Darryl Beardall, a Dipsea Race legend who ran more miles than anyone, ever, died Nov. 6 in his hometown of Santa Rosa. He was 87. The cause of death was bladder cancer.
Records for lifetime mileage are based on runner’s training logbooks, which are reviewed by volunteers monitoring the totals. Stephen DeBoer, the lead arbiter in the matter, has written, “Darryl, in my opinion, has the world record of lifetime miles. I would list him as between 290,000-300,000.”
Darryl himself put the total over 300,000. Famous for competing in two races a weekend for decades, Darryl may well also hold the record for most road and cross-country races completed — more than 4,000 — and outright victories as well, at least 300.
Born in Utah, Darryl came to Santa Rosa at age 13. The very first time he ever ran, in a gym class, he covered 12 miles. A stellar career at Santa Rosa High won him an athletic scholarship to Brigham Young University. It was there that he connected with the then-new Deseret News Marathon, which he finished 45 consecutive times. It was also the scene of his very last race, the 5K option, on July 24, in a walker.
Back in the Bay Area, Darryl competed at the highest levels, winning scores of races and regional championships, up through 100 miles. In the 1962 Bay to Breakers (then called Cross City), he was runner-up, by .1 second, to winner Jim Shettler in the race’s closest finish ever. Darryl was second again there the following year.
But it was at Marin’s iconic Dipsea Race that Beardall made his greatest mark. He debuted in 1955 at age 18 and finished ninth. His actual time of 56 minutes, 11 seconds marked the first of 33 sub-one hour efforts, a record. He was also part of the winning Flying “A” Club team, ultimately earning 22 Team trophies with the Marin AC and Tamalpa Runners squads.
Darryl was fifth in 1956, then fourth in ’58. He did not enter the 1959 Race at the advice of his doctor who, in one of the worst medical diagnoses ever, feared for his heart. In all, Beardall completed 59 Dipseas, behind only Jack Kirk, until Race officials persuaded him to retire in 2017.
In 1961, Beardall won the handicapped Dipsea’s Best Time award with a 49:09. He went on to become, with Oliver Millard, the only racer to win both the Race and Best Time award more than once.
In some ways, the 1962 Dipsea, though it produced his worst overall finish, was Beardall’s greatest. Dipsea organizers flew in Olympian Pete McArdle in an effort to break Norman Bright’s 25-year-old course record. Beardall was only one of two other “scratch” (no head start) runners with McArdle.
Beardall battled McArdle from the start, using his knowledge of the course to offset McArdle’s superior speed. But Beardall had worked a double shift the night before, hauling 300-pound blocks of ice. Darryl finally fainted near the top of Cardiac. McArdle went on to win but missed Bright’s course record by eight seconds.
Beardall somehow managed to struggle in near last, failing to impress his anxious date, Lynne, though they ultimately married and had two children, DeeLynne and Kelly. Darryl’s toughness inspired Marin film director Rob Nilsson to name a lead character “Beard” in his Dipsea-inspired movie “On The Edge.”
In 1963, Darryl’s younger brother, Alan, won the Dipsea Race and Darryl, starting scratch three minutes behind, won the Time trophy. His 48:02, then sixth fastest ever, was his quickest. Their father Raymond also raced. Alan was killed in a car accident in December 1987 and the Alan Beardall Family Trophy was established (awarded to two related runners with the lowest combined finish places). Darryl would win the trophy twice with Alan’s son, Tim.
Darryl finally ended two decades of near-misses with victory in 1974. He had to overcome what is still the fastest Dipsea ever, 44:49, by third-placer Ron Elijah. He won again in 1978, the first year the Dipsea had a separate Invitational section, clocking 50:03 at age 41.
Darryl continued to pile up black shirts, awarded to the first 35 finishers, through 1992. Indeed, Beardall notched more top-35 Dipsea finishes (35) than anyone (shirts were not handed out until 1975). In 1995, Beardall became the eighth inductee, with Elijah, into the Dipsea Race Hall of Fame.
Beardall maintained his vigorous racing schedule, even after a fall in 2016 left him with a broken hip. He still entered races, up to half-marathons, using a walker. He was the toughest of the tough.
“Old Dipsea runners never die, they just reach the 672nd step.”
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