Avon Lake: Lifelong runner lives out dream of running his own business

Jay Toole, the owner of Runiversity and a lifelong runner, still competes in races today.

AVON LAKE - Jay Toole is a busy man this time of the year.

It is just after 9 a.m., and he has already finished a meeting and sucked down a cup of coffee. His body looks like it has been running for hours.

And for him, running is nothing new.

Besides being a lifelong runner, the Bay Village resident is the owner of the Runiversity, which will host the 7th Annual Veterans Honor Run on May 26 in Avon Lake. The event benefits the Valor Home of Lorain. (see information at the end of this story)

“I am a huge fan of basketball, I love playing flag football, but you need 20 guys and commitment to make that happen,” Toole said. “Whereas running, no matter what day, what time of day, where you are or how much money you have, you can go out the front door and run.”

Toole, 28, is the son of Lakewood High School track and cross country coach Stephanie Toole. Naturally, he became a runner thanks in part to his mother’s responsibilities.

“Probably since I was 2 years old, I was getting pushed in a stroller while she coached practice,” Toole said. “I was around running since I could walk.”

Toole was on the cross country and track teams from grade school through high school. When he graduated from Lakewood High School in 2009, he joined the triathlon club team at The Ohio State University.

After college, Toole said his goal was to find a job that had a salary and provided benefits. However, the job he chose was not fulfilling. After six months, Toole quit and decided to take a chance at starting his own business.

“Going into college, starting my own business had always been I guess a little bit of a pipe dream,” Toole said.

His first job experience was enough to persuade him to make it a reality. In 2013, the Runiversity was born.

“Runiversity at its core is a race-directing group runs and timing company,” Toole said. “We produce events and have charities and organizations come to us to produce events for them. A big focus is on the fundraising aspect of things, but we also have a lot of events that are about the social community aspect of things.”

Toole did not enter this business venture without experience, though. He was given the opportunity to tear down the Columbus Marathon while at OSU. He also interned at racing companies in high school and college, performing timing and course-setting duties.

Still, Toole said there was a huge learning curve for a few years. However, it did not take him long to settle in.

Nearly six years after he started Runiversity, Toole is hosting about 48 events yearly. From the middle of April through November, there is an event almost every weekend, in addition to events that occur during the week.

“Owning my own business gives me the autonomy to set my own schedule and be a part of what I want to be a part of,” Toole said.

One event that Toole referenced on multiple occasions is the Veterans Honor Run.

The event was started by Tyler Jasensky in 2012 when he was a senior at Avon Lake High School. Toole came on board in the event’s fourth year, just helping with whatever was needed.

“Anytime I see a younger group of kids getting together to do something bigger than themselves, it is awesome,” Toole said.

A few years later, Toole took on a larger role, helped build the website, introduced chip timing and assisted in closing roads for the race. As the race director, he works with Jasensky, who is now in the Peace Corps, and Kyler Maurer, the Key Club adviser at Avon Lake High School.

Toole said last year’s event produced a memorable moment, when a runner participated while wearing a 50-pound ruck sack. Even though he was visibly laboring and was the last person to finish by a substantial amount, racers were still around to cheer him on as he finished.

“Directing these races, you can only control so much,” Toole said. “You kind of rely on the participants to bring the human element and make it worthwhile.”

A ruck race and half-half marathon (6.55 miles) have been added this year, and Toole hopes to have over 1,000 runners participating in the next two to three years

Toole still runs today, as he primarily competes in trail running. He and his wife, who live in Bay Village, are expecting their first child this fall.

While Toole says his ultimate personal goal is to become the race director of a major city marathon, he will not let that define him.

What he really wants to do is twofold.

“I want to bring an event company to Cleveland that does things a little bit differently, that focuses on the organizations that we support to raise as much money as possible,” Toole said.

“And be the go-to spot for ‘That is a fun event to do.’”

7th Annual Veterans Honor run

Location: Avon Lake High School, 150 Avon Belden Road, Avon Lake

Packet Pickup: 5-8 p.m. Friday, May 24, Railroad Brewing Company, 1010 Center Road, Avon

Race Day Timeline:

– 7 a.m., Race Day Packet Pickup

– 8 a.m. Kids’ Run starts

– 8:20 a.m. Half-Half Marathon

– 8:30 a.m. 5k & Ruck Race starts

– 8:40 a.m.1-Mile starts

– 10 a.m. – Awards & Closing Ceremony


– 5k: $17

– Half-half Marathon: $27

– Veteran Entry: Half off

– Kids Run: $4

Parking: Avon Lake High School Parking Lot

Race Address: Avon Lake High School, 175 Avon Belden Road, Avon Lake,

Ruck Race Details: (view full details and overview at http://veteranshonorrun.org/ruck-race-the-guide-to-rucking/):

Rucking is carrying a weighted pack while urban hiking. This is a very familiar exercise for special forces. To compete in the Ruck Race, bring a backpack with at least 20 pounds of weight. You will compete on the 5k course and awards will go to the top three male and female finishers.

Ruck Race Awards – Top three Male and Female finishers

Benefits: Funds raised from this event will go to the Valor Home in Lorain and the NineLine Foundation, ValorHome.org and NineLineFoundation.org

More information: Info@TheRuniversity.com

Free Training Runs: Runiversity has free group runs, usually the fourth Wednesday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at local craft breweries around Cleveland. Some of the runs include giveaways.

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