Dick Beardsley is one of the United States’ most notable distance runners in part because of his 1982 Boston Marathon battle, dubbed “Duel in the Sun,” with the now-coach Alberto Salazar.
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Beardsley was 21 when he ran his first marathon, a 2:47 in Wisconsin. Following that run, his times continued to drop. Beardsley earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for running 13 consecutive personal bests in the marathon.
Racing during what was a distance running boom in Canada and the United States, Beardsley ran fast times even by today’s standards. His 2:09:37 at the 1981 Grandma’s Marathon stood as a course record for 33 years.
Beardsley finished second behind Salazar, currently the coach of the Nike Oregon Project and Canadian Cam Levins, at the 1982 Boston Marathon and his time was under the previous American and Boston course records. His second-place time of 2:08:53 would be his finest-ever performance and is written about in detail in Duel in the Sun.
In 2010, Beardsley was inducted into the U.S. National Distance Running Hall of Fame.
I reached out to Beardsley and had the chance to ask one of U.S. running’s biggest names a few questions.
What drives you to continue to be involved with the running community?
“Even though I’m now slower than molasses in January compared to my younger days I still go to bed at night and can hardly wait to get up to go for a run. I’ve been running for almost 44 years and love it as much as ever. I also do some online coaching and I get such a thrill from helping other runners reach their goals.”
How often do you run these days?
“I run every day and most of it is at a pretty slow pace. I run about 50 miles (80K) per week now. I really don’t have anything that motivates me to run, I just love doing it.”
Everyone remembers you for the Duel in the Sun with Alberto but besides the 1982 race, what is the most memorable moment of your competitive career?
“That race is right up towards the top. The one that means the most to me though was the 1981 Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn. I was fortunate to win that race with a time of 2:09:36 but it meant so much to me because my mom and dad were both at the finish line to see me win. They had never seen me run a marathon before and my dad, who you could have hit over the head with a two-by-four, was crying like a baby when I finished. I’ll never forget that day.”
What was the greatest struggle or battle for you in life and in running?
“The greatest battle in running was making sure I kept my training under control. It was hard for me to run easy on my easy days and hard not to run 20 miles every day. Until seven months ago I would have told you it was when I became addicted to prescription pain killers. I’ve been very fortunate to have 19 years of sobriety from them. I never thought anything could ever be tougher to deal with. Then this past October my son Andy took his life. He suffered from PTSD when he got back from being deployed in Iraq while serving in the United States Army. I still find it hard to believe he is gone but I’ve received so much support from my wife Jill and other family and friends. I’ve also written a few songs about that day and my son and that has helped me cope with his death.”
What advice from your running and life experiences would you pass on to others?
“Don’t ever give up. There are four things I try and do every morning when I wake up. Over the years, through my speaking, I’ve passed it onto others hoping that these four things help them: When I wake in the morning I try and have a smile on my face, enthusiasm in my voice, joy in my heart and faith in my soul.”
Every one of us has a story to tell. Run on Dick.