by David Roy, Stephen Roy and Lori Roy
David Roy shared his love of running with his two children and the results of this gift are represented in three articles that follow. The stories range from Dad, David Roy, to accounts by his two children, Stephen and Lori, on how his running influenced them and brings them together even though they live in different parts of the United States. Once a year they choose a race to run together, usually a long challenging one to celebrate the sport that unites them. Enjoy reading the three accounts that bear witness to the fact that that time and geographical divisions cannot keep a family apart that runs.
Things just happen, fate, destiny? I enjoyed soccer not running. Soccer was running with a purpose. My first foray into running was in college where I was conned into running with a friend who wanted to Qualify for Boston. So, I ran the Johnstown Marathon with him and then ran sporadically, alone for a few more years till it seemed there wasn’t enough time to run.
Fast forward about 15 years to kids in high school. My son had to choose between 2 HS sports. He chose soccer, his first love, but started venturing into road races on his own. Races that were also open to me, so after some spousal prodding, I started running again. Mind you, I still wasn’t training, just running the races, and soon my daughter got in the act. Enter the marathon, I ran my first one while in college, so before they graduated college, we hatched a plan for all of us to enter the 2009 Wineglass Marathon.
You might think we knew what we were doing. Stephen and I went out too fast, sub 7, and by mile 13 we had slowed significantly. None of us were carrying any nutrition. Lori started at a much more sustainable pace but afterwards said that towards the end she walked a little, but that hurt worse than running. Stephen started to feel “niggles” and decided not to push it. I wasn’t as smart and decided to go for it. I still remember passing mile 22 about 3 times and reciting the mantra “push through the pain”. We finished but all were hurting. That should have been enough to swear off running marathons, but it was a significant accomplishment that we did together.
Present day, we are spread across the US. All 3 us have our own reasons for running, but it is special when we get to run together. Since 2009, I can chronical my life with runs I’ve done with either Stephen or Lori or both. We’ve run everything from 5K’s to Ultras, Road to Trail Runs. Relays and Teams.
I think we are all competitive and push ourselves to see what we are capable of but not with each other. There are races that we just run together. To his credit, Stephen is the master of not leaving anyone behind.
Memories we have because we ran together. Stephen and I ran the coldest Boston on record together in 2018. Athlete’s village was a mud hole, but fate smiled on us. We waited inside the High School, heated and dry, with the John Hancock runners and a full bathroom.
I ran several races with Stephen during 2019, starting with the All American at Fort Bragg NC. This one was a little special too since Josh Merlis timed it and made some humorous father/son comments at the finish line (you have to Love Josh).
This spring they both asked if I wanted to run with them. Of course I said yes and it started with “The Bataan Death Memorial March Marathon” in NM with Stephen, 6 days later the “Rosaryville Half Trail Run” in Maryland with Lori, followed by the “Helderberg to Hudson Half”, which was the only race I had actually planned on.
I run for the challenge and the feeling of achievement, but more importantly the family connections and the memories.
Some things happen.
Some things you have to make happen.
Don’t wait too long to make Running a Family Thing.
Stephen Roy – (Son)
Growing up, one of the stories my mom used to tell was how my sister started talking early, and I started walking early. That isn’t to say I was a speed demon - I distinctly remember getting beat by all the fast girls until junior high. But I wasn’t slow either; whether the result of an active childhood on the farm, lucky genetics, or a never-give-up mentality, I held my own during endurance events. Being counted on to run opponents into the ground for soccer or basketball and to score points during track meets laid a foundation never to quit. In addition, the endorphins accompanying a runners-high reinforced feelings of accomplishment and helped turn running into a life-long hobby.
While this is a story about our family running, we didn’t come together until we all went our separate ways. Lori didn’t start until senior year; Dad was busy between work and the farm, and Mom preferred support crew to running. So, it was a surprise when our first family race was a marathon in 2009; despite being apart, we were all still in New York and in good enough shape to complete a marathon without training.
Since then, we’ve overcome distance barriers (often continents apart) and time through careful race selection and monthly family challenges (usually on Garmin or Strava). We tend to pick longer races to run together -- “Never travel longer than you expect to run!” Furthermore, running is a staple of family discussion, along with gripes about work, weather updates, the state of the farm (and most recently, whatever Lori’s two-year-old has gotten into) as our go-to ice breakers for weekly phone calls.
While none of us go out trying to win a race anymore, it’s always a point of pride when Dad beats everyone within 20 years of his age group, Lori wins a random 5k while traveling for work, or I put down a 100-mile month. Recently Dad has traveled most for races this year, coming out to New Mexico to run with me and driving down to Maryland to run with Lori. We’re still working on selecting our next family race; email Dad if you have a recommendation for 2024!
My path to running was a little different than the rest of my family’s. Growing up, my brother and dad were the runners, while I took twelve years of ballet. Granted, I was not very good at ballet, but my family doesn’t quit things easily, so when the dance school closed my senior year of high school, I found myself with a sort of void to fill. I started running because Stephen and Dad did, so why not?
It turns out I wasn’t initially very good at running either. There are some people that start running and discover a hidden talent just waiting to be released. When I signed up for track, one of my jockish friends exclaimed, “Lori Roy signed up for a SPORT?” Shortly following that were lots of shin splints and lots of being last in races. Like, really last. As in, everyone else finished the 800 almost 45 seconds ago and I was out there awkwardly shuffling while some high school kid yells from the sidelines, “You should just give up now, everyone else has finished.”
But I finished, and I kept running, I think mostly because Stephen and Dad went with me. I remember Stephen literally running circles around me, which was annoying but also strangely supportive. It would have been easier for him to just leave me behind, but he didn’t. I remember my dad telling me as we slogged up a slow hill, “Your legs are fine. 90% of running is in your head.” It took me a long time to realize it and it’s taking me even longer to learn how to handle it, but most of my problems are 90% in my head and it’s my attitude toward them that matters most.
I was always inspired when my brother and my dad won their age groups, broke course records, laid down ridiculous monthly mileage totals, or just flat-out won entire races. Logically I knew that I shared those genes and that background, which gave me a mental boost when I didn’t believe in my own merit alone. Racing was always better as a family. There have been times when I’ve gone out there undertrained and not feeling my best, but I know we’re all holding each other accountable and all hoping that each one runs the best they can that day.
Even though races are the highlights of our running, I think my favorite times are when we just get to go for a regular run. It’s a rare thing these days. The pace doesn’t really matter, it’s mostly just the feeling of moving and spending time together, which is funny because the rest of the time running is “alone time” for me. When I think of running as a family, I think mostly of running the final stretch back to the house in Schoharie, probably on an early summer evening when the tiger lilies are blooming alongside the road and the fireflies are starting to come out. We went out there, we got our run in, but now the day is over and everyone is together at home.