Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Running inspiration? More like life inspiration

Anyone who stuck around at the Men's Health Forum Tuesday night got treated to hearing Dick Beardsley speak about running, life and overcoming adversity and drug addiction.

As an avid runner, I can honestly say that his running career alone would've been enough to draw me in. However, Beardsley's overall life story is the kind of stuff you'd only expect to find in movies. Like everyone else at the forum, I was hooked immediately.

This is a guy whose start in running came from joining the football his junior year of high school (as a way to meet women, no less) and quitting before the first day of practice was finished. He fell into cross country from there, fell in love with running and was competing in marathons by the age of 21.

After that, he ran personal best times in a record 13 consecutive marathons, established the course record at Grandma's (I checked, it's still there and I'm not beating it) and battled Alberto Salazar in the famous "Duel in the Sun" Boston Marathon of 1982. The two of them battled back and forth for the last leg of the race before Salazar pulled ahead at the end and beat Beardsley by less than 2 seconds; 2:08:51 to 2:08:52.6. Just watching video of the race (he showed it at the start of the speech, complete with vintage '80's TV graphics and thick Boston accents) was enough to give you the chills.

But nothing in his running career could compare to the challenges he faced after he retired as a professional runner. Beardsley had more bad luck in a five-year stretch than any of us would hope to have in an entire lifetime. He got in a farming accident, got in a car accident, got hit by a truck while running, fell off a cliff and rolled his truck. The guy getting struck by lightning in "The Great Outdoors" had better luck than this.

If that's not enough, Beardsley developed a dependency to pain medication during that time that culminated with him forging perscriptions and taking what he described to be around "90 pills a day." His addiction then led him getting caught, going through drug treatment and having to go through painful withdrawls to methadone. Beardsley has since started a charity foundation, became a motivational speaker and wrote an autobiography "Staying the Course." Oh, and he still runs a little bit too, clocking in at 2:43:58 at the Napa Valley Marathon in 2004.

Simply put, Beardsley's speech was the highlight of the forum. His storytelling and ability to poke fun at himself (the story of his first cross country practice had everyone in stitches) separates him from gimmicky speakers who would otherwise use the time to promote their foundation or some other cause.

There was nothing gimmicky about Beardsley. He spoke with passion and he spoke from the heart. After hearing him speak, his race-day story about the '82 Boston Marathon made me go straight to the YMCA and put in 6 miles on the treadmill. He perfectly captured the emotion and doubt that surrounds a race and had a quote that everyone should adhere to: "No matter how difficult life gets. No matter how tough things are, don't give up. Have faith that you will get through it."

A simple lesson, but one that carries tremendous weight when you think about the adversity Beardsley's overcome in his life.

And to think, all of this started because a skinny high school kid wanted to earn a letterman jacket to impress girls.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there - Thanks for all of the nice comments about my husband...You mentioned a movie...well, check out :-) Have a wonderful day!