Originally Published: July 28, 2018 9:58 p.m.
PRESCOTT — Brad Williams of Prescott isn’t your typical 57-year-old American man.
A cutting-edge orthopedic surgeon by day, Williams is a former weightlifter and bodybuilder who only two years ago began excelling at a new sport to satiate his competitive spirit — mountain biking.
“You get that force to push really hard [in lifting], and, for me, you can’t get that running,” Brad said. “But when you’re on a bike — pushing really hard, you’re sprinting or going uphill — it’s a power kind of thing. That’s what I like about it. You just go all out.”
Brad’s family isn’t average, either.
His accomplished wife, Brenda, 44, an All-American distance runner at Mesa Community College and Grand Canyon University in Phoenix in the mid-1990s, now competes in dualthons (run, ride a bike, run again) and running races. Tall and slender, Brenda’s friendly and jovial, but she’s tough.
On Oct. 7, Brenda will run the Xterra Estrella Mountain AZ Trail Race in Goodyear. In 2015, Brenda won the Master’s National Dualthon Championship in Minneapolis, while Brad finished fourth in his age division.
“I’m not even a runner,” Brad said.
“It’s because his cycling is so much stronger,” Brenda added.
Brad and Brenda’s three children, Brandon, 14, Briar, 13, and Brock, 11, don’t fall too far from their parents’ tree. They are all honors students, and each has his or her own athletic interests. Brandon, an incoming freshman at Prescott High School, runs cross-country and track.
“He’s got speed and endurance, which is nice,” Brenda said of Brandon, who placed third in the Yavapai County junior high cross-country championships this year.
The fiery Briar, about to enter eighth grade at Mile High Middle School, enjoys soccer, cross-country and tumbling, although she has her eyes fixed on cheerleading. This past season, Briar was the county’s junior high cross-country runner-up, finishing second only to her teammate.
“I got second every time,” Briar said.
Brock, an incoming sixth grader at Granite Mountain, dabbles in basketball and mountain biking. The bespectacled Brandon and Brock have an unassuming, Clark Kent-like presence.
“They’ve all played soccer, and Brandon was a really good baseball player,” Brenda said of her children. “They’ve always been active.”
BRAD ON THE BIKE, BRENDA ON THE RUN
Earlier this year, Brad won the Mountain Bike Association of Arizona’s (MBAA) six-race series championship for his 50-plus Elite age group, which was comprised of more than 60 riders. In 2019, he will race in the 45-plus age division with faster cyclists.
Brenda said without hesitation that she expected Brad to win the title because he rides a lot and trains intensely.
“I push myself really hard,” Brad added.
Brad used to ride road bikes years ago, but he switched to mountain biking because it’s safer and he likes trail riding. On July 27, Brad wore his MBAA series championship jersey with pride at Brownlow Trail near Pioneer Park in Prescott. The jersey’s mostly white, with the state flag of Arizona imprinted into the fabric. In those six series races, Brad won four and placed second twice.
Brad has inspired Brenda, who next year plans to run the Whiskey Row half marathon and the Whiskey Off-Road 30 Proof (mile) amateur mountain bike race. The Off-Road is the week before the half marathon in Prescott.
Brenda has won the grueling Whiskey Row 10K all three times she’s run it, setting the course record this year in 40 minutes and 43 seconds.
ON THE MOVE
The Williams family relocated from Cottonwood, where they spent a decade, to Prescott two years ago.
“We had a lot of job offers — we could’ve gone to Phoenix, we could’ve gone out-of-state, we could’ve done a lot of things,” Brad said. “But we talked to some friends, and they we’re saying, ‘You know, you should really just come to Prescott.’ They said I could fill a niche here, basically.”
Today, Brad works at the Prescott Outpatient Surgical Center (POSC), where he schedules clients for high-tech, minimally invasive arthroscopic surgeries on certain joints.
Brad was raised in Costa Mesa, California. At one point, he and Brenda had moved from Phoenix to California’s Central Valley so he could finish his residency. Their family later left for Cottonwood so they could be closer to Brenda’s parents in Phoenix.
A graduate of UC-Irvine who later earned an M.D. and a PhD in exercise metabolism in Galveston, Texas, Brad’s been an orthopedic surgeon since 2003. Years ago, Brad worked for NASA and the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He met Brenda during his residency training in Phoenix, where she worked in the research office.
Their backgrounds in sports likely made their connection deeper. “I mostly played a lot of beach volleyball and bodysurfed,” Brad said of his childhood.
Brenda ran cross-country and track in high school and at Mesa Community College, where she won a JUCO national title in the 10,000-meter run in 1993, and at Grand Canyon University, where she graduated in 1996.
A stay-at-home mom for the past 15 years, Brenda only recently obtained her real estate license.
“I’ve been able to coach and help out with their school work and all that kind of stuff,” Brenda said.
Brenda’s an inspiration because she’s endured hardships in her family with grace and strength.
Last December, Brenda’s father, Bob Benderle, who was in his 70s, died of complications from a rare, aggressive form of prostate cancer diagnosed eight months earlier. A former runner and a college baseball pitcher at Illinois Benedictine, Bob passed away a month before a keynote speech he was to give at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in Scottsdale.
“He was super involved with diversity in the community and charities,” Brenda said. “They [Diversity Alliance in Scottsdale] gave him a posthumous award for that.”
Then, the unthinkable happened. Three years ago, Brenda’s oldest sister, Bobbi Beeson, 48, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Last fall, Bobbi’s cancer returned and she passed away Feb. 5. Days later, on Feb. 14, Brenda’s older sister, Buffy Patterson, 47, learned she had breast cancer. She has undergone five surgeries since, and she is currently cancer free.
Brenda, her niece, and Buffy have identical tattoos with the words “Just Breathe” and the symbolic pink and teal ribbons for breast cancer and ovarian cancer awareness, respectively, on them. Bob said those words to the family when he was battling cancer.
On July 27, Bob’s birthday, Brenda and Brad stood beside a small shade tree near Brownlow Trail with their children and felt grateful. They credited exercise for reducing stress in their lives.
And after this most recent ordeal, Brenda’s perspective on life has changed. Her, Brad’s and the children’s good health became the focal point.
“I definitely appreciate the small things,” Brenda said with a smile. “I’ve always spent a lot of time with them [the kids], but it definitely makes you appreciate everything so much more. My whole family’s always been very close, but we’re extremely close now — incredibly close.”
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