In the long run: Russellville man competes in marathons around the globe
FRANKLIN LIVING SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2023
Many might know Russellville resident Robert “Buddy” Perdue as the co-operator of Thompson’s Drapery, a longtime staple in downtown Russellville, which he runs with his wife, Kim and her mother, Allie Thompson, who started the business in 1965 with Yvonne Porter. When he’s not busy running the business, however, Perdue is busy running in a more literal sense.
Perdue spends a lot of his time on his passion for running, having competed in numerous races. These days, he’s working toward a special goal.
While he hasn’t always been a runner, Perdue, a graduate of Muscle Shoals High School, said he has always enjoyed being active. As a child he first fell in love with soccer at age 5, when his family was living in California. He later went on to play golf, football and baseball. He began riding a bicycle at 18, mostly for fun, but competed for “a couple of years” in races. He discovered his love for running at around 41 or 42 years old.
Safety was one of the key reasons Perdue transitioned from biking to running. He said not every competitive biker handles a bike well, and “it can be kind of dangerous” to be in big groups of people racing – a position he became less willing to put himself in over time. With running, on the other hand, the courses are closed, so there’s no traffic, which makes it typically a safer competitive sport.
He ran his first 5K in 2012 but notes he has “always liked long-distance events.” Originally, his plan was to run in just one marathon – in Pensacola, Fla., in 2013 – but his enjoyment, motivation and dreams have continued to grow over time. He eventually set his latest goal, which has sent him running across the world to achieve it.
“I’ve been working to complete all six of the Abbott World Marathon Majors,” Perdue explained. “I’ve done four, and I’m registered for the last two, scheduled to take place next year: Tokyo in March and London in April.” The official Olympics website, olympics.com, describes it as the “most prestigious distance running series in the world.” Perdue has already run the world marathon majors in Boston, April 2015; New York, November 2016, Chicago, October 2017 and Berlin, September 2022. He said “a little more than 11,000 people” have finished all six races.
After running his first three, he kept up running but didn’t do as many marathons. Once he ran the Berlin marathon, he said he decided he was getting pretty close and “might as well go ahead and finish” all six races.
Perdue said it’s harder to qualify for the Boston marathon, which requires qualifying strictly on time, than it is for any of the other ones, but once he did, his time automatically qualified him for New York, Chicago and Berlin. He competes in smaller races in between, “anything from mile races to 5K, 10K or a half marathon,” all “dependent on what I’m training for.” Perdue said the shorter races help him build speed.
While he enjoys competing, as well as getting to travel with his wife and see different parts of the country and the world, he said running is an activity he largely likes to do by himself, really competing against himself to see how far he can push himself. “Seeing how far and how hard I can push myself is what drives me in competing.”
Perdue said he’s had a couple of running coaches, including his current one, based out of Flagstaff, Ariz., for almost six years. He explained after communicating his goals to his coach, they work together on fleshing out a training plan.
He said his favorite race so far was the New York City Marathon. “The crowds in New York were really amazing,” he explained. “We ran through all the boroughs, and each one has a different flair to it, so you can tell when you enter a new one because the music changes or the crowds change or something else is different.”
“The whole way in New York, the crows were quite amazing and really big,” he added. “It helps when you have millions of people cheering you along the entire way. All these big marathons have a ton of supportive people lined up almost the whole way.”
He said he likes being part of something not many people in the world have done or will ever do, having run a marathon. “I think it’s less than 2 percent of the people in the world,” he added.
Even when he isn’t racing, Perdue said he enjoys running as a pleasant solo activity. He said the reflective time spent alone is a big draw for him. “Most of the time, it’s just me, out running by myself first thing in the morning enjoying the peace and quiet,” Perdue explained. “I actually just like to run. I like to get out and get away. I just like the feeling of running around the city and seeing things most people don’t get to see.
“A lot of interesting things happen early in the morning,” he noted, adding he sees “a lot of sunrises” and is “typically in a better mood after running.”
He also enjoys running with others, friends he has made in the Muscle Shoals area. His runner friends sometimes compete in the same races he does – notably Boston in 2015, when there were “probably six or seven of us that ran the Boston Marathon that year.”
“Runners have a big, encouraging community,” he added. “We always try to support each other. It’s a very supportive community. ”
For him, the love of running is the key. “Even if you never race, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “You’re still a runner, whether you race or not.”