By Angie Antonopoulos
For more than 40 years, Southside resident Steve Dial, 81, has laced up and run 1 to 2 1/2 miles every day – before dawn.
It’s a commitment the former assistant principal for Perry Meridian Middle School made to himself on Sept. 14, 1980, when his friend and neighbor Hal Cole wanted a running buddy. “It feels pretty good,” Dial said of reaching his 40-year milestone. “Every single day I run at least a mile,” added Dial, who used to coach boys track at Perry Central Junior High and Southport High School. “You realize you can do it. I look forward to starting my 41st.”
Whether it’s raining, snowing or he’s on vacation, Dial maintains his stride. He has run in Hawaii, Alaska, the British Isles and Europe as well as places with high elevations in the United States, such as Breckenridge, Colo. and the Great Smoky Mountains. To combat the cold weather, he doubles up and wears snowmobile gloves.
He wakes up every morning at 4 a.m. to run, mainly in the neighborhood he resides, splitting his year between Indianapolis and Tucson, Ariz.
Dial began running as a junior in high school and won the county sectional and became the No. 1 runner in cross country. Through his track and field experience, he earned a full ride scholarship at Ball State University to run cross country and graduated with a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in health and physician education. He became the No. 2 runner his junior and senior year in college and broke the school’s record in the 2-mile run with a 950.5 – 9 minutes and 50.5 seconds in 1962.
“I am very proud of my dad’s accomplishments,” said Chris Dial, Steve’s son. “He is an inspiration to our entire family. Dad has encouraged my boys, Ryan and Alec to run and they are currently enjoying a great year on the Perry Meridian Middle and high school cross country teams.”
Steve’s wife, Marilyn Dial, said her husband’s early start time began mostly because of his work as assistant principal. “He had to get up early and showered before the teachers called in for substitutes.” The start time didn’t change after retirement. She recalled how challenging it was when they took a river cruise in Europe. “He did a 2 ½ mile run on the walking course,” and woke up a few people below deck, Marilyn said, chuckling.
Before running daily, Dial ran a few days a week and even ran during the Blizzard of 1978. “He looked like Dr. Zhivago, with frosted eyelids and frozen tear ducts,” Marilyn recalled. She said the whole family is active and does anything fitness. “We walk, hike and bike all the time.”
Dial thanks his mentor, the legendary Southport High School Coach Tom Hathaway for his approach to coaching and life. “You don’t give up. It’s like anything; it’s going to take work,” he said.
Most of all, Dial said, he enjoys the satisfaction of a daily run. “I still feel like I have a lot of wind,” he said.