SALT LAKE CITY — Instead of running the full 26.2-mile marathon, as has been his custom for the past 44 years, Darryl Beardall has decided to instead enter the half-marathon at the annual Deseret News Pioneer Day races on Monday, July 24.
But before you start calling him a slacker, consider this: five months ago Darryl broke his right hip and had to have it replaced.
He’s going to run 13.1 miles on that.
Rest assured, at 80, Mr. Perpetual Motion has no more intention of stopping than he did at 70, or 60, or 50.
He started running in high school when he was 17, then ran for the track team at BYU, where he finished seventh in the nation at 10,000 meters his senior year. Turned out he was just getting started. As a recreational runner, he has logged over 315,000 miles, counting training runs and hundreds of competitions, including well over 200 marathons, four U.S. marathon trials and seven 100-mile ultras.
Considering that Beardall, a Mormon, doesn’t train on Sundays, his average comes out to 15 miles of running a day – for the last 63 years.
In the book, “Running to Extremes,” Scott Ludwig claims that Darryl Beardall has run more miles than any human being in history.
Has it done him any good? The doctor who operated on Beardall’s broken hip sure thinks so.
He broke the hip last winter at his home in Santa Rosa, California, when he fell in his backyard while gathering wood for his fireplace. At the hospital, the doctor first told Darryl that, given his age, they weren’t going to do surgery, but instead send him to a rest home.
But 10 minutes later the doctor came back.
“I’ve changed my mind,” he said, holding a chart that showed Beardall’s blood pressure at 115 over 60 and his pulse rate at 50, “you have the vitals of a 40-year-old.”
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Darryl wasn’t much younger than 40 when he ran his first Deseret News Marathon in 1972.
The race had only been held once before, in 1971, and as coincidence had it, the 34-year-old Beardall was out for his daily run in Salt Lake City that day — his family had come from California to Utah for their summer vacation — when he crossed paths with a runner wearing a race bib.
Inquiring what race the man was competing in, Darryl learned that it was the Pioneer Day Marathon, that it was sponsored by the Deseret News, and that the race would be held annually. He made plans to enter the next year.
He returned the following summer and won the race.
He’s been coming back ever since.
Next Monday will mark the 45th straight time he’s toed the starting line.
He’s not favored to win the half-marathon — these days his 15-minute-per-mile post-surgery pace is almost three times beyond what he ran in his prime — but it’s highly possible no one will enjoy covering the distance more.
The longer he lives, the more he appreciates being able to run.
“I didn’t think I’d miss it, until I broke my hip,” he says. “Then I found out I missed it a lot.”
At that, he only missed a few weeks. As soon as he could mount four wheels on a walker he was entering 5Ks and 10Ks. Just last week, in his final competitive tuneup before the Deseret News race, he competed in his first 10K without a walker.
Of the hundreds of races he’s perennially competed in over the years — he’s finished the famous 7.4-mile Dipsea race in Marin County, California, 60 times — the Deseret News run has a special place for him. His ancestry is Mormon pioneer and Utah is his home state. He was born in Springville and lived in Utah until he was 13, when his father moved the family to Santa Rosa for work.
California is where Darryl was introduced to running. He had never run a step on purpose until the day the gym teacher at Santa Rosa High School told the boys to see how many times they could lap the track.
He ran 48 laps — 12 miles — before he stopped.
It was Feb. 1, 1954, Beardall recounts, the date seared in his brain as a kind of before-and-after life demarcation.
It was if someone fired a starting pistol that day, and he’s been laying down the miles like clockwork ever since.