John O’Neill, one of the founders of Colorado Running Company and one of the most well-liked men in the run specialty industry, died suddenly on September 24. His wife, Cindy, wrote simply that: “I’m heartbroken to say my husband John passed away unexpectedly yesterday. I know his friends will miss him. He was the love of my life.”

As news of John’s death spread quickly around the close-knit running community, thoughts and remembrances – many serious, others humorous – poured into the Running Insight offices. A few of them:

“I first met John in the fall of 1999. I happened to be in Colorado Springs a few months before we opened our store, so I decided to stop by CoRunCo for a quick visit. I introduced myself to John and as soon as I told him I was opening a running store, he gave me a tour of their store and downtown Colorado Springs and invited me back the next morning for their group run. During the run, John generously shared insights on the running business — something that we all now know was second nature to him. Lending a helping and comforting hand to a complete stranger, especially at that fearful time when you’re about to risk your life’s savings to follow a dream. His kindness extended well beyond the business - while my son Paul was going to college in Colorado Springs, John would call him up to buy him coffee and breakfast Wooglins just to make sure he was doing well. Oh, and one last story that perfectly captures the goofy fun spirit of John - when Paul and I were in Colorado Springs during his college visits, we went for a bike ride and I had to stop for a quick nature break. We were on the outside edge of town, in a wooded parking lot area, and all of a sudden a pickup truck rolled up and the driver yelled “I’M CALLING THE COPS, YOU CAN’T URINATE IN PUBLIC!!” My heart sank as the truck got closer, at least until I saw John behind the wheel, laughing his butt off! Gone way too soon, but his spirit and contributions to our channel will live on in all of those who were lucky enough to know him.”

Kris Hartner, Naperville Running Company

“John O'Neill was the best of what specialty running retail is and should be — an authentic spirit committed to his customers, his employees, his community, the land we share and run on and the people that make up this incredible industry. If you listened to JO, he would provide you with insights in life and business that were vastly more important than any expensive strategic seminar or consultant. Plus his insights included laughing at ourselves and our egos. John's passion for the run, business, environment, life, and love are a light for all of us. I will be running with John each time I visit Colorado and explore the mountains and trails. I will miss you JO.”

 Chris Lampen-Crowell, Co-Owner, Gazelle Sports

“John was loved and respected, truly adored in the run specialty community. He was enthusiastic, opinionated, had a kind smile, an edgy exterior and was always warm and inviting. He was one of the first members of our Running Event Mentorship program because he was quick to share what he knew and was always looking for new things he could learn. And even though he was a respected owner he always registered for The Running Event as the ‘cleaner of the toilets’ and ‘janitor.’ That’s just who he was and certainly played a large part in his store’s success. We will remember him fondly and the industry is a better, more inviting and fun place because John was part of it.”

Christina Henderson, Event Director, The Running Event

“Hearing about the passing of John resonated with us out here in Maryland.  It’s clear he left an impact on his community in Colorado, but I was lucky enough to have him impart his pearls of wisdom on me through the TRE mentorship program.  I’ll be honest, I questioned our match at first, but after he reached out via email he had me hooked — he certainly had a quirky way about sharing run specialty industry insights and I could tell very quickly that he had seen it all! One of the most profound things that he said that stuck with me and is a great reminder that no matter what you pursue in life is ‘Your biggest asset is your brain. Listen first. Think second. Open mouth third.’ We were just getting started, but in the short time we were matched he certainly left me with some tools and life lessons to move forward with. Thank you, John for your dedication to your community and the running industry. You will be missed.”

Nakia Weable, Feet First Sports, Columbia, MD

“Hearing of John's passing has been both a shock and a tremendous loss for me personally. I first came to really know John  when we served on the first Board of Directors for what was then the Independent Running Retailer Association (now the Running Industry Association). My first impression of him was that he was a somewhat grumpy, straight forward individual who was not afraid to speak his mind. As I came to know him better, it was as a man who cared deeply about our industry, the many relationships he'd fostered in it and for the people that we serve on a daily basis. Beneath the rough exterior was an extremely caring man, with a loveable, somewhat dry sense of humor and a passion for driving himself and our industry to be better. I came to believe that the ‘Grumpy Old Guy’ persona was more of an act he enjoyed portraying, than it was his true nature. Personally, he was my friend, someone I could always count on to give me sound guidance and advice, and/or a proverbial kick-in-the-pants (if needed). His departure leaves a difficult to fill void, both in my life, but also in an industry that he cared so deeply about. Farewell Dear Friend.”

— Scott Dvorak, Founder/Owner, Charlotte Running Company

“I was so shocked and saddened to hear the news, as I always LOVED having John stop by our booth at TRE to heckle us relentlessly! He was so full of wit and sarcasm, but always had some words of wisdom sprinkled in as well. His ability to blend it all together was really special.”

— Holly Wiese, 3 Dots Design