Kentucky Eta’s Joe Dan Beavers uses Iron Phi Challenge to transform his life
What drew you to participate in the Iron Phi program?
My home chapter (Kentucky Eta—Western Kentucky University) had set the goal to earn the Iron Phi Chapter designation and did a great job keeping the alumni base informed. Around the same time in my personal life, I had made the decision to get more deliberate about my own health. I had a plan to lose some weight and try to get in a little better shape.
As I followed along on the chapter’s progress and saw some of the pretty big goals these guys were setting and hitting, I got inspired. I have a group of three to four other Kentucky Eta Phis who I meet for breakfast a few times a month. As we were talking one morning, it all kind of just came together. We all talked about the idea of a few of us trying to help the local chapter with their Iron Phi efforts and within a few weeks, Joe Morel and I were signed up for the program.
How did you come up with the goal of running 17 races in 12 months?
Initially, it was only going to be one event. I wanted to pick something that was going to really push me both mentally and physically. I wanted to see what I was capable of, to find out if I could do something that seemed out of reach for me initially. In the running community, the first thing that comes to mind that fits that description is the marathon. I had never run a race of any kind before—ever. I picked a target date that would give me nine to ten months to train and I started looking for a marathon that would fit that training time frame. One of the runners I spoke with mentioned the runDisney events; particularly the challenges they put together as part of the annual marathon weekend in Orlando. It fit the training program, looked like a pretty fun event, and would be in the “happiest place on Earth.” I signed up for the aptly named “Dopey Challenge” which consisted of a 5k on Thursday, 10k on Friday, half marathon on Saturday and a marathon on Sunday—48.6 miles over four days. It seemed like a good idea at the time!
I also knew I needed to place smaller goals and milestones to hit along the way. Marathon training was going to be a slow grind, so I needed some targets over the months to gauge my progress and provide some reality checks. As the training schedule came together, I decided to add a race event at least once a month to get me used to running in an actual race. I thought that might also make for a more compelling case to help with the fundraising aspect of the Iron Phi challenge. I started small with 5k races in May and June. In July I added my first 10k. September was the first half marathon. It really just built from there and I actually ended up running 17 events from May through January.
What were some of your greatest memories or takeaways during the year of running?
There were really so many. I was fortunate enough to find some really great running partners through all of this. Most notably my brother-in-law (Paul Collins). He ran virtually every training mile with me and every race except one. He was a tremendous support and provided me with encouragement and motivation to keep going. My wife and children were also so supportive through it all. Besides just coming out to some of the events, they actually ran a few with me as well! My favorite race events were the ones that they participated in as well. I ran a few 5ks with my wife and my children, Emma (9) and Austin (7), ran a few kids races. Those are memories I’ll cherish forever—the feeling of accomplishment and achievement for all four of us.
I also had the opportunity to run races with some of my best friends from my time as an undergraduate member of Phi Delta Theta. I made a trip to Midway, Kentucky to run the Iron Horse Half Marathon with one of the guys who recruited me in college. I ran a series of events here in Bowling Green, Kentucky with my Phi Delt brother Joe Morel.
What surprised you during the year?
Easily the biggest surprise was that I was actually able to pull this off. I was literally starting at ground zero. In the beginning, I had trouble running a half mile without stopping. I just kept the expectations small and tried to add a little bit more each week. I found out that once I hit a certain goal, confidence came with it. I felt once I hit a certain mark, the next one didn’t seem so far away. If I could run 3.1 miles, four miles didn’t seem like that much farther. Once I ran four miles, a 10k (6.2 miles) didn’t seem that far out of reach. After I did my first 10 mile training run, the half marathon (13.1 miles) felt attainable. What I felt I was capable of continued to be pushed and stretched outside of anything I would have ever imagined. It was very similar to my experience with Phi Delta Theta as an undergraduate. I had the opportunity to be around some tremendous individuals who pushed me to be better than I thought I was capable of.
How did your body change over the course of the year?
Over 12 months, I lost 40 pounds. I started to focus on my overall health, including my diet just before I started running. In addition to talking with experienced runners, I did talk with my doctor about some of this before I got started. Both parties suggested that I try to lose some weight before I started running. I used diet and walking to get started and lost some weight. I’ve been able to keep it off and my overall health (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and BMI) improved.
Why would you encourage fellow alumni to participate in Iron Phi?
Throughout the year, I found people who pushed me to be better than I thought I could. I found people who supported me and encouraged me. I found people who helped pick me up when I stumbled. I found people who helped me find the right path when I got off track. I found people who held me accountable. Just like what drew me to Phi Delta Theta and Kentucky Eta back in college. It’s hard to recapture the totality of something that special. The Iron Phi program did that for me. I’m certain it can for you, too.
The mission of Iron Phi is to strengthen the Phi Delta Theta International Fraternity and the impact it has on the fight against Lou Gehrig’s disease through the fundraising and athletic efforts of its members. To become an “Iron Phi,” members of the Phi Delta Theta (both undergraduates and alumni) must select an athletic endeavor of their choice (any type of athletic event is eligible), raise $1,000 through the Iron Phi website, and accomplish the athletic endeavor itself. To begin your Iron Phi journey, visit www.ironphi.org.