Running with purpose: After Parkinson’s diagnosis, runner aims to encourage others through Carmel Marathon 5K


Jennifer and Rob Joyce have always been dedicated to staying active, whether it’s competing in marathons, triathlons or masters swimming events.

“We wanted to set a good example for our children and now our children’s children that exercise is a very important part of life and necessary to help live a long life,” Jennifer said. “Plus, we enjoy the challenge because every race day is a different experience.”

The Westfield couple will compete in the 5K portion of the Carmel Marathon, which is set for April 8 beginning and ending near the Palladium. Jennifer has another motivation now.

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Rob and Jennifer Joyce are regualar participants in the Carmel Marathon Weekend event. (Photos courtesy of Jennifer Joyce)

Jennifer was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in June 2020 but only recently went public about her diagnosis.

“I exercise six days a week either running, walking or riding a Peloton,” Jennifer said. “We are planning on running in the Choose to Move fundraising race for the Indiana Parkinson Foundation April 29 and are looking forward to other races as they open up this year.”

Jennifer wants to encourage others with Parkinson’s.

“My doctor typically told me that because of all the training and working out I’ve been doing that will definitely help me in the end, it’s disease-altering. I’ve tried to come up with some unusual things to do along with it, like hula hooping and obstacle courses, so I’m picking up things that aren’t the usual to see if I can help with my fine motor skills. My husband and I can play foosball every night and it really helps a lot with fine motor skills. It was my birthday and Rob is sorry he got it for me because he’s tired of playing.”

Jennifer, a 1981 Carmel High School graduate, also decided to take up playing the piano to help with fine motor skills.

Rob, 62, said he is 100 percent behind Jennifer in support.

“She thinks it’s really important to send a message in the community, to our children and our friends that, ‘hey, you can work through this stuff even though it’s hard,’” Rob said.

Jennifer wants to help guide other women who have Parkinson’s. According to, women have a lower risk of developing the disease.

“I want people, especially people that I’ve known for years, to know that they can reach out,”  said Jennifer, a senior marketing strategist. “You can’t just do it yourself.”

Rob has his own challenges when it comes to running.

“Rob tore his meniscus in his knee, which encouraged him to get back in the pool to help his knee,” Jennifer said. “That’s how we got into the Carmel Masters Swim Team.”

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Chelsey Dean, left, and her mother, Jennifer Joyce, compete in Carmel Marathon.

Rob usually walks more than he runs because of the knee.

The couple’s three children, Brendan, Robbie and Chelsey, were swimmers for Carmel High School and Carmel Swim Club. Brendan swam at Purdue University. Brendan’s wife, Lauren Stauder Joyce, swam at CHS and University of Notre Dame.

Rob and Jennifer did triathlons for several years before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. They haven’t done swimming events since the pandemic. They previously competed in a half Ironman.

Jennifer recently injured her foot.

“So I’m just praying that I can finish it,” Jennifer said.

Jennifer has done every race, full and half marathons, 10K and 5K.

“I’ve not attempted the full marathon, nor will I,” Rob said.

The two have competed in the Carmel Marathon every year of the race.

“Carmel Marathon organizers, like Todd Oliver, have put so much effort into making it a safe and fun race that we would be disappointed to not be a part of it,” Jennifer said.

This year, opening ceremonies begin at 7:45 a.m. The 5K and 10K start are 8 a.m. with the marathon and half marathon starting at 8:10 a.m.

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Holly Read finishes third in the 2021 Carmel Marathon. (Photo courtesy of Holly Read)

Ready for marathon return

Carmel resident Holly Read finished third with a time of 2 hours, 45 minutes and 14 seconds in the 2021 Carmel Marathon, her third marathon ever.

“Honestly, my goal for this race is to go out and have fun and see what my body can do on the day,” Read said. “It’s been two years since I’ve run a marathon because I’ve been sick for the better part of the last two years, so even though I’ve trained for several marathons, I haven’t made it to the start line of any of them due to sickness. I am just happy to make it to the start line again. My training has been completely different this cycle so I have nothing to compare it to in order to set a specific time goal, but a PR would be nice.”

Read, 37, competed as a runner at Portland State University.