Mother & son taking on fourth Boilermaker, pushing for more Athletes in Tandem to join

Local News

If you see Barb Williams and her 15-year-old son Rhys in their Oneida neighborhood with their dog, “Indy,” they aren’t just taking a stroll — they’re preparing for their fourth Boilermaker.

The pair has raced in the 15k and 5k, paving the way for other Athletes in Tandem to line up at the road race. 

This year, they will run the 5k at the Boilermaker.

“Whenever we talk about the races, he gets very excited,” Barb said. “Last year when he knew were doing the full Boilermaker, he was up at 4 a.m., which is a little harsh for mom because mom did not want to be up at 4 a.m.”

Each time they earn a finisher’s medal or pick up a race T-shirt, Rhys wears it proudly to school. He will be a ninth grader at Madison Oneida BOCES next fall.

Rhys is legally blind and was born with cerebral palsy, so he requires constant care. 

His mother says when they race together — her pushing him in a strolle r– you can see the bright sneakers he wears, but you may have to pay close attention to feel the pure joy and energy radiating from him. 

“It’s just so hard to try to get people to look past the disability, so when we’re running, we’re just out there running,” Barb said. 

Altogether, Barb is pushing about 100 pounds as she’s running with Rhys on board and all the supplies they need.

Every race is an opportunity to remind everyone they’re just part of the running pack. They race 10 to 12 times a year picking up bibs and medals all packed with precious memories.

“It’s just so hard to try to get people to look past the disability, so when we’re running, we’re just out there running,” Barb shared. “We’re just part of a community. It’s not about his disability. It’s just about getting out there and having the wind in your face.”

The road is not always smooth. Rhys has undergone several serious procedures — three hip surgeries and two surgeries for his spine. Getting back on the road was their main goal.

“I probably would have quit running a long time ago, if it wasn’t for him,” Barb said.

Barb and Rhys will race in the Arc of Onondaga’s annual run again this September. 

Click here for more information on how you can join Athletes in Tandem.

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