Home is where the heart is, it is said. It is a source of support, nurturance, camaraderie, and comfort. A place where one can be at peace against the outside world and all its foibles, big and small, simple and complicated. We live to come home to someone who understands us without saying a word, soothe us without doing a thing, and love us unconditionally. Home. As a kid it’s the best place to go when school lets out. And it is still a nice place to be as an adult after work and worth traveling on 635 at rush hour to get to. Home.
BILL DURHAM is surrounded by home in his life. He admits to being a home body. Inside his home is his wife TARA, also an accomplished swimmer and Ironman triathlete, and their two girls, BLAKE (5 yr. old – “We’re so proud of her because she rode her bike around White Rock Lake unassisted for the first time when she was four.”) and CHARLIE (11 months old). He and his wife met in August of 2004 when Tara offered him a free workout while they were at a Santa Barbara gym. “Seriously!” Bill grins.
There is little doubt when one steps into their home off White Rock Lake that it is a cocoon of warmth. The outside world melts away and the clouds roll back. Hurt feelings are bandaged next to skinned knees. Support is given to sagging weariness after a workday or a workout. There is no room for anger, bitterness, jealousy, or cynicism. This allows Bill to reach his potential in all things.
As a result, Bill has done very well at the races. He trains and races true and clean. He doesn’t depend on external stimulus or circumstances as many others do, but rather an internal joy and focus on what is important.
Despite Bill’s prowess in athletics in general, and triathlons in particular, he’s just “Dear,” and “Dad” on their carpeted floors. It trickles over, overflowing on to Bill.
Articulate with a bit of a rasp in his voice, Bill talks loudly and confidently. He’s 6’3”, 182 lbs. and strides openly to meet people. Even though he has a sweet face that’s non-divisive, finding favor among all he knows, those deserving and undeserving, and even though he is usually covered up with a shirt and tie for the professional world, if seen coming across the pool deck or running at the lake with his shirt off, Bill can be intimidating. His amazing 6’4” arm span is like a boa constrictor wrapping multiple times when he hugs Tara or the kids.
He has the prototypical “abs of steel” cover shot body. (He was voted Best Abs by The Phast Times News consecutive years.) The man is ripped and women take notice of him at the pool and running at the lake, giggling like eight year olds. They wish they were Tara.
Born and raised in Omaha to parents who run marathons, Bill is the oldest of three, with a brother and a sister. His brother, PETER, is a nationally ranked mountain biker.
His real name is Charles William Durham. But, “I’ve always been called Bill, after a friend of my parents back in Omaha whose name was Bill Roskins.”
His parents STEVE and BARB DURHAM spent the greater part of their lives as consistent runners. They don’t run as much anymore. But Bill’s dad Steve owns a 3:34 marathon, one of 18 completed marathons. He last ran the New York City Marathon in 2002.
With heroes like Boris Becker, Goron Ivanivich (the tennis player), his grandfather, and his parents, he was adventurous and mischievous when he was younger, he says, not surprisingly.
“I’ll tell you about some great pranks I did. A 40,000 cubic foot smoke bomb in the ventilation system at my high school! I bought it at a military surplus. I set it off in the vent in the men’s restroom during finals of my junior year. It blew smoke into an entire wing of the school. The school had to evacuate for a few hours.”
Other pranks? “I put a bunch of frozen meatballs behind the books in the library. It took about two weeks for the library to smell horrendous. I felt a bit bad though, as the decomposition of the meatballs destroyed a bunch of books.”
Having a life filled with adventures, you get the feeling Bill’s parents had to keep him on a short leash. When asked what his interests were growing up, he listed, “Being outdoors, lighting fires, and identifying hidden forts.” Go figure.
He eventually graduated from Westside High School, completed his undergraduate degree in 1999 as a Ram from Colorado State University (a haven for outdoor enthusiasts), and then received his MBA from Pepperdine in 2003.
There’s a reason why swimming comes to him so naturally. Bill’s been swimming since the age of 5. “My parents forced me to. I didn’t have a choice.” As a result, showing the same tenacity he would be known for as an adult, he was nationally ranked by the time he was 10 years old. Fear of failure and quitting, deep seated duo demons, were his motivations when he was younger. He drew strength from this to muscle and bully his way through training and competitions, always wanting to be the best and to get the best out of himself.
About the same time he was nationally ranked, Bill saved a boy from drowning. Very few people know this tidbit about him. But at the time, he was recognized and given the Boy Scout Medal of Merit.
He was also ranked No. 1 for tennis in the state of Nebraska (Age Group 14 & Under).
Bill is happy with the state of things locally such as the area’s multi-sport races. “I don’t really have anything to measure against, and don’t follow it much.” But, he adds, “I think the support is pretty good. Biking access sucks, but we’ve got one of the best aquatic masters clubs I’ve ever seen.” He’s speaking of Dallas Aquatic Masters (DAM) or Masters for short. In the pool, he’s a “Lane 2” swimmer, bumping up against former collegiate swimmers in Lane 1.
“Until I’m faster than everyone else, I’m not going to complain.” He claims he’s an avid follower of “The Church of SMU 50 Meter” on Sundays.
Besides swimming, he considers running one of his home sports. For many years, he held the record as the youngest New York City Marathon finisher at the age of 13. (He’d only been running for a year when he finished the race.)
But bicycling took longer for Bill to accomplish and acclimate to. “Biking was never natural to me,” he says pictured next to a fine two-wheel piece of technology and machinery. Though he didn’t start cycling until he was 31, don’t let his unnaturalness fool you. He’s no wimp on a Big Wheel. Bill can still motor on his bike, a determined and tenacious missile slicing the wind and passing competitors. Starting out, he says, “I couldn’t afford a bike, so I started biking when MARK MUMFORD, an accomplished Ironman triathlete and CFO at PF Changs, gave me his old bike.” It was a Trek 5500, “which I still have and will have forever.”
His first triathlon was Lake Havasu Olympic distance race in 2006, located in Arizona on the California border. He doesn’t remember the results, only that, “I was much slower than I thought I was going to be.
For a triathlete, he’s a smart dresser for his job as Vice President at View Capital Advisors where he’s a chartered alternative investment analyst and certified financial planner. “I have fun finding smart people that know how to make money for me and my clients.” Tara has picked out good combinations for her husband to wear. But it stops there. When asked if he’s fashion conscious when he works out, he answers, “No.”
“I’ve had the same swimsuit for three years, and both pair of my running shorts are five-plus years old. And my biking clothes have shorter lives because they wear out.” On his feet he wears Saucony shoes.
Just a normal guy, who is generous and kinetic at the same time, he waltzes through Home Depot and Sam’s Club like he owns it. It’s where he does the majority of his shopping, he says, besides Wal-Mart. “Seriously. Ask my wife.” It’s what he does outside of swimming, biking, and running.
“I build stuff, fix stuff, screw around with my kids. Invent stupid stuff.” Actually, he has two inventions. One is a battery powered light bulb, a solution for lamps he wanted in the house that were in areas without outlet access. And the other, a soap dispensing shower head. It was to solve an issue for handicapped and elderly people with limited mobility to be able to effectively bathe and get clean on their own. He’s working on a patent on the showerhead.
Music can pose a problem for Bill. He doesn’t have a favorite band or music.
“Mood dictates what I listen to. I hate rap, except when I work out. I love classical, except when I work out. I don’t like pop, except when my daughter and I are having a dance competition,” which happens regularly in the living room.
Deep inside Bill is a story teller. He enjoys hearing a good story, too. One story he tells is about being in an elevator with another bald guy.
“I’d never seen the guy before. He looked at me and said he liked my haircut. I thought that was a bit awkward, but replied, ‘Thanks. Yours, too.’ He said, if you’re unlucky enough to be bald, then you’ve got to stay in shape so people think you’re an athlete. So, to answer the question [about what’s my philosophy of exercise], I don’t have a choice about staying in shape. Fat pudgy bald guys are not cool.” Lesson over.
He always has a hankering for the unusual no matter what the arena. That includes races such as the no-reason-to-exist El Scorcho 50K in Ft. Worth. He did it once in 2011, and calls the race “a blast.” But, the race starts at midnight and is comprised of 10 laps around a 3.1 mile loop through a city park and parking lot. He placed 7th overall.
The race has no transference to any other race in the area. It doesn’t help with your 10K or marathon time. Official endurance races are held on rough out-back terrain. And there’s no local race that begins at midnight. Nevertheless, Bill Durham likes it.
He goes from the unusual to the more ubiquitous and sane favorites such as the New York City Marathon and the exotic Ironman Switzerland.
It’s obvious he likes endurance sports where he pushes himself to his limit. He’s done swims of 10,000 meters (6.2 miles), bike rides of up to 120 miles, and as mentioned earlier, 31 mile runs (50K). But to quell those of you gasping, he quickly says, “I’m not that out of control.” Sure, Bill. This is normal. In fact, this year he has ideas of completing 2-3 marathons, probably doing the New York City Marathon again.
With all that distance training and racing, watching the miles slip into oblivion and the road melt into his consciousness, one wonders what Bill is thinking while he’s out there on the road or in the pool. What is making the “mouse-on-the-wheel” move? What keeps his brain cells from turning into warm yogurt?
“It keeps me sane,” he says of exercise. “It forces me to focus and in turn have more clarity in my thinking.” But his mind wanders off to family, friends, “things I’m going to do later in the day, or if I want to train hard, what I’m pissed about.”
He owns an Ironman time of a very good 10 hrs. 23 minutes, and a marathon PR of 3 hr., 15 minutes. This past December at the Dallas White Rock Marathon, Bill posted a 3:17.
He ran through the New York City Marathon last fall with Tara. Together they posted a 3:45. “The foot was off the gas a bit.”
But how does he take that first step out the door; what does he do to inspire himself for another day of jumping into the cold water at the pool at 6 in the morning or to go for a long run in the rain? “I tell myself not to be a wuss!”
It doesn’t hurt that Bill’s favorite moment in races and training occurs just about every session he’s out with people. It’s his inspiration. His favorite moment? “Passing people!” Go, Bill!
His training is kept very simple with his home schedule centered around it. It’s important that he stay close to the house. As a result he only swims 2-3 times per week. That’s amazing given where he swims in relation to the other more experienced and faster swimmers. Likewise, he only runs 2-3 times a week. This is almost unheard of for a 3:15 marathon runner to run so little and still pull off a stellar run.
The last part of his workout schedule is his own version of Cross Fit. He does it 2-3 times during the week. One of his more infamous workouts was doing the following on the minute, every minute, for 67 minutes: five pull ups, 5 push-ups, and 15 air squats. If your math is exceptional you already know that’s a total of 335 pull-ups, 670 push-ups, and 1005 jumping air squats in just over an hour. It may have seemed like a good idea on paper at the time, but not afterward. Bill paid the price for the workout with soreness and tendonitis. “It was terrible. It was generally a bad idea. That gave me tendonitis in my knee for six months and in both elbows for one month.” He was out of commission for a while. But, hey, he had a great workout!
Bill has been able to achieve athletic greatness on only a skeleton schedule. He has accomplished great Ironman and marathon times, 10K swims, 120 mile bike rides, and 50K runs on 6-9 workouts per week. And let’s not forget about those abs! Truly amazing.
Bill has paid a price for being so active. His body has begun sending him signals, with his athleticism taking a toll on his body. Bill claims he’s had a lot of injuries. He has one picture of himself crossing the finish line of an Ironman with a cracked rib he suffered during the 2.4 mile swim portion of the race. He still had to bike for 112 miles, and then run a marathon. Needless to say, he doesn’t look good despite still having earned a great time. The look on his face as he winces tells it all.
There are also the normal sprained ankles, and tendonitis (currently) and broken toes he has suffered. He says his IIliotibial bands from the hip bone to the knee are “messed up” from overuse. And then there is his bad “nose internals.” Without all the technical jargon and grossness, suffice it to say the man has nasal issues when he swims.
Thankfully, he has great medical resources at the pool. Lane 1 swimmer, JENNIFER JORDAN, did his Sinuplasty for his sinusitis. Elite swimmer TREY HERNDON, knocked him out for the surgery. For other parts of his body, SHAUN BONSELL (June 2013 Phast Times News cover story and another Lane 1 swimmer), takes care of his orthopedic issues.
What is surprising about this man, who can be a beast during some of thw most grueling competitions, is how civic minded he is. He’s voluntarily involved in multiple organizations co-chairing the Best Buddies Gala for three-years (going on four), an organization that supports those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), co-chairing the Boys and Girls Club 50th Anniversary Gala, and last, supporting his wife, Tara’s, endeavor to co-chair the Dallas Zoo’s Kid to Do. On the inside of that rough and gruff exterior, and serious stare, is a man with a big, soft heart.
Professionally, he serves as an advisory board member for Addax Minerals, an oil and gas royalty acquisition private equity fund and has an observation seat on the board of Daseke, Inc., one of the largest specialized flatbed trucking companies in the world.
But what about those abdominal muscles he’s famous for? “I really don’t follow any diets. I do try to stay away from unnecessary carbs, and try to limit my eating to three meals a day, breakfast being the biggest. I also don’t each much red meat. For one, I’ve noticed I don’t digest it as well as I used to and second, too much of it gives me gout, a hereditary issue. My favorite food by far is the almighty burrito.”
Today, things are only slightly different for Bill from when he was younger raising cane. No longer is he hiding meatballs in libraries. He admires those that work hard to be at the top of their game and those that help others that are less fortunate, including single mothers and those committed to making positive changes.
Today he surrounds himself with training buddies KYSON JOHNSON, BYRON RICHARDSON, and JASON SORIA for running, TREY HERNDON, ANDREW GAUNT, KEVIN FLANNIGAN for swimming, JEFF RICH, DARYL MILES, KEITH NOVICK for biking.
When this article is published, it will be Bill’s birthday (February 14, Valentine’s Day). He will be 38. Married with two kids, with some marathons and Ironman triathlons under his belt, he’s not through living yet. He’s optimistic and peaceful about the future, and proud of his family. He’s confident and fulfilled of himself and his accomplishments, looking forward to the next day.
He takes a breath and realizes the home needs to be strong, yet alive. With him, it is complete. He needs to be the athlete for himself, but he also needs to be a parent, husband, son, and friend for others, too. He’s not a cog in the wheel as much as he is the wheel that makes not only his life happen, but others happen, too.
The breath is exhaled into the chlorinated air above the pool. His day starts at the water’s edge at 6 am, not as another casualty of the day before, left outside and overnight in the breakdown lane, destitute and heart broken.
Instead, Bill is optimistic that, yes, one man can make a difference, and the possibility that he might be that man; optimism that he will rise to any challenge of distance, speed, or weight. Physical or emotional, he will give his best shot, shooting for the bleachers. Bill will not show up and give only half his effort. No, no. That’s not Bill Durham. He will bleed from his eye balls accomplishing the task at hand. Whatever needs to be done. Be damned those that hinder him.
The model family is healthy and vibrant, healthier than many other couples who swim, bike, and/or run. It is the harmony of his families lives living out their happiness. On the night stand is a book Bill has just finished, “Unbroken.” “Freaking awesome!” he says. There is faith walking out the door when he, Tara, Blake, and Charlie leave their home, returning to it later to celebration and deep happiness that’s always theirs, despite whether Bill wins or loses at the races.