A father's legacy kept running
When established runner and Cranston mainstay Will Speck died in 2003, his loved ones searched for the proper way to honor his legacy. There was no better way to do it than a race, and no better time than Father’s Day.
“We started the race in 2004 and decided to hold it on Father’s Day,” Speck’s daughter, Juliette Deroxas, said. “At the time there were a good number of races around so it was hard to find a good time of year, so it seemed right to have it on Father’s Day because it was in memory of my father. It just kind of worked out to have it on that day.”
Speck ran his entire life and had the results to show for it. Perhaps his best performance on the course was a seventh-place finish at the Boston Marathon in 1971. Deroxas couldn’t put a firm number on the amount of races he had done, but she put the estimate somewhere in the hundreds.
Speck even ran the CLCF track program for 11 years until his death and brought cross-country to the organization in 2000. The CLCF Will Speck Youth Cross Country Invitational has been running for 15 years. He didn’t do it to rack up the medals or for any recognition. He was all about his pure love for running.
“He was quite a runner and well known in the Cranston community,” Deroxas said. “He was very modest. He didn’t tell anyone he was seventh in the Boston Marathon.”
Speck, who was in perfect health, had a heart condition that went unnoticed. He went out to exercise one morning in 2003 and was later discovered in his running clothes. Since then, he has been remembered annually at the Will Speck Memorial 5K, which finishes on the track that bears his name at Cranston High School West.
When the race first began, Deroxas said scholarships were presented to East and West, but she wanted to extend the impact of the event even further. Ever since a group of runners from the Providence Ronald McDonald House began partaking in the 5K, the light bulb went on.
“I wanted to have a bigger mark with more people,” Deroxas said, adding that money also goes to the running programs at East and West. “For the past 10 years we’ve been donating the proceeds, as much as the race brings in. We cover the cost and they get the rest. We’ve given as much as $5,000.”
Those interested in signing up for the 13th Annual Will Speck Memorial 5K can do so at willspeckmemorial.com or at racewire.com. Registration is $20 until Saturday, while the price jumps to $25 on the day of the race. The 5K, which draws between 200 and 300 participants, starts promptly at 9:30 a.m.
The day isn’t just for adults or seasoned runners, either. The kids’ race begins at 8:45 a.m., and participants receive a t-shirt, ribbon and prize bag. The middle-school mile takes place prior to that event at 8:30 a.m.
“The more people come, the more people we help,” Deroxas said. “We’re not for profit. I’m not doing it for any other reason than to give back and honor my dad.”