It took someone with some vision and determination to do the heavy lifting for the Citrus Road Runners.
The club of 135 is prospering under president Chris Moling. But he and everyone in the organization knows they owe a debt of gratitude to Colon Joiner.
Joiner, 68, was president of the Citrus Road Runners from 1998-2002.
Like many people, he took his time getting back to the Sunshine State. He originally is from McIntosh in North Marion County but had lived in Tennessee and Arkansas.
Joiner spent most of his business career with the U.S. Post Office. He retired as the southern regional manager of accounting in Memphis, Tenn., in 1991.
But Joiner was not one to be inactive. He did a lot of volunteer work, including a stint as the Arkansas state director of the Ozark Society, an environmental organization. He also was state commissioner for the Arkansas for Natural and Scenic Rivers Commission.
Joiner and his wife, Robbie, were living in Little Rock, Ark. Then they moved to Citrus County in 1994, and Joiner couldn't just stay home.
He was involved with Friends of the Central Ridge Library. An avid runner, Joiner also joined the Ocala Running Club and served on its board of directors.
He formed the Citrus Road Runners in 1998 after noticing that many county people were traveling all over the place to participate in events.
"I was running in road races in Gainesville, Ocala and the area," Joiner said. "I saw the same faces from Citrus County and Dunnellon. I realized there were lots of runners in the county. They had only one run through Whispering Pines Park back then, and it was put on by Citrus County.
"I decided I would form a club. I thought we could make a go with 15 people. The last 5-mile run through the park, there were only 24 runners at the race. I ran in the race and distributed flyers at the awards ceremony."
Joiner said 24 people showed for the first organizational meeting. There were 15 who joined, and he was the president. The group was started to become a recreational and social club.
"I lived in a retirement village at Laurel Ridge near Beverly Hills," Joiner said. "I wanted to talk to runners. We actually elected officers. We joined the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) in July, 1998."
Joiner said the Citrus Road Runners set up one race. The run started and ended in the parking lot of the Withlacoochee State Trail in Holder. Since then, the event has moved to Citrus Springs Middle School.
"There were 93 runners who showed up for that race," he recalled.
In 1999, the club scheduled additional races. "We picked up support for Beat the Sheriff in conjunction with Phil Royal," Joiner said. "We are running it now."
The organization adopted support and promotion of youth running in Citrus County and Dunnellon.
"We started doing timing at cross country and track," Joiner said. "We brought the clocks out to cross country to support those programs. We also contributed $500 to each of the schools for them to go to summer camp at Brevard College in North Carolina."
The club puts on an area cross-country meet for middle schools, and it runs the Citrus Summer Showdown.
Joiner used to compete in several races and especially remembers carrying the 2002 Olympic torch in Miami.
He found out in 1999 that he has Parkinson's. The disease slowed down the distance runner to the point that he no longer competes, and Joiner takes medicine to control the problem.
"I continued administratively doing everything I had done," he said. "My ability to do everything began to diminish. I was not performing that job in the fashion I wanted to perform it. Chris took over in 2002."
Moling has led the organization to additional races, including the Crystal River Rotary Club Summer Triathlon Series and the Grand Prix Road Warriors Series.
"I definitely like what I see," Joiner said. "I am thrilled to have Chris Moling. I am thrilled with the things he has done and is doing. One of my friends said I would never be satisfied with anyone who has taken over. He was flat wrong."
Joiner used to worry about "the possibility of seeing the club die," he said. "I think it might have happened if we hadn't found Chris."
The Joiners now live in Ocala. He has since been through knee surgery but remains on the board of directors. He spends his summers in Blowing Rock, N.C., 13 miles from Boone.
These days, Joiner does carpentry. He and Paul Dory, a club member, are working on a 12 x 24 workshop in the back of Joiner's house. Dory also serves on the board.
Joiner recently was honored at a Road Runners meeting. Moling holds Joiner in the highest regard.
"Colon is truly one of the most giving, unselfish, understanding people," Moling said. "He is truly enthusiastic about running. He is just a good person and has gone out of his way for a lot of people. He is highly intelligent, very warm and friendly. He started it all. It is his vision, his direction.
"When I met Colon, he needed someone to take over the club," Moling said. "He promised to not abandon me. He stayed with me for three years. He didn't pass the torch and move on. I think he is one of the few people who enjoys the sport of running _ not just the act of running."
Every club needs people such as Joiner and Moling running the show. The Citrus Road Runners are fortunate to have both.
TRIATHLON: DRC Athletic Event Management will have the Nature Coast Winter Duathlon at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 16 at Crystal River Mall.
The event is a 2-mile run, 10-mile bike ride and 2-mile run.
An entry form is available on crtri.com or at 7:30 p.m. on the day of the race. The pre-registration cost is $35.
For information, call (352) 637-2475.
RUNNING: The 26th annual Flatlanders Challenge is scheduled for Jan. 29 in Brooksville.
The 10K (6 miles) starts at 8:30 a.m. The 2-mile fun run is at 9:45. The event is part of the Road Warriors Grand Prix Series and sponsored by the Red Mule Runners Club.
The starting point is south of the Brooksville Library on Main Street.
The cost is $17 pre-race and $20 race day for the 10K. The 2 mile is $12 before the event and $15 the day of the race.
Runners can register at active.com, www.redmulerunners.com or by calling Chuck Boldt, (352) 688-6484.
_ Larry Bugg can be reached at larrybuggmsn.com.