Running, but not on empty
Beauchamp sprints his way into the hearts of L-O-U community
BY JAKE THOMPSON | PHOTO BY BRUCE NEWMAN
In the past 11 years since returning to Oxford, Bret Beauchamp has experienced a lot of events in his life. From becoming an endeared figure in the town he attended college to starting a successful non-profit organization to narrowly dodging one of the most horrific incidents in this country’s history.
None of it he saw coming.
Beauchamp was raised in the small town of Clinton, Louisiana. The sport of running was introduced to him at an early age. His dad was a runner and Beauchamp took to the activity fairly quickly, running his first 5K marathon when he was eight.
Running a common thread woven into everything Beauchamp has experienced since returning to Oxford in 2007. He attended Ole Miss and left in 1997 with his wife. After some time in Memphis the couple decided Oxford is where they wanted to be. Beauchamp is a pharmaceutical sales rep and his coverage area is northern Mississippi.
“It didn’t matter where I lived and if you look in north Mississippi, (Oxford) is the spot,” Beauchamp said.
Beauchamp’s first impact in the community happened eight years ago and was all because a neighbor made a request and a joke to his wife. In December of 2010 Beauchamp had a friend ask if he could come down to their house and take a photo dresses as Santa Claus with their newborn baby. They new parents did not want to take their child into town where pictures with a Santa were happening.
Beauchamp obliged and tossed on a Santa suit he owned — his mom bought it for him prior — on top of his running gear and headed off.
“I was going to drive down there, do the photo, take my suit off and go run,” Beauchamp said. “(My wife) and got to joking about it. I said ‘I should go run in my Santa Claus outfit.’ It’s about six o’clock at night and dark in December. So, I took off running.”
Beauchamp ran around the Square for his first time and decided to do it sporadically for another week or so. He enjoyed it and it took off from there. For the first couple years nobody knew who was under the Santa suit and it became a town mystery during the holidays. Beauchamp enjoyed the anonymity and the alter ego he had created.
“I would get pictures on social media and people would ask ‘is this you?’ and I would say no,’ Beauchamp said. “It was great. It was kind of like the San Diego chicken. Nobody knew who he was. That part was fun. People not knowing who I was.”
Eventually social media was his undoing as he would begin to get tagged in photos and the secret identity of the ‘Running Santa’ was revealed.
In 2016 Beauchamp injured himself after falling off a roof and was unable to fulfill his duty of running as Santa that Christmas. The town came to his aid as several people put on the coat much like Scott Calvin did in the movie ‘The Santa Clause’ and became jolly St. Nick all the way through Christmas Day.
“The fact that so many people reached out to not only see that I was ok, but when they did reach out to do that it kind of to me was special because they took something that I loved doing and willing to carry it on,” Beauchamp said.
Running has also brought Beauchamp face to face with a national tragedy. This April will mark his 10th consecutive year to run in the Boston Marathon. He qualified to make it to the prestigious race and has had a time good enough to qualify for the next one nine years running.
The one that sticks out to him the most is 2013. Two brothers detonated pressure cookers at the finish line on Boylston Street and committed to worst act of terrorism on U.S. soil since the 9/11 attacks on New York City in 2001.
It is special for Beauchamp because it is the race he set his personal best with a time of two hours, 56 minutes and 20 seconds. If his time had taken 3:03:00 he would have potentially been a victim, but because it didn’t he crossed the finish line seven minutes before the bombs went off.
The other impact on the community Beauchamp has made is with the group 100 Men. It is a group that him and nine other men of the Oxford community created in the fall of 2015. Their first event was on the day Ole Miss defeated Alabama in Tuscaloosa that September.
The purpose of the group is to do community service free of charge in Oxford and Lafayette county. The 10 board members are to invite nine others to the activity, thus giving them the 100 men. Beauchamp was told of the idea by Mark Strong. Strong is a cardiologist in Oxford and Beauchamp was in his office on a sales call when Strong mentioned the group to him. Nearly 3 years later they are still doing event ranging from cleaning up school grounds before the new school year to building planters for the veterans home and planting trees in the pavilion on University Avenue. They try to do four events a year with their next one coming in the Spring.
“It seemed like something that was another part of the community that was fun.” Beauchamp said. “I had done things for elementary schools in the past, so this was another good opportunity. …Even as a child I remember wanting to help people. It’s something I don’t think much about. It’s been great to give back.”