Grandson of longtime marathon race director to tackle Brookings event

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Editor’s note: This is the second of series of four articles being published in advance of the Brookings Marathon May 15. For more on the race, go to http://www.prairiestriders.net/brookings-marathon.html.

Whether preparing for a marathon or actually running a marathon, it’s a journey.

For Taylor Roberts, 40, of Spearfish, this year’s Brookings Marathon has been in the making since 2003, maybe longer. 

The Brookings native grew up around the marathon. His grandfather, Charles S. “Scotty” Roberts directed the marathon from 1981 through 2003, when it was called by its original name, the Longest Day Marathon. In addition to volunteering, he competed in the kids race around the Sexauer Field track at South Dakota State, where the race was then staged.

In 2003, he was training for the April marathon and had gotten up to 16 miles for a training run.  

An iliotibial band injury set back that plan. The year didn’t get better. His brother, Toby, died Sept. 25. His grandmother, Margaret Roberts, died Dec. 28. Taylor Roberts went from running to running away. He moved to New York and then Seattle. He became a chef, not an occupation conducive to marathon training.  

He also turned to alcohol, a demon he didn’t defeat until three years ago. Now he’s sober and taking courses through USD to become an addiction counselor.

Rediscovered running

And he is running again. The COVID-19 induced shutdown gave him the opportunity to return to marathon training and “take something off my bucket list,” Roberts said. He will turn 41 on May 15, the date of the marathon. “I’m learning a lot about myself. What was my long run is now my short run. 

“It’s all a matter of motivation beating out excuses to get out the door every day. There are aches and pains that will come before you reach the finish line, but you can overcome that stuff.”

Long-distance training gives him time to think about “the people who have mentored me, extended their hand to me. … It’s a good way to solve problems,” Roberts said.

He counts his grandfather as a mentor.

“I remember going on a lot of walks with him, and soaking in what he had to say, I’m still learning the true meanings of that advice to this day.” (Note: Born in 1924, Roberts would have been in his mid-70s at this point. He ran 38 marathons and later turned to racewalking.)

‘Always wanted to help’

“When I think of my grandfather, it was the attitude he carried through life. He just had this attitude, he always wanted to help others and do his part in the community.  “Now you’re cooking, now go get ’em,’’ Roberts would tell his grandson when he made progress in any area of life. “He just had that drive to keep going, to make everything and every day count.”

Before beginning marathon training in November, Taylor Roberts was only running two or three miles a week – an occasional run to say that he did run.

Scotty Roberts also was 40 when he took up running. Taylor remembers his grandfather telling him how his habit of undertaking Canadian fitness test activities transpired into running. “I remember how he told me stories of running every day with no days off for two years. If he had a busy day, he might run from 11:45 p.m. to 12:15 a.m. to cover two days in one run.

Shooting for 4:10 in Brookings

“I always remember Grandfather running” and their trips together evolved around running.

Scotty Roberts ran the last of his 38 marathons on Nov. 3, 1991, at age 67, but he continued to run the Jack 15 until age 72 and continued to run until age 74. He still remained active with cycling, golf and table tennis. Taylor Roberts recalls, “I started playing ping pong with him when I was kid; didn’t beat him until he was 75 or 76.”

Roberts has a plaque from when his grandfather ran the Boston Marathon on April 15, 1974, in 4 hours, 10 minutes. He would like to match that at Brookings.

He has been pleased with his training. “I’m blessed to be here in Spearfish. My long runs are on Canyon Road. I listen to a lot of podcasts, but I lose the internet after seven miles on Canyon Road. Then it becomes my time to soak in the scenery and attempt to go with the flow and ease what’s on my mind ” Roberts said

Parents to cheer Roberts on

He doesn’t run with a watch, but said he averages 9:30- to 10-minute miles on long runs. A 9:33 pace would have him finishing in 4:10.

At the Brookings Marathon he expects to be cheered by his mother, Sarah Roberts-Colwes of Brookings, and his dad, Lance Roberts of Pierre. 

Armed with a Hal Higdon training and memories of his grandfather, Roberts expects to make the most of his 41st birthday. And then, like Scotty, head to his next adventure, a half marathon in Boulder on Memorial Day.

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