Running Together Grows Family Relationships

By Sarah Gooding • Photos by Savanah Mandeville

For the Beecher family, running goes far beyond being just a hobby.

The sport has inspired strong family relationships, great conversations, vacation activities and careers.

Brad Beecher grew up playing three sports in his small-town high school and ran track for a couple years in college, but left it behind for a number of years.

“Then I ran again in 2014 because I saw my oldest daughter, Krystal, run the Joplin Memorial Half Marathon,” he said. “The first 5k I ran then was the Blue Moon in August 2014, and 30 pounds later and at least 100 5k’s since, I’m still doing them.”

Madison Beecher, now a senior at Carl Junction High School, also was influenced by her sister.

“I began running when I was in fourth grade, and I think that’s because at the time my sister was in high school,” Madison said. “She ran cross country and track. My parents watched her and I got dragged to all the meets.”

Running became Madison’s go-to activity to beat boredom.

“I just remember, when I was little, at recess I would run around the track by myself, and that was pretty much my training,” Madison said. “When we’d get home and my friends couldn’t play, I’d run around the neighborhood.

“Then, when we got put in meets, I did really well, and I think doing well drove me to keep bettering myself to see how good I could get.”

As Brad kept running, his health improved and he began placing well in 5k competition. Meanwhile, Madison became a standout with several state appearances during her high school career.

“From a parent’s perspective, it doesn’t get any better than watching your kids participate at the highest level,” Brad said. “I would say Madison is competitive running, and at 52-years-old, I’m running for fun.”

Still, the two have grown together.

“I think we have progressed together because we’ve always talked about running, since it became very important to both of us,” Madison said. “Running is our talk every single day. I get home from school, and we talk about practice, future meets, future races and times we’re going to hit. We push each other to be the best we can be.”
Brad said running also has brought their extended family together.

“In the summer of 2014, one of my nephews played in the Kansas Shrine Bowl in Pittsburg,” he said. “They had a 2-mile race before the game, and the nieces, nephews, Madison and I all did that one together. We followed that up the next 4th of July and went to Carthage as a family so six or seven of us could run that year. We’ve been doing something annually each July 4 since.”

Each member of the family continues to find new challenges.

Madison is headed to Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, on a scholarship to run both track and cross country, with plans to study exercise physiology.

“My running career played a big role in helping me choose that,” she said.

After hitting a plateau in his 5k times, Brad began training for half marathons, running this spring’s Run for the Missions in one hour, 56 minutes. He plans another half this summer at Rocky Mountain National Park and has no plans to slow down.

“For me, it’s more about staying in shape and staying motivated,” Brad said. “It’s something I look forward to doing someday with my grandkids.”