He Is Dialed In To Run

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Dave Dial was born to run.

Barring injury, about this time next year he will have logged 200,000 miles running. He started logging his miles at 15 while growing up in Groveton in Deep East Texas. Dial has logged 194,000 miles to date. That is roughly equivalent to running from Boston to San Diego more than 67 times. The mind boggles.

“Running is in my DNA,” Dial said in a phone interview recently. “When I was a little boy, when we came to town, I insisted on running home.” Dial recently increased his daily pace from 15 miles to 18 miles daily, broken up in two workouts — at 6 a.m. and again at 1 p.m.

“My body is so acclimated to running at those times, and I plan all of my activities around running,” he said.

Dial’s running career took off when he moved to Boston after college and ended up working in the Bill Rodgers Running Center in 1978. He ran twice daily with Rodgers, who won four Boston Marathons and at the time was ranked as the top runner in the world. Dial ran in the Boston Marathon several times, his best time coming in 1980. Later he became a running coach for 20 years in San Diego County, which is where he logged the bulk of his thousands of running miles.

That’s where, in 2006, Dial became friends with a woman that he had briefly encountered in 1980 at Bill Rodgers Running Center — Boston Marathon legend Bobbi Gibb. In 1966, Gibb became the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon. At the time, women were not officially allowed to run in the marathon, so Gibb was considered an “unsanctioned” runner. As her website notes, at the time women weren’t considered physically able to endure a 26.2-mile marathon. She won three straight Boston Marathons and years later was officially recognized and given medals.

Dial returned to Deep East Texas in 2011 to help on his dad’s three cattle ranches. The 58-year-old helps his dad work cattle outside Groveton, which gives him the flexibility to run the country roads of Trinity County.

“Working cows can be dangerous,” Dial said. “But being outside all the time is really nice. I’ve certainly gained a lot from this experience.”

Gibb, a retired attorney, is now 76 and a noted sculptor. A few years ago, she was commissioned by the Hopkinton (Mass.) 26.2 Foundation to create a piece based on a famous photo shot near the marathon’s finish line on Boylston Street in Boston. The photo was of Gibb near the finish line, wearing her brother’s baggy Bermuda shorts and a tank top. She started the race wearing a hoodie to disguise herself. Gibb, who describes herself in news accounts as shy and not one to seek publicity, had been asked to create a life-size statue of herself.

Raising money proved to be more difficult than expected. Total cost of the bronze statue to be installed on the Hopkinton Town Common — the starting point for the marathon — is expected to cost $60,000. That is where Dave Dial came in, playing his part to help raise the money so the statue can be installed this fall. Gibb had voiced her frustration that fundraising had become stagnant. Gibb, who called Dial “Medicine Man” because of his Native American heritage, had sent him a photo of the statue. While working in the cow pasture, Dial composed a haiku and sent it to Gibb. She liked it, and Dial’s mom paid to have 23 copies printed — Gibb’s age when she ran her first Boston Marathon. The signed photos of the statue were used to relaunch the fundraising.

On Monday, Gibb will be at the Boston Marathon, signing copies of the 500 postcards of the statue that Dial had printed and sent her. Dial said he’ll keep up with the results best he can, between working cows and running the country roads of Trinity County.

By next April, perhaps on the day of the Boston Marathon — though not as part of it — Dial hopes to be back in Beantown, running his 200,000th mile.

“To me, it’s second nature,” he said.


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