GREENFIELD — Do not confuse Tom and Sara Joyner with running fanatics.
They are not.
Though they have combined to compete in nearly two dozen half-marathons, the Joyner Homes owners and operators of Greenfield’s The Villa at Timber Run housing community don’t put foot to pavement for the thrill of the wind in their hair.
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After all, Tom sports a buzz cut and Sara, well, she doesn’t even like running.
“I’ve joked about this for a long time now,” Sara said with a smile.
“But really, I don’t enjoy the act of running. It’s just not super fun.”
What Sara and her husband said they do enjoy are the byproducts the exercise offers.
They enjoy being physically capable of running a half-marathon or 5K at a moment’s notice. They enjoy providing their children a superb example of a healthy lifestyle. They enjoy the opportunity to put on their headphones, listen to some music and tune out the world for a while.
For the Joyners, there are probably dozens of reasons to run. These are just a few.
The decision to begin their Joyner Homes venture together in Greenfield was about more than finding the ideal locale for building a housing community. For the high school sweethearts from small-town Ohio, it was about finding an ideal community to build a family.
When they arrived in Indiana, they discovered the same charm, the same Midwestern values they treasured so dearly back east. What they searched for next was a sense of community. The first place they looked was at the Monumental Half Marathon in Indianapolis, the first half-marathon of their lives.
“It just felt like an Indiana thing to do,” Sara said.
They haven’t stopped running since.
Road to relief
When they began Joyner Homes back in 2009, the housing market was in shambles, Tom said. Sometimes, there would be days where they’d feel like the risk they’d taken moving from Ohio to start their own business was a mistake. But as the pressure mounted, running offered relief.
“In our business, you’re going to have good days and bad days, ups and downs,” Tom said. “But running was that one thing you can totally take into your control and say, ‘I definitely got that done today.’”
“There were times that we just needed to be able to work toward a goal and achieve it,” Sara said. “Running gave us that.”
The days before running took hold of their lives are a distant memory, but one such recollection sticks out firmly in Tom’s mind.
“We went from high school to about age 30 without doing anything athletic,” said Tom, 36, of he and Sara, 35. “The funny thing about Miami is when we were there, they had just built like a $30 million rec center, but we would walk over there to get the cheese calzones.”
“Things are very different now,” Sara chimed in with a laugh.
Different, indeed. Both Tom and Sara run for about 45 minutes nearly every day, while occasionally mixing in some other strength training. Their regiments began purely as a way to stay in shape as they aged, but has provided an another unexpected benefit. Their running has turned into a source of pride as parents.
“It really was just a byproduct, at first,” Tom said of his kids benefiting from their example. “But then we started noticing that they understood … and we started to realize what a good thing it was that our kids were growing up learning to do this.”
As of recently, their oldest daughter Josie, 9, has completed a pair of 5Ks; Tessa, their 8-year-old, has one under her belt, and Jack, their 5-year-old son, started one but only made it through a mile.
Sara and Tom are confident he’ll finish one soon.
As much as she loves her kids, sometimes Sara said, she just needs a little time for herself. Running affords her that opportunity. Whether it is for 45 minutes on the treadmill with her headphones on or on a weekend getaway with a friend, the Joyners love to escape the obligations of real life for just a little while.
“It’s just nice having control over something in our lives,” Sara said. “When we started running, we had two kids, 2 and 3 years old. It can be stressful. Running is a good way to get away from parenting responsibilities.”
“You might think about work a little while you’re doing it,” Tom said, “but mostly you just kind of zone out. It’s nice.”
Feels so good
The Joyners are not huge fans of running, but they are addicted to the euphoria that comes after it’s over.
“If you could bottle up how you feel at the end of a workout and apply it to how you feel before,” Sara said, “you’d go work out every day. “It feels awesome when you’re done.”
Plus, added Tom, there are few better feelings than the sense of accomplishment you get knowing you ran just a little faster or a little farther this time than last.
Sara and Tom never want to run without that feeling, so they are constantly setting short-term and long-term goals for themselves.
Tom wants to run a half-marathon in under 1 hour and 40 minutes. His personal best is 1:43.12. He also is trying to log 1,000-plus miles this year and is well on his way at about 550.
Sara, meanwhile, is trying to break 1:40. She also hopes to add one more marathon to her schedule every year. In 2011, she ran one. In 2012, she ran two. In 2013, she ran three. Sara wants to continue that pace all the way to 10 half-marathons in 2020.
“You have to always be planning for something,” Sara said. “If you don’t have a goal, you won’t run.”
Competition and camaraderie
For Tom, running satisfies a craving. A soccer player in high school, the competitive fires have long burned within him. Running, he said, allows him to compete against both himself and others, yet also lets him feel a part of something bigger.
“With this,” Tom said of running mini-marathons, “you’re mostly competing against yourself, always trying to set a new personal best. But there’s also that other part. Knowing you’re out there with other elite athletes, it makes you feel part of a team.”
A whole new world
From East Coast to West, running has proved an excellent source of adventure.
Sara has run marathons in California, Texas, Georgia, and Colorado. There’s something special, she said, about taking in an environment on foot instead of behind the wheel.
“I remember in Colorado, the path started at the top of a mountain, and we ran through a pass,” Sara said. “It was beautiful. I mean, you could have driven through it, but you just wouldn’t have gotten to really see it.”
Occasionally, Tom admits, things can go wrong. Like when he was surrounded by a pack of wild dogs while going for an early-morning run in Palestine.
That’s wasn’t ideal, Tom said. But most of the time running in foreign land doesn’t result in a near death experience.
“There are plenty of times I don’t want to run,” Sara said.
The same goes for Tom, but that’s the challenge, isn’t it? He said there are always going to be dozens of reasons not to run. Work, the kids, the pain, all of it provides a myriad of excuses to put if off, to sit on the couch, watch TV and relax.
And doing that is great, Tom said, but there is something intoxicating about doing it after an intense workout.
What is it?
“After coming back from a 45-minute run, it’s like you’ve earned the right the relax to the rest of the day.”
Sara and Tom Joyner went from fitting in little to no daily exercise to competing in mini-marathons every year since 2009. The transition wasn’t easy. The Joyner Homes owners and operators of Greenfield’s The Villa at Timber Run housing community had to start slow and build their way. Here are few things they recommend to get started and to stay motivated.
- Sign up for a race. A financial commitment is an excellent motivator to train consistently.
- Distract yourself. One of the biggest challenges of running is building mental endurance. Working out can be boring, Tom said, so find a way to keep entertained. Watch a movie. Listen to music. Read a book. Do anything that helps make the run feel shorter.
- Find a training program. Jumping off the couch into a 5K is tough, so find a workout regiment that can help you build stamina. Sara recommends the aptly named “Couch to 5K” plan that can easily be found online. It helped her transform from the “run one minute, walk two minutes” exerciser she started as into the mini-marathoner she is today.