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Marathon man back to run 28th D-News

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For most of his 63 years, Darryl Beardall has been a man on the run, literally. He has run close to 300,000 miles on America's trails and highways. That's about 12 times around the world, at the equator. Or 107 trips across the country. He's got more wear on him than Bob Costas' larynx, and lately it shows. But he keeps running and running, pounding out mile after mile.

Beardall arrived in Salt Lake City this week to make his annual pilgrimage to the Deseret News Marathon. Of the 30 Deseret News races that have been run, Beardall has finished a race-record 27 of them. He missed the first year — "didn't know about it." His car broke down in Nevada and he missed another one. He's not sure what happened the other time. On Monday, he'll run No. 28.

Ho, hum. Beardall has run over 200 marathons — that's more than 5,000 miles right there. He's run seven 100-mile races and 50 50-milers. You can look it up in his training log, where he has recorded every race and every training mile he has run for nearly five decades.

Beardall, who grew up in Utah and then moved to Santa Rosa, Calif., has been running seriously for 46 1/2 years. From 1959 to 1993, he ran 20 miles a day, six days a week, before a job change forced him to cut back to a pedestrian 12-15.

He worked for several years as a carpenter. To get to the job, he rode in a friend's car. After work, he ran home, 22 miles. He worked for three summers in Utah changing and repairing tires, but that didn't stop him from running 10 miles in the morning and 15 in the afternoon. That was when he was running about 150 miles a week. He continued to pound out the miles while working for the railroads.

Beardall's knees should be mincemeat now, but he says they're fine. So are his feet. He has no real aches and pains. But for the last 13 years he has had problems with his legs — fatigue and weakness. He's been to dozens of doctors and nobody can figure it out.

"My quads completely shut down on hills," he says. "I just do a slow jog up the mountains. I don't have the strength to run on the flat like I used to, either. I used to run a 5:30 pace (per mile) all the time."

He needed 4 1/2 hours to finish last year's DesNews race. Who thought it would come to this? In 1981, he won his age division in a little more than 2 1/2 hours. It's difficult for a proud old runner to accept. He's losing to guys he used to leave in the dust. Until his legs gave out, he was beating high school kids. In the old days, he was BYU's No. 1 long-distance runner.

"I wish I could run better," he says. "I want to run a hundred-miler again."

What a deal. He can't even run fast enough to get tired. After running a marathon, he's out the next morning on a 10-mile run.

Beardall struggles to hang on to his great passion in life. At the suggestion of doctors, he quit running about six years ago, but his retirement lasted only about a month. "My legs got so weak I could hardly walk," he says. So he started running again and hasn't stopped since, as difficult as it gets at times.

"If I don't run for three or four days, my legs don't get any better, but they get weak," he says. "I can hardly get around. I have to run. Even if I miss two days, my legs are really dead. It takes four or five miles (of running) before they start to come back."

Talk about a Catch 22: If he runs, his legs get weak and tired; if he rests, they get weaker and more tired.

So he runs and he runs and he runs. What would he do without it? "I don't know," he says. "I've been doing it so long." Running is as much a part of his day as brushing his teeth and getting the mail. Except for the legs, he's as fit as a kid. At 5-foot-9, he weighs 150 pounds and eats like a teen-ager. Friends and family call him "The Garbage Disposal," for his ability to down great quantities of food. At church socials, they put the leftovers in front of him. He loves to eat and run.

But for how much longer? "It's been getting worse," he says of his leg problems. "My legs were real bad yesterday."

On Monday, the old legs will have to carry him another 26 miles.

E-mail: drob@desnews.com