Thirty-four years ago next April, Dick Beardsley finished second to Alberto Salazar, breaking the Boston Marathon course record and American record in the 1982 Boston Marathon, arguably one of the most memorable marathon’s in history. If that isn’t an incredible feat in itself, Beardsley finished first the previous year in the London Marathon, as well as the Grandma’s Marathon in Minnesota. While his extraordinary success is marveling to so many, his upbringing and resilience that got him to that finish line and beyond is equally as compelling.
Last night, a modest, genuinely down-to-earth Beardsley greeted BC students to talk about his remarkable story.
Students were shown the original footage of his famous run down against Salazar. Upon watching it, Beardsley humbly opened with, “I’ve seen this video a thousand times and it still makes the hairs on my neck stand up every time.”
While many would suspect Beardsley to have had an abiding love for running from a very early age, he reiterates that this was not the case.
“My whole world revolved around the outdoors,” said the Minnesota native. “It wasn’t until my junior year of high school when I saw a group of football players wearing letter jackets. What I saw more specifically were the girls staring at them,” later professing his ultimate goal at the time as: “Get on the varsity team, get the letter jacket, get the date with the girl.”
Beardsley says trying out for the football team “had just about everything to do with his running career”.
“I couldn’t play football,” he admitted, and while his football career lasted only 43 ½ minutes, he concluded that if he had continued to pursue the sport, he “never would have discovered the wonderful thing that is running."
After a comical description of his outfit of black nylon stockings and oversized white shorts stitched up with a black dress belt for his first cross-country practice, Beardsley went on to retell the un-forgetful words of his coach, who said “I really believe you can become the best runner that you want to be.”
In 1979, the running shoe company New Balance gave Beardsley “an opportunity nobody else would” by offering him a fellowship that provided him with the support to pursue his running career.
“That [fellowship] propelled me to keep training and working hard.”
This fervent effort and continuous training led him to run one of the most extraordinary marathons in history.
1.5 million spectators lined the streets of Boston that April day.
When I hit mile 4, I didn’t feel better but I didn’t feel any worse,” recalls Beardsley. He then reached a point where he couldn’t feel his legs, but realized that “as bad as I was hurting, I knew Salazar was hurting just as bad.”
Funnily enough, stepping into a pothole happened to jerk his leg, popping the charlie-horse that he got in the last few minutes of the race.
“I learned more about myself in the last two minutes of that race,” he affirmed. “No matter how hard the difficult situation is you never ever give up.”
This gave him the exertion he needed to finish that last 100-meter sprint, ultimately finishing 2 seconds after Salazar who placed first.
Upon reflecting about what he could have done differently in the race, Beardsley says, “Absolutely nothing. I gave it everything I could have.”
While his iconic success is one he will never forget, he admits his most memorable run was not a race at all, but a run with his son Andy, claiming it to be “one of the happiest days of my life.”
After enduring a series of accidents and hardships in the later years of his life, Beardsley continues to run “now, like molasses,” he light-heartedly admits, but pursues his life with “a smile on my face, enthusiasm in my life and faith in my soul.”
Here is a man with immeasurable courage, vitality and dedication, a man that ran 90 marathons, and a man that continues to pedal his way and stay the course.
Beardsley will lead a run with WeRunBC this afternoon to support young runners and share his passion for running with others.
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