The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday January 30th

Beatty's Run Continues Nearly 50 Years Later

"Jim Beatty is running for you."

And he's taking it one stride at a time.

There are many surnames associated with Beatty -- Jim Beatty the first man to break the indoor-four-minute mile; Jim Beatty the Track and Field Hall of Famer; Jim Beatty the athlete; Jim Beatty the politician.

But few connote what Beatty would like for people to remember when they think of his name. He said he wants them to remember his willingness to give back, an attribute he spices up with one of his favorite John F. Kennedy quotes, "To whom much is given, much is expected."

That, in a nutshell, is Beatty's athletic and campaign promise.

Although it appears that Beatty lived capriciously between the athletic and political realms, one can still draw a thick black line through his life to see how a class officer and high school state champion miler became one of Charlotte's most esteemed citizens, while still promoting track and field.

It all began in high school after Beatty finished 100 yards ahead of the pack in the North Carolina state championship mile. Opportunities abounded, and he was faced with his first life-changing decision choosing UNC instead of Notre Dame.

"Being Catholic in North Carolina where very little of the population is Catholic," Beatty said. "If there was one thing my family and I kept up with it was Notre Dame football."

The religious and football perks drew in Beatty, and he originally signed a preliminary grant-in-aid scholarship to Notre Dame.

Three weeks before practices started, however, the incoming freshman changed his mind.

North Carolina gave Beatty a chance to compete in all its national and international competitions. Notre Dame quickly lost its appeal, and he became eager to put on a UNC jersey.

Although Beatty found success as a Tar Heel, he put his personal ambition second, wanting only to represent his sponsor well.

Beatty eventually came up with a motto he would recite in his mind before running: "It's time to bring 'em home."

Beatty raised the level of track for the Tar Heels by being named an All-American for the two mile in 1955 and 1957 and in the 5,000 meter in 1956.

Eventually, Beatty let go of his home at UNC to pursue the broader goal of elevating American running. Beatty went on to run with the Los Angeles Track Club under legendary coach Mihaly Igloi.

Within a few years, in February of 1962 at Los Angeles, Beatty set out with his four-minute goal and his motto of "bringing 'em home."

And that's exactly what he did.

With a time of 3 minutes 58 seconds in the indoor mile, the 5-foot-6, 128-pound Beatty engraved his name in the world record book.

"After finishing the race I had no idea that I had broken it," Beatty recalled. "I remember the crowd screaming so that I couldn't hear my splits, but after the race I had to ask a guy what my finishing time actually was. When he said the first number I knew I had done it."

This was the beginning of a great year for Beatty. In August 1962, Beatty was at his zenith. In a 16-day stretch in that month, Beatty broke seven American records and set the world record in the two-mile.

He became the first American to hold simultaneous records for every race between the 1,500 and 5,000 meters.

"I recognized that if we were going to communicate to American runners that America was able to be competitive on the world scheme and able to break world records, we would actually have to show American runners that we can be competitive in the world, and we can break American and world records," he said.

After this surge, Beatty turned his aspirations to a more political venue. He served in the N.C. General Assembly for several years and once ran for the U.S House of Representatives in 1972, losing to Jim Martin.

"I felt like it was a very logical progression," said college running-mate and friend Alex Coffin, "Running is competitive and politics is competitive, just in a different manner."

Now, Beatty and Coffin are spear-heading a project to bring a state-of-the-art indoor track multiplex to the outskirts of Charlotte.

"When I see Jim now," Coffin said, "I see a man who can live comfortably out of the limelight and be dedicated to the things he loves."

And one of those loves -- track -- will not soon be forgotten.

"I do want people to remember me for my four-minute mile," Beatty said. "But in a broader context those who know might know more about what I did, I want them to remember me as an instrument, especially in elevating American track and field."

In the meantime, however, he wants people to remember:

Jim Beatty is running for you.

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports @unc.edu.

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