By Don Lowe
While there’s a competitive side to running, the husband-and-wife tandem of Joe and Dina Hensley, along with their son, Joe, also recognize the healthy benefits to lacing up their sneakers and going the distance.
Dina said, “I wanted to become more active and maintain good health. I’m not very athletic, so I thought running/jogging would be a good option for me. I hate to say I’m a runner because I am not very fast. I like the term jogger.”
“I suffered with severe asthma attacks as a child but, oddly, could run fast and far when I wasn’t having episodes,” the elder Joe recalled. “Running became a way to try and strengthen my lungs and cope with the days when I couldn’t breathe or go outside.
“Running later became a way to lose weight for wrestling. After high school and college, distance runs became about the only way to continue to compete athletically.”
The younger Joe followed in his parents’ footsteps, so to speak, more recently and he related, “I began running because my friend, Noah Lankard, suggested that I join him at cross-country summer training. I liked it from the first day.”
Dina said, “The main reason I run/jog is it’s the one thing I have total control over. No matter what the weather is or what body part is hurting, I feel good about myself while I’m running. I also like races because my runs have a purpose.”
The elder Joe said, “It’s about getting a breath of fresh air from the stress of the day. I also get to decide how far I’m going to run, what route I’ll take, my pace and whether I listen to music, a podcast or nature. Other than the weather, I’m in total control.”
“I like the competitiveness of running,” the younger Joe said. “I not only compete against others, but also myself. I have a passion for running because I have the drive to do better each time I run.”
There are challenges, and the elder Joe admitted that with both he and his wife in their early 50s, there’s a battle with “Father Time. I also had knee surgery in 2022 and just didn’t bounce back like I’d hoped.
“Dina and I can’t recover from long runs like we used to, and it’s forced us to shift our focus. We often run race events together, even if one of us could’ve gone faster that day. A ‘win’ for us now is just finishing an event, rather than a medal or trophy.”
Dina said, “Running affects you physically, mentally and spiritually. The physical benefits are obvious. It strengthens your heart and lungs, helps with weight control and increases your endurance.
“The mental and spiritual benefits might not be as obvious but running helps to clear your mind and reduce anxiety while providing a feeling of self-worth. Running outside gives you a connection to nature and the beautiful world we don’t see tucked away in our houses, schools and offices.”
The younger Joe suggested, “The key is grit and the willingness to put in the work. You must put in the mileage that is appropriate for your goals, age and capabilities. You must also eat the right food and eat enough of it, drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest.
“You also must think outside the box. You need to stretch to help prevent injuries, do weightlifting routines designed for runners and cross-train with other cardio exercises. Running can wear out your joints and ligaments over time, but your body will last much longer if you do more than just run.”
Dina summed it up best in maintaining that what makes running so enjoyable “is pushing myself physically and mentally.”
Joe L. and Dina Hensley (and son Joseph A. Hensley) Fast Facts
Ages: Joe (50), Dina (51) and Joseph (15)
Joe and Dina Years Married: 22
Children: Joseph & Ella
Hometown: Webb City, Missouri
High School Alma Maters: Webb City High School (Joe, class of 1991; Dina, class of 1990; Joseph, class of 2026)
College Alma Maters: Joe, University of Missouri–Columbia, and Dina, Missouri Southern State University
College Degrees: Joe, B.A. Psychology in ’95 and Juris Doctor in ’98 (Mizzou); Dina, B.S. in Business Administration ’95 (MSSU) and Master’s Degree in Health Administration ’97 (Mizzou)
Careers: Joe, Judge/State of Missouri; Dina, leads Benefits & Payroll for Support Staff with Webb City R-7 School District
Greatest Accomplishments Running: Joe (Dogwood Canyon North Face 50K/15K Challenge and first place overall in 2019 Ranger Run); Dina (completed three marathons, several half-marathons and 25Ks, including the Dogwood Canyon 25K); and Joseph (in just one year of running has improved 5K time at every race)
Quotable: “My high school football coach, Jerry Kill, said something during a state football championship game in 1989 that I think about almost every day,” Joe Hensley reflected. “Our offense got stopped early in the game and, uncharacteristically, Coach Kill started laughing and yelling, ‘I’m glad it’s hard! I want it to be hard! If this was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it!’ Running fast for distance does not come easy for me, and if I’m being honest with myself, my best races are probably behind me. But I’m not bad at putting my head down and grinding out the miles, and there’s something fulfilling about accomplishing something that most people avoid because it’s hard.”