By: Karen Karnis
When Rob Reid opened Frontrunners Victoria with Peter Butler almost 25 years ago, he didn’t just open a running specialty store – he shared a lifestyle. “We wanted to attract staff who lived the lifestyle and wanted to help others,” he says. Since opening in April 1988, Reid bought out Butler, and helped open two other locations in Langford and Nanaimo, and he continues to walk the walk – or run the run, as the case may be.
Promoting healthy lifestyles has been a priority for Reid because he lost his 38-year old father to complications from a heart condition when he was just six. He took up running a bit in high school when his football career didn’t take off (“I lasted one play on the football field because of my ectomorphic frame,” he says), but really got serious in university when he met Jerry Gonser, a professor in phys. ed. at the University of Western Ontario where Reid earned a teaching degree. Gonser invited some students to train for a marathon. “I never looked back after doing Boston – 2:46 in 1979,” says Reid.
After moving to Alberta to search for teaching jobs, Reid found himself winning some marathons – five in total, including four in Calgary between 1980 and 1986. Of his marathon accomplishments, Reid says, “I was fortunate to run a 2:22 marathon in the early 80s back home in Toronto, and at age 42 ran a 2:27 at the Napa Marathon in March, and a 2:33 at Boston.”
Having appreciated the benefit of having Gonser as a coach and role model, Reid strives to help members of the community find opportunities to run as well. He started Runners of Compassion in Victoria, including the Shoes for Youth program, started a scholarship at the University of Victoria and one at a local high school, and sponsors a run/walk program called Every Step Counts through the Victoria Cool Aid Society, to name just a few ways he shares the Frontrunners lifestyle.
Reid has also been on the Royal Victoria Marathon (now Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon) Board for 25 years, the past 15 of which he has been race director. Every year on race day, he personally congratulates runners at the finish. “Meeting runners at the finish and shaking their hands is a real honour as I recognize the hard training and journey they have taken in stretching themselves for the better,” he says.
One his personal career highlights, however, was erecting the statue to Terry Fox at Mile Zero in 2005. “Becoming a close friend of the Fox family has been a joy and subsequently working on a Marathon of Hope van tour after unveiling the van with Darrel Fox, and now working as the chair of a new venture to be located in Vancouver is so important to who we are as Canadians,” he says.
But the Frontrunners lifestyle doesn’t end in BC. Recently, Reid traveled to Kenya with John Carson of Run for Life. “We have put monies towards some development of a three-acre property where Canadians can go to train and volunteer for local initiatives, and assisted with micro-lending women’s projects,” says Reid.
Somehow, despite all of these projects, Reid still has time to work in the store itself. Of the store, he says:
“Retail became very crowded in the 90s with more stores opening and many suppliers not protecting the value of their quality and opening. We weathered the storm and I moved the main Victoria store into a larger space in 2000. Thanks to Simon Whitfield for helping carry shoes across the parking lot for me too. The new store was a design from a previous staff member who excels at working with wood and making custom fixtures. We have a “Walk of Fame” outside the store of notable runners and community builders – John Brown, Simon, Lucy Smith, Bruce Deacon, Peter Reid, Lori Bowden, to mention a few. Inside it is all about high ceilings and space where we can welcome over a hundred in run clinics, runningmoms.ca, and hold special nights like our recent Goddess Night women’s event.”
Now, at 57 years old, Reid is still going strong and running in his Mizuno Wave Rider and Wave Ascend shoes. He balances his busy lifestyle by spending family time at his Saltspring Island home, and of course, running trails. “There is no such thing as retirement when you’re doing what you love,” he says.