Track and field took Curtis Beach to Spain, Germany, Belgium, Trinidad and Tobago and the Czech Republic. It earned him a scholarship at a prestigious university. It brought him collegiate and professional national titles. It brought him to within eight tantalizing points of the medal stand at the 2016 World Indoor Championships.
And yet, Beach said in a phone interview, his days running, jumping and throwing as an Albuquerque teenager rank as his fondest athletic memory.
“Especially in high school (at Albuquerque Academy),” he said. “Just so much progress all the time, so much intensity with each practice. … Looking back, that was just so much fun. And winning the state championship with some of my best friends, that was so much fun.
“There were NCAA championships, I qualified for world championships, I won professional championships. But what I think I loved the most was being a part of the New Mexico track and field community and just fully enjoying that experience with the people I grew up with.”
Beach, 30, a world-class multi-events athlete and among the finest track-and-field athlete the state of New Mexico has produced, announced recently on social media that he’s retiring from competitive track and field.
The decision, he said, is based on a succession of injuries combined with the desire to pursue other avenues.
“From 2018 and 2019 and into 2020, I was battling injuries more than I ever have,” he said from Durham, North Carolina, where he attended and competed for Duke. “It was getting increasingly difficult to sustain enough health to run well, and at the same time I was feeling much more inclined to do different things other than track.
“Especially as I was getting into my late 20s, I simply had different interests, and I felt that my time was almost being wasted by putting so much energy into training, only to be injured at the very end.”
Retirement from competition, he said, does not mean retirement from track and field. He intends to pursue a coaching career, and his other abiding interest – software design and development – can easily be folded in.
“What I really want to do is, I want to learn how to build apps,” he said. “I’ve gotten pretty good at the development side. … And not to add too many things onto the plate, but if I can understand enough of the business aspects to it to kind of build some of my own things and make something useful for other athletes, different tools, then that’s what I want to do.
“A combination of building things and coaching. And it will all be tied together in athletics in some capacity.”
It’s little wonder that Beach looks back on his high school career with fondness. During his career at Academy, he won 17 events at state meets. As a senior in 2009, he won all five events he entered: the pole vault, the high jump, the 110 high hurdles, the 400 meters and the 200 meters. Almost 12 years later, he still holds two state records.
Concurrently, he set a world record for the high school decathlon.
At Duke, Beach won an NCAA title in the indoor heptathlon in 2012 and did so again, in his hometown on the Albuquerque Convention Center track, two years later.
Post-college, he won the heptathlon at U.S. Indoor Nationals in 2016 – then finished just eight points behind the bronze medalist at that year’s world championships.
Beach’s personal best of 6,190 points in the heptathlon ranks as the 11th best in U.S. history.
As a freshman at Duke in 2010, Beach ran what was reported to be a heptathlon 1,000-meter world record time of 2 minutes, 27.8 seconds. He bettered that with a time of 2:23.69 in winning his first NCAA title in 2012.
In the decathlon, injuries combined with his slight build limited his success in the throwing events. Still, his best of 8,084 points ranks 30th all time in the U.S.
Beach’s personal best of 3:59.13 in the decathlon 1,500 meters, the last of the grueling event’s 10 disciplines, is the second-fastest of all time.
Perhaps his most famous decathlon 1,500 meters, though, was among his slowest. At the 2012 Olympic Trials, Beach, well in front, stopped short of the finish line – as did other runners – in allowing Trials champion and eventual Olympic gold medalist Ashton Eaton to cross first.
Where he finishes in a race, Beach said, is no longer a concern of his. He’s become a devoted trail runner.
“I’ve always loved running, and I always will love running,” he said. “I’m always going to love track and want to be a part of it. But I just love finding really cool trails and running as far as I want or as little as I want or as hard as I want or not as hard, and just enjoying it for the pure pleasure.
“Yeah, time for a change. It was probably a long time coming, but, yeah, it’s time.”