Marathon man Dick Beardsley: ‘It’s all about believing in yourself’
CONSUMERLINE - Ching M. Alano (The Philippine Star) - February 17, 2015 - 12:00am

The tall and tan, lean and mean Dick Beardsley is often referred to as a running legend in America. Known for his incredible finish in the 1982 Boston Marathon, Beardsley will be remembered in US marathon history as the “gutsy underdog” who went against world record-holder Alberto Salazar and broke the American record (2:08:53, a heartbeat behind Salazar’s 2:08:51).

Beardsley is also a walking miracle, having waged a bruising battle against drug (pain medication) addiction and having survived near-death accidents. In 1989, while using an auger to lift corn into a bin on his Minnesota farm, Dick got entangled in the machine that literally tore him apart. Nobody thought he would survive that accident.  A few years later, he was hit by a truck while running. Again later, while hiking, he fell off a cliff. He had multiple surgeries and became addicted to pain medication until his life went out of whack. But he got back on his feet and, despite two artificial knees, he’s running again — and biking and swimming! Of course, he also enjoys “tamer” activities like fishing in the great lakes of Texas (he moved to Austin, Texas a few years ago  — he’s probably had enough of milking cows in Minnesota where he lived for 51 years).

Our marathon man has run away with many record-breaking titles: He’s listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the only man to have run 13 consecutive personal bests in marathon. In 2010, he was inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame. In 1991, Runner’s World magazine, in its 25th anniversary, gave him the Profile in Courage Award. And the list runs on and on.

The 59-year-old Beardsley, six-foot-tall and weighing 135 pounds, has the body and energy of a 20-year-old. Read more about this two-time Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier and champion of life’s many trials in the book Duel in the Sun by John Brant. Or watch for a feature film on him titled Against the Wind. Beardsley is also a sought-after motivational/inspirational speaker and author of the book Staying the Course: A Runner’s Toughest Race.

Beardsley was in Manila to share his passion for running with our own runners (a running commentary on this a wee bit later). He was a house guest of James Michael Lafferty, general manager of the British American Tobacco (Philippines), Ltd., who is himself an active sportsman, marathoner and marathon coach working with national teams in the US, Germany, France, and Nigeria.

One fine day, we caught up with Dick Beardsley and before he could run away, we were able to get a one-on-one interview with him. Excerpts:

PHILIPPINE STAR: At what age did you start running?

DICK BEARDSLEY: I started running in 1973 in high school, about 42 years now, and I love it as much today as before. I just love getting out the door. When I started, I never heard of shin splints (lower leg injury); eventually, it disappeared.

Dick Beardsley and Jim Lafferty on the Senate floor with Sen. Pia Cayetano, a triathlete and sports advocate, during a courtesy call

Most people start earlier than I did when I was 17,  but when I was a boy, I wasn’t into sports; I was into hunting and fishing. My dad never had an opportunity to play any kind of sport because he grew up on the farm. My mom grew up in Montana so she skied a lot.

You’re a triathlete. What does it take to be one?

I’ve done a few small triathlons. It takes a lot of discipline to be good in three different fields: running, swimming, cycling. I have a neighbor who does Ironman; she’s 51 with three kids.

Myth or fact: Running is bad for women?

It’s a myth that women should not be running. Women are built better for distance running than men because, since they’re bearing children, they have a little more body fat. It’s not true that their ovaries will fall off. In fact, pregnant women can run right up to a few days before they deliver, as long as they have the permission of their doctor.

What would you say is the most important thing about running?

Running is all about discipline. It’s all about believing in yourself, that you can get from point A to point B as quick as you can, even on days when it’s real hot or cold, it’s raining or snowing, you still get out there and run. Not every run is gonna be great; there are some days when you get out and, wow, it’s a struggle and some days when you feel like a million dollars you could run forever. You just hope on race day, everything’s clicking and things come together. But if they don’t ...

Do you have a prescribed diet?

I make sure I eat good stuff. If I go home and eat a big chunk of chocolate cake, I don’t have to worry — oh gosh, I’ll put on a pound or two — because tomorrow I’ll go running off. I listen to my body. Some days, my body wants a piece of fish, salmon or something like that. Other days, it wants pasta. I grew up on a farm and we eat steak almost every day. I try to eat a balanced diet. I make sure I drink plenty of fluids, water, some sports drink. Back when I was running, there was only Gatorade. Water is good, especially living around here where it’s so hot you sweat a lot. You need to put back the electrolytes that you lose, you need to hydrate.

A lot of young people now, more than ever before, are into running.

Yes, younger people are seeing that they don’t want to be like their parents (who are not fit). They know it feels good to be fit. But being fit doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon either. Just doing something is, for me, good enough.

So, how can one be fit in his/her own little way?

Here’s the thing: Whether you like fitness or not, if you want to have a healthy lifestyle, you gotta watch what you put in your body, eating-wise. But you also gotta move. Even just walking. I try to run every day for a minimum of one hour. I travel a lot so I run wherever it’s at. People say they’re too tired to exercise. You’re too tired because you don’t exercise enough. Once you get into shape, it’ll energize you, you’ll start feeling good. If you only have half an hour, you can do two 15-minute segments. If you only have five minutes, that’s better than nothing.

A doctor once said that malling is form of exercise — as long as you don’t stop to buy. What do you say?

Where I’m from, in Minnesotta, it gets very cold this time of the year. Do you know what they do there? West Acres Mall in Fargo, North Dakota — or even the Mall of America, the biggest in the US — opens way before the stores do, so people can come in and walk inside. When they open their doors, you can walk miles in there and there’ll be a hundred people, sometimes more, on a Wednesday morning walking.

But after walking (or running), you reward yourself with a big breakfast.

Maybe you should cut down on the big breakfast. Once you get fit, whether from running or walking, you should remember your metabolism is burning faster throughout the day than some sedentary person. You’re gonna be burning more calories than that person who hasn’t been exercising because your metabolism is quicker, which is a good thing.

To sidetrack a bit, how big a problem is obesity in the US today?

JAMES LAFFERTY: Obesity (plus overweight) is worst than ever before in the US. It was trending up in 1978 and increases every year, now pushing 70 percent. Thirty percent of the vegetable consumption in the US consists of french fries; it’s a horrible vegetable.

It all boils down to one word: discipline. Every obese person I talk to say, “I’m disciplined where I want to be.” For me, discipline is 24/7. Why do I have extra 10 pounds that I don’t want? It’s not my dad, it’s not genes, I didn’t genetically mutate in the last 20 years.

Some say they found the secret berry deep in the jungles of Brazil and people seek it, thinking it will solve all their weight woes. That’s a big fat crap!

And now, it’s predicted that young people (as young as 14 years old) are starting to get type 2 diabetes (adult onset diabetes). Obese kids will become obese adults, they don’t grow out of it. If you set up your kids to be obese, that’s not responsible parenthood. It’s about teaching discipline to kids as early as three years old.

To go back to running and back to you, Dick, who’s the oldest champion runner that you know?

John Keston, an actor/opera singer who’s now 90 years old. He’s shooting for the 90-plus marathon. (Keston started running in his 50s to combat mild hypertension. At 80, he set an American record at the USA Masters Indoor Track & Field Championship, running in 6:48.02 and beating a 1979 record of 7:04.20.)

Your running commentary on running?

Running is a pretty inexpensive sport. You just need a good pair of running shoes. Some people need a shoe that gives a little more support. (Dick, who’s a size 9-1/2, wears New Balance and has 30 pairs of running shoes. He’s donated more than 300 pairs to poor kids in Missouri.)

Oh, gotta run now!



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