The universe was not being subtle when it sent Sugarland guitarist Thad Beaty three messages that he needed to change his life. First, his mother was diagnosed with colon cancer. Then it was friend and Sugarland guitar tech Kevin Quigley being diagnosed with Stage IV lymphoma. Finally, it was the much-publicized and tragic stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair in 2011 that killed seven people minutes before Sugarland was set to perform.
“I was embracing the rock-and-roll lifestyle, and you can imagine what that entails,” Beaty says. “We were touring and doing 200-plus dates a year. Eating the local fare. And if you’re at state fairs, there are a lot of deep-fried Snickers bars and Krispy Kreme hamburgers. I needed to reclaim what I could control. And part of what I can control is my health.”
Six years later, 75 pounds lighter and a heck-of-a-lot healthier, Beaty is an Ironman, cycling and swim coach and has participated in half a dozen Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series events. Most notably—at the Denver half marathon in 2015—he ran the course and stopped to join a different band at every mile and play guitar for about 15 minutes at each. A friend rode a bike alongside Beaty with his ribbon-shaped guitar.
“There is a certain level of training that goes with stopping and playing,” he says—half joking, half serious. “Elevated heart rate, sweaty hands, running again after 15 minutes of standing and playing. It’s tough.”
Beaty is heavily involved in multiple charities—including the Edith Sanford Breast Foundation for breast-cancer research—and has also worked with the Melanoma Research Foundation and MusiCares through the Grammy Foundation to raise thousands of dollars.
“The determination of going after something bigger than you and bigger than you ever thought you could pull off is extremely powerful if you just say ‘yes’ and dive in,” says Beaty, who also recruits and trains other fundraising athletes. “There is wonderful joy in helping them do that.”
Beaty has played with Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Rihanna, and while Sugarland is on a break, his creative firm helps pair bands with movie and television producers. But he still finds time to “dork out” when he’s at home. “Right now I love to sit down with my guitar and jam on 80s hair metal.”
Sugarland guitarist Thad Beaty flip-flops when it comes to running with music. But when he does, he likes an eclectic mix. Here are eight of his favorite running songs—and his reasons for loving them.
1. “Waiting on the World to Change” by John Mayer (It just grooves!)
2. “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift (Yep, I’m a dork. But the tempo is 184 and perfect for setting the pace.)
3. “My Hero” by Foo Fighters (This is so I can feel tough after Taylor Swift.)
4. “Fix You” by Coldplay (It’s just epic.)
5. “Kickstart My Heart” by Mötley Crüe (A nod to the hair-band roots.)
6. “Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton (Something about this song stirs me and I can get in the zone.)
7. “Hail to the King” by Avenged Sevenfold (Once again, this is to feel tough.)
8. “Fire Your Guns” by AC/DC (I truly think I was supposed to be in this band.)
Download this playlist at RunRocknRoll on Spotify.com.