If ever there were a person who was followed by bad luck, it would be Dick Beardsley. Yes, there is the famous Boston Marathon of 1982, when he came in 2nd place by less than 2 seconds. But it’s everything that came after he retired from competitive running that really portrays the fighter that is Dick Beardsley.
When I went to Fleet Feet last night to hear Mr. Beardsley speak, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Maybe some awesome training advice? His thoughts about what happened 31 years ago in Boston? I knew about the famous Dual in the Sun and his arrest for forging drug prescriptions, but nothing could have prepared me for how moved and inspired I felt when I left Fleet Feet over 2 hours later.
The talk started off with a video showing those last few minutes of the 1982 Boston Marathon. The video stopped right before Salazar and Beardsley crossed the finish line, but I think we all knew what happened. As Mr. Beardsley started talking, I could tell this was going to be an entertaining event. He is funny, charismatic, and sincere. From his stories of how he started running to his stories of drug addiction, everyone there laughed and I’m pretty sure most people cried, including the runner himself. Like I said, it was sincere.
His running stories reminded me of why I love the early marathon runners from the 70s and 80s. Marathoners now have gadgets, gels, and detailed training plans. The early marathon runners had a passion for the sport, and the determination to win. They ran with their hearts. I’d like to share a few of his stories…
For Beardsley’s second marathon, he decided 5 days earlier to run the race. After searching through running magazines for a 5 day training plan and coming up short, he found an article from an ultra runner. The ultra runner, who said he felt like a butterfly when he ran, said he fasted for one week before an event. So what did Beardsley do? Fasted for the remaining 5 days. Yes, I’m serious. When he arrived at the start line, he decided he needed to warm up. Eight miles later, he was ready to start the race. And to add to that, he decided he needed to run with those people who looked like they knew what they were doing. To the front line he went and his first mile was run in 5:05, 15 seconds from his fastest mile time. However, somehow Beardsley found the mental fortitude to continue and ended up finishing 7th overall. And we worry about carbo loading? 😉
Another story he shared was about the 1982 Boston Marathon. It was an 80 degree day and the race started at noon. Gatorade, Accelerade. or any other electrolyte drink didn’t exist so he downed water… all morning long. 40 minutes before the race, he downed another 2 quarts. Hyponatremia what? He talked a lot about the mental battles he fought during that race. However, the thing I remember most about his recount of the race was this: the one thing that you have, that is better than any gel, any drink, or any food, is something you’ve always had. It’s your mind and it can truly get you through anything. As he told the rest of his story, that very much proved to be true.
I think I would be doing an injustice to Mr. Beardsley if I tried to retell his many near death experiences. I can’t deliver the emotion or the words, but I can tell you this. For someone who has been mangeled in a tractor, T-boned in a car accident, hit by a truck while running, fallen off a cliff, nearly suffocated, had a tree branch stab him in the eye, and suffered a severe drug addiction, Dick Beardsley has defied the odds and he is a survivor. He told us that you could mix every bad thing that has ever happened to him and nothing would come close to the pain of his drug addiction. At one point he was taking 80-90 pills a day and forging prescriptions. Once he was arrested, he was forced to get off the pills… with the help of methadone, another addictive drug. As he tried to get off methadone, he described the absolutely awful withdraw symptoms – not sleeping for 7 days straight, pain in his bones so bad he probably would have sawed his own arm if he had access to the saw, waking up in his own vomit… It was a very hard story to hear. But then he said, one night I slept a little. Then I slept a little more the next. And a little more the next. I knew I was going to be okay.
Through it all, Dick Beardsley has been a fighter. As he ended last night, he said he tried to wake up every morning with four things. (Right now, I can only remember two but I have tweeted him and asked about the others. I’ll update as soon as I hear back.) He tries to wake up with a smile on his face, joy in his heart and… When I woke up at 4:30am this morning, I did my best to put a smile on my face, regardless of how early it was. Thank you Mr. Beardsley for inspiring me to be a fighter. (Update: the four things are a smile on my face, enthusiasm in my voice, joy in my heart and faith in my soul.)
Happy Trails and Happy Running,
Recovery/RUNNING update: Guess what I did today? RAN! I had to. After last night, I honestly felt like I had to. It was an easy 3 mile run and I have no idea the pace. I left the Garmin at home. It was quite glorious and it made my week. Being outdoors, on the pavement really does warm my heart. I feel slightly normal again. My hip feels about 95% better, which is very encouraging. Perhaps it’s all that yoga at 4:30 in the morning. Tomorrow I will not run but I will go out again on Thursday. Yay for running!