Rob’s interest in running began in the mid 1970’s when he took up marathoning with the guidance of a professor from the University of Western Ontario in London
Rob ran the Skylon Marathon in Niagara Falls to in order to qualify for Boston, which he ran the next year in ‘79.
Teaching jobs lured him out West all the way to Calgary, where he started a counseling job in 1980. Success (winning the Calgary Marathon four times) while juggling counseling and running continued to fuel a growing enthusiasm for the sport. During his time in Calgary, it became clear to Rob that there was a need for a retail outlet catered specifically to runners. Hearing of this idea through the grapevine was local businessman and retailer John Forzani. John had numerous stores in Calgary at the time and decided Rob’s idea of a technical running store made sense. Rob became the manager for Forzani’s Tech Shop in Calgary and played a key role in the establishment of second location in Edmonton. However the West Coast beckoned, and Rob had ideas of his own. Since John was keen to keep Forzani’s an Alberta based chain, Rob parted with the Calgary Tech Shop heading west once again. Once in Vancouver he met up with successful Olympic marathoner Peter Butler (whose wife, Karen, had worked with Rob at Forzani’s for a short period). Peter had opened Forerunners in Vancouver and a partnership began.
While touring Victoria in 1988, it was obvious that a potential of a store in this market could be a sound business decision. Without hesitation, Rob moved to Victoria and began the process of site selection and store renovations. The store opened April 1988, the same day as the Victoria Half-marathon (which Rob ran — and won!). The business slowly grew thanks to the loyal support of local running clubs. Rob’s experience in biomechanics combined with an increasing inventory, permitted him to cater to the specific needs of the individual runner. The store had found its formula. Through promoting the running/walking lifestyle through clinics, talks and events, success quickly followed and Rob was in his element. Although Rob valued the Forerunners partnership, an unsuccessful expansion back into the Calgary market forced Rob to buyout the Victoria location. With a ‘new’ store and no name, Rob held a ‘Name the Store Contest’, (with the help and support of David Gibson, a local businessman from Thrifty Foods). Frontrunners, and Rob’s own store, was now a reality.
Back in Victoria, the store outgrew its location and with the guidance of the landlord, Frontrunners had a new space, tripling its size. Bill Legoff, a past staff member had ideas about renovating and along with Rob and some interior designers, they came up with the Vancouver Island ‘themed’ design. The new location has been opened since Thanksgiving weekend (October 2000), complete with a Richard Hunt Bronze Native sculpture to greet customers, a Galloping Goose Tressle over the counter, images of some favorite local running spots, and a Walk of Fame celebrating the international success of our local athletes. The Frontrunners location on Vancouver Street continues to the flagship store of Rob’s retail businesses.
Open since the Summer of 2002, Jaker Techwear was by Rob created in a recognition of the growth and trend of yoga and lifestyle wear. Managed by Anne-Mette Jakobsen, the clothing buyer for Frontrunners, Jaker Techwear was also in Harris Green Village, just across from Frontrunners and was open until March 2003. Fall of 2002, brought about another step in the strong relationship Rob had built with his number one supplier, New Balance. A downtown Victoria location came available on Government Street and Rob worked with New Balance to open a concept store in December of 2002. New Balance and Rob have established a strong community presence through event sponsorship and making themselves known as a medical referral business.
The Frontrunners in Langford has been open sinceAugust 2005 by long time Frontrunners employee, Mark Nelson, and Frontrunners sponsored athlete, Nicholas Walker. Their store caters to the growing population of the Western Communities and has established itself as an important supporter of the running community on Vancouver Island.
The Langford Frontrunners store moved from its original location in January 2009 to a new location in the same plaza that offers street visibility.