Cover Story: Bob and Mary Ann Roncker Establish Xavier Endowment - It’s all About Running!

By Julie Isphording

  • XU cross country coach Ryan Orner, Bob Roncker, assistant coach Adrianna Davidek and XU student athletes in training.   XU cross country coach Ryan Orner, Bob Roncker, assistant coach Adrianna Davidek and XU student athletes in training.
  • Bob Roncker with one of him many training groups Bob Roncker with one of him many training groups
  • Bob and Mary Ann’s children Neill and Jessica Roncker Bob and Mary Ann’s children Neill and Jessica Roncker
  • Bob and Mary Ann Roncker on another travel adventure Bob and Mary Ann Roncker on another travel adventure

Bob Roncker gave me my first pair of running shoes, and my second pair and my hundredth; and, he taught me how to dream big and run fast.

Bob gave me his wisdom, guidance and passion for running. He coached me - and thousand of others along the way -to take the small steps and enjoy where those steps take you.

“Each and every one of us has the power to take small steps in our lives - small changes that can add up to a big impact. Running can truly make a difference in our health, in our lives, and in those around us,” he said.

Bob Roncker’s life has been filled with running adventures. Some people call him the running shoe guy - and yes, he probably has sold more running shoes than anyone we know. Others refer to him as a running pioneer who coached an entire city to run.

Bob opened a chain of running stores - Bob Roncker’s Running Spot - that drew people to the joy, beauty and challenge of running. Bob sold all the stores, but he continues to inspire all of us, and support the sport of running in Cincinnati. Most recently, he and his wife Mary Ann set up a special endowment at Xavier University to support the Track and Field/Cross Country Team.

I caught up with Bob to talk about his generous Xavier endowment and his life without the stores:
You have so many great roles - runner, businessman, coach, husband, teacher, father, advocate, of which are you most proud?
Without question, the two most important roles are being a husband and father. Mary Ann and I were married in 1971. We have two children, Neill and Jessica. Mary Ann is a fantastic person. Her capacity to help others is unbelievable. I am in awe of all she does. I also find if I say, “Yes, dear.” things seem to go just fine. I'm very proud of the adults our kids have become.
Even after we opened the Running Spot, I never regarded myself as being purely a businessman. I still considered myself a teacher, although the subject matter and the environment differed from a traditional classroom. Certainly, through the Running Spot, we advocated for individuals to pursue a healthy lifestyle involving running and walking.

Why is the the endowment at Xavier important to Mary Ann and you? 
The original intent of the endowment is to fund a salary for a permanent assistant coach in the cross-country and track and field programs. I freely admit to being prejudiced. I feel individuals drawn to the sports of cross-country and track and field tend to be good people. They are the type of persons I would like my children to associate with. A quality athletic program that attracts these students not only benefits the University but ultimately, upon graduation, if they choose to remain here, we all gain from their talents.

As a previous coach for the Xavier Cross-Country team, why is this endowment important?
I know from experience that being a coach is very time consuming. With Ryan Orner, Xavier has a quality person and coach as their leader. However, as much as he may try, he finds only 24 hours exist in the day. So much effort is required of a quality program. The endowment will greatly benefit Xavier’s programs by providing the resources to hire and retain someone to assist Ryan. Currently, without the money to adequately pay a full time assistant coach, continuity in the program has been lacking.

Who gave you the best advice and what was it?
Carl Rogers! His advice was to allow your gut instinct to guide many of your actions. I took that guidance to heart, and it has served me well with some of my life decisions. For example, I proposed to my wife after first meeting her six weeks earlier; and there were many reasons why our running business should have failed. We had very little starting capital and zero business experience. What we did have was a feeling that this was a service for others where I was uniquely qualified.

Best part about getting older?
At 74, I enjoy reflecting on past experiences and noting how they contribute to who I am today. There is little that I regret or wish had gone in a different direction. I realize that I am on the downhill slope. However, if I could reinvent myself at any age of my life, I am content being where I am right now.

I am looking forward to …
Visiting northern Mexico’s Copper Canyon someday. These canyons are deeper and wider than our Grand Canyon. To arrive there you can ride a train, which is the only passenger train remaining in Mexico, whose route is an engineering marvel. It travels through numerous tunnels and overlooks deep valleys on its way to the Canyon.

I would most like to learn how to…
Improve my fluency in Spanish. I would like to be at the level were I could comfortably converse with native Spanish speakers. 

Given all your career accomplishments, what are the ones most meaningful?       
The Running Spot was selected as the top running specialty store in the country. This was gratifying to me; but, it also demonstrated the quality and caliber of employees who worked at the stores. Knowing and associating with these individuals was one of the most enjoyable parts of my job. I was a lucky individual who was able to turn an avocation into a vocation.

Can you remember some particularly wonderful moments in your life?
The day that Mary Ann accepted my proposal of marriage and the births of each of our children stand out to me.

Looking back at your life, is there any advice you would give to children today?
Have a dream. Surround yourself with good people and work hard to be the best that you can be.

The biggest risk I’ve ever taken is…
Opening The Running Spot with two small kids, a house with a 14% loan, less than $30,000 in working capital and no business plan. Fortunately, I DID have a tremendously supportive wife, the drive to work hard and the dream of making an impact. We opened for business in March of 1981 - a small 1000 square foot store, down the street from the current O’Bryonville location - and we retired 34 years later.

If you would like to contribute to the Bob Roncker Assistant Coach endowment at Xavier, simply go online to and press the GIVE button. You can also contact  or call 513-745-3223.

Xavier Track & Field/Cross Country Coach Ryan Orner has had a tremendously successful run at Xavier. Here is what he had to say about the team and Bob and Mary Ann Roncker:

What are the biggest challenges of coaching at Xavier?
One of my biggest challenges at the moment is the lack of a full-time assistant coach.   

What does this endowment mean to you and the future for Xavier track and country?
The endowment will be tremendous for the future of Xavier University Cross Country and Track.  Having a full-time assistant would help enhance what I've built over the past four years and establish consistency with my staff.  It's so important to have an experienced assistant coach who can help with recruiting, assist with daily practice and meet preparation and logistics.  

What is your favorite part of coaching….e.g. why do you do it?
I always say my job is about three things: helping my athletes succeed academically, helping them grow as individuals and finally making them faster. My student/athletes are like family to me, they keep me young and inspired to be a better coach every day.

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