'I saw on Mason's face what we were doing, the joy and smiles': Bristol father and son bond through running

Published on Wednesday, 21 September 2022 13:04
Written by Dean Wright


BRISTOL – In preparation for the Eversource Hartford Marathon and Half Marathon on Oct. 8, a father and son team has been spending the last several weeks training for the running event as part of a lifelong journey in overcoming adversity, spreading awareness and looking to give back.

Saying he had never run a mile straight before, Jim Joyce, 62, of Bristol and his son, 32-year-old Mason Joyce, started participating in foot races in 2014 as a means of creating a unique bonding experience. Mason lives with cerebral palsy and epilepsy and his father pushes him in a running chair across running and walking courses.

Calling themselves Team Mason, the pair have been chosen by the Hartford Marathon Foundation to be members of the 2022 Inspiration Team in the half-marathon portion of the event. The Inspiration Team highlights those who overcome adversity with persistence and determination.

Jim said the first event he and his son took part in was the 2014 Petit Family 5k Road Race. As part of a conversation held with an acquaintance at a local gym, Jim was introduced to Kevin Toomey, a Bristol teacher, an assisted wheelchair-pushing marathon runner and marathon runner, himself.

Toomey encouraged Jim and his son to consider taking part in such events and before long they were dashing and rolling across pavement, turning the activity into a cornerstone of the pair’s relationship.

“Kevin was taking pictures during the race and running in front of me,” said Jim. “I saw on Mason’s face what we were doing, the joy and smiles. He was very excited and engaged.”

Jim credited Toomey with “showing him the ropes” of the running community and moving with his son.

“I knew right then that this is something that both of us could do together,” continued Jim. “It’s like a dad asking his son out to play ball and have a catch. That’s what I equate to the bonding that we have to us running together. We make memories.”

Team Mason has run over 60 races and makes training runs consistently. 

“Every Saturday, I’m pushing him on trails or around the community,” said Jim. 

A half-marathon consists of roughly 13 miles of running and Mason and Jim will be participating in that portion of the Hartford event. However, Jim said the two of them had run marathons as well.

“Hartford is right here,” he said. “There’s no traveling or logistical problems for me with Mason. We can get up and go and the people running are great.”

Jim said a race day can start off at 4 a.m. with getting Mason and himself prepared before a race that might start at 7 or 8 a.m. It takes dedicated preparation to engage in the pair’s favored activity, however, it’s all worth it, said the father.

“It’s a pleasure to take care of him,” said Jim. “That’s what a father does. When we go to these runs, people are so supportive. They hit you on the shoulder while they run with you and say ‘keep it up.’”

Mason’s sister, Kelsey Joyce, will often also run with her father and brother, sometimes taking over pushing for half of a race. Running has become a family pastime. 

While a family activity, Team Mason participates in Team Hoyt New England, traveling across the region at times as part of a running community looking to redefine and empower families living with the challenges of cerebral palsy and beyond.

Jim said it was important to get people up and active and to think about what possible things they could achieve and to not dwell on the past. Running with Team Mason, the pair at times answer questions about what it’s like living with cerebral palsy as a form of community outreach.

In its simplest form though, Team Mason is about heart and the love of family.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Wednesday, 21 September 2022 13:04. Updated: Wednesday, 21 September 2022 13:07.