all have the same needs, the same problems, the same pain,'' Fultz said. "We might look different and talk different, but we share a passion for running. We go to races and we all complain about the same thing.''

It's the motivation for Fultz's company, Observame, which has produced a line of feel-good running apparel that addresses one of the major concerns for anyone running in cooler weather.

The long-sleeve tops have a built-in opening to clearly display a runner's watch, so they can keep track of their time and pace. Fultz said she was long frustrated by pulling back her sleeve to check her watch — or awkwardly wearing her watch on the outside of the long sleeve.

"We're all into monitoring our heart rate, steps, performance, pace and distance,'' Fultz said. "That's why we're so attached to looking at our wearables. You don't want any kind of trouble with your clothing and watch.

"It's so simple. You can maintain the body warmth. You don't waste any energy or movement. And you can see your watch at any time. When I was developing this, I told my patent attorney, 'You have to be kidding. No one has thought of this?'"

No one.

"I am very glad,'' Fultz said with a laugh.

Fultz, who discovered her love for running while working as an attorney in Atlanta, will have a booth to display her products at this weekend's Gasparilla Distance Classic.

She's optimistic, saying she believes it could develop into "an internationally known brand … something that will appeal to the 17-million runners in this country … something that will make them curious.''

The brand name — Observame (observame.net) — is another curiosity.

The word means "watch me'' in Spanish.

"Watch me run, watch me walk, watch me jog,'' Fultz said. "At the same time, you're watching your performance … on your watch. I wanted a play on words. I didn't want something common.''

Fultz's path to running followed an uncommon trek.

She jokingly says she worked out with "hand to mouth'' exercises. She was overweight and sedentary, worried that she was on the way to diabetes, hypertension or other afflictions.

After being challenged by her nephew, Fultz joined a training program through the Atlanta Track Club — "From the Couch to 10K'' — after initially thinking she might never finish a quarter-mile run.

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"Once I saw the progression, once I realized how you could push your body and accomplish something so great, I kind of got hooked,'' Fultz said. "I could do this."

Fultz said she hopes her apparel line can hook deeply into the running community's passion.

"Runners get this very quickly," Fultz said. "People just love to display their watches. Plus, the fabric is so soft. One of the first comments I heard was, 'Oh my gosh, it just lays on me and contours to my body. It feels like butter.' It kind of makes the runners very happy.''

Happy runners are effective and motivated runners.

If Fultz has found the right product niche, she will be very happy, too.

"It's just the continuation of making my dreams come true through running,'' Fultz said. "It has literally changed my life in so many ways.''

Contact Joey Johnston at hillsnews@tampabay.com.