It was deemed too tame.
The Annadel Loop was the toughest race on the Empire Runners event calendar, but was considered too easy by the standards of club members Alec “Doc” Isabeau and John “Mojo” Royston. So the pair decided to dream up a new event — they doubled the distance and pushed the date from September to November, presumably to maximize the potential for gnarly weather.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that the duo promised “prizes” to all finishers. One year they offered hats. When runners staggered across the finish line, they were handed sleeves that had been ripped from the shoulders of T-shirts. Voila — hats.
Isabeau and Royston found in each other — and shared with others — a love for going a little bit harder, a little bit farther. Their joint motto for their Empire Runners “Doc ’n’ Mojo Productions” was “It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.” The idea had followers: The 26th running of the Annadel Loop-de-Loop is planned for Nov. 4.
“He and (Mojo) were really into suffer-fests,” longtime Empire Runner and past president of the club Larry Meredith said. “They would push and push. It was amazing how much energy they had.”
This year the Loop-de-Loop and another Doc ’n’ Mojo production, the Riverfront Relay, will be run without either Royston or Isabeau. Royston died in September at the age of 63 after being diagnosed with melanoma in February 2017. And Isabeau, who was diagnosed with lung cancer six years ago, died Saturday. He was 56.
“They were two brothers from another mother,” Royston’s wife, Christina, said. “They loved to spur each other on in all aspects of life.”
When Isabeau met Royston in the early 1990s, they became partners in crime. The kindred spirits began conjuring up all manner of above-and-beyond adventure events: running, climbing, hiking — they got after it and invited friends to try to keep up.
If your run went off course? That was deemed a positive. It was “bonus suffering.”
When they didn’t feel like organizing runs, they organized backpacking trips. No wimps need apply.
“A lot of us would go and we’d dread it because they were so brutal,” Meredith said, chuckling. “We’d complain about it on the trip, but then we’d have memories forever of what we did and saw.”
Isabeau’s wife of 25 years, Lisa Titus Isabeau, met her husband — yep — at an Empire Runners track meet in 1991.
A chiropractor by trade, Isabeau was directing one of the club’s summer track meets in his white lab coat and tie.
“It wasn’t love at first sight, but there was something there,” she said. “He had an easygoing presence about him, a funny sense of humor, very easy to be around.”
They had their first date in September 1991 and were married by August 1992.
“He got me to extraordinary places that I would have never gotten to,” Titus Isabeau said.
He might have been born with it.
When Isabeau was 4 years old, his family went for a hike. Nineteen miles later, the Isabeaus called it a day. Alec Isabeau had walked every mile except the last, when he finally allowed his dad to carry him.