I’m A Competitor: Thad Beaty

Sugarland guitarist Thad Beaty ran a 4:41 marathon split at Ironman Arizona last year. Photo: Katie Brace

The country musician dropped 70 pounds and is now an Ironman and marathon runner.

As if being the guitarist for Grammy-winning country band Sugarland isn’t impressive enough, Thad Beaty started his own charity, lost more than 70 pounds, became a vegan, and maintains a hefty training schedule while on the road. Motivated by the passing of the band’s guitar tech, Kevin Quigley, and his mother’s colon cancer diagnosis last year, the 38-year-old Beaty founded Music That Moves (musicthatmoves.org), a nonprofit that motivates musicians to stay fit and inspire others through running, music, and the support of their favorite charitable causes. He also ran a 4:41 marathon split en route to finishing Ironman Arizona in 11:53 last year, and he spent the summer and fall training for the Nov. 3 New York City Marathon.

When did you really get into running?

I did a few running races and a triathlon in college, but after being on the road and traveling as a musician for more than a decade, I realized my health was pretty out of whack. So running was something I fell into. We were always in an arena somewhere, and there was usually a treadmill, or I could just hit the streets.

How do running and music intersect in your life?

I have so much music in my life already, so running is my time to have a creative reset. In the past six or seven years, I’ve started to rely on running as not only a big piece of my health transformation, but also my mental transformation. I run with a metronome — music and running are all about rhythm. If you’re able to tune out the “clicks,” that means you’re getting into the groove. It becomes my rhythm, and I really draw on that piece of the music world while I run.

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What motivates you while you’re running?

There’s a jukebox in my brain, always, but I’ve learned to enjoy the journey and look forward to clearing my mind during a run. It’s being in a spot to be thankful for the people in my life and the blessings that I have. After a long run, I call and text people I haven’t talked to in a long time.

When you’re touring, how do you fit in your workouts?

It’s actually way easier to find time when we’re on the road, just because our schedule is set in stone. On most days, mornings are pretty casual, so I can hop out of the tour bus and go for a run before the afternoon sound check. My question is, how do normal people who have full-time jobs and kids get it done?

You’ve seen so many cities while touring — what’s your favorite spot?

Forest Park in Portland really makes me come alive. Another favorite is the trail near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

How do you maintain performance and running energy on tour?

I’m always the first one to bed — the rest of the band calls me “Grandpa Beaty.” So while everyone else is up until 3 a.m. or later after a show, I’m in bed much earlier. I’ve also been on a plant-based diet for a number of years, and I don’t eat gluten or a lot of sugar. I don’t want to be an evangelist for either diet — people have to try it for themselves — but it’s been so awesome for my energy levels.

This piece first appeared in the November 2013 issue of Competitor magazine.

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