Melvin Joslin holds the T-shirt that was presented to runners who participated in the first FunFest 5k 24 years ago. Joslin, who organized the first run, will be honored at the start of the RunFest 5k scheduled at FunFest on Oct. 19. He will be the official starter for the race.

The inaugural running of the RunFest 5k on Oct. 19 will have a historical start.

The historical significance of “RunFest at FunFest” runs deeper than the fact that this is the first time for a Royse City 5k that’s scheduled under the “RunFest 5k” banner.

The historical key is Melvin Joslin.

Joslin organized the very first 5k when FunFest was born 24 years ago. He will participate in the RunFest 5k scheduled this year.

His participation may not sound too noteworthy, but it is. He’s a seasoned runner with about 35 years experience. And he’s 82 years old.

Because of his historical contributions to Royse City, FunFest and running, Joslin will be honored as the official starter of the RunFest 5k that will begin and finish at City Lake Park in Royse City.

This will be Joslin’s first call of “On your mark. Get set. Go.” However, he’s heard those running orders more than 200 times as a competitive runner and many times as a newspaper photographer for the old Royse City News.

For years, Joslin would find a spot in the street facing the runners at the starting line. He would snap a picture of the start, hand off his camera to someone standing nearby, then join in the race.

FunFest has thrived over the years. A running event on FunFest day has not.

Joslin said the first FunFest 5k he organized was a small one with about 25 runners.

The next year, a big obstacle was traffic in downtown. All motorists weren’t too anxious to share the streets with runners.

And crossing the railroad tracks could have caused some problems. Fortunately, Joslin said, the race was not affected by a passing-through freight train.

Joslin didn’t go for a third year because of the lack of volunteers. He said a lot of people made commitments to help him, but they didn’t show up when he needed them — on raceday.

The Stick Robinson Memorial Fun Run was started in 2000 and became a popular local running event on the morning of FunFest.

The race honored Desmond “Stick” Robinson, who stood only 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed 165 pounds in high school.

He inspired many around him with his courage on the football field and in his long battle with leukemia.

The illness claimed his life before he could realize a lifelong dream of playing professional football.

Robinson was a 1,000-yard rusher in both high school with the Royse City Bulldogs and at Ottawa University in Kansas, where he earned all-conference honors in 1993 and 1994 and was an NAIA all-America player in 1993.

The Stick Robinson Memorial Fun Run was discontinued two years ago.

Joslin said he began running about 35 years ago after hearing people talk about how running was good for your health. He was a fast runner on short runs in high school, Joslin said, and he decided to try longer distances.

His first challenge occurred near his home on Hunt County Road 2656. The distance to the end of the road was about 1.5 miles, and he used the distance between utility poles on the road to measure his success.

Pretty quickly, Joslin said, he “gave out and found out just how out of shape I was.

“I kept practicing and before long I could run all the way down the road and back,” he said. “Then, after a few months, I could run forever it seemed like.”

He still runs that same route today three times a week.

Joslin said he credits running for saving his life, and not just the training regimen that’s given him a well-conditioned body.

During some of his runs, Joslin said, he started noticing that he was having chest pains.

He ignored them for awhile, but decided to finally contact his doctor. Joslin had heart bypass surgery.

Joslin wasn’t sidelined for long. He started running again two weeks later.

Melba, his wife of 57 years, shook her head as she heard her husband telling about resuming his running two weeks after surgery.

“I told him not to do it, but he went ahead and did it anyway,” she said.

Joslin has run 5k and 10k races, along with one half marathon and two marathons. He enjoys running local races, especially the Fox Trot in Caddo Mills.

He’s won many medals and trophies over the years. He’s most proud of his most recent trophies — for winning first in the age division for runners over 80 years old.

How long does Joslin plan to keep running?

“As long as the Lord will let me. As long as I’ve got my health,” he answered.

Joslin said many people are “surprised and amazed” that he’s still running at his age.

“I’m here for a particular reason and that’s to serve the Lord,” he said, adding that he wants to be an example to younger men and encourage them to “keep on running.”

He said he wants them to see that running is good for them.

“And if I can do it,” he said. “They can, too.”

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