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Sports

Marathon man shares life’s lessons

Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - American marathon Hall of Famer Dick Beardsley is in town to assist national track team coaches and motivate the athletes bound for the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Singapore this June, sharing a wealth of experience as a distance runner who survived four major life-threatening accidents and an addiction to narcotic pain killers.

Beardsley, 58, recently agreed to an initial 11-week contract with the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (PATAFA) through the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC). He arrived here with legendary University of Cincinnati track and field coach Bill Schnier last March 12. PATAFA president Philip Juico invited Beardsley and Schnier to look over the training of the Singapore-bound athletes and share their knowledge with local coaches. They are now in Santa Cruz, Laguna, for the Philippine National Open-Invitational Athletics Championships.

Beardsley returns to the US tomorrow and will be back in time for the final push before the athletes leave for Singapore. Schnier is here until April 1 and may return to join the PATAFA delegation at the SEA Games with his wife Kathy.

Juico said British American Tobacco Company country general manager Jim Lafferty, a PATAFA consultant and running enthusiast, was instrumental in convincing Beardsley and Schnier to fly over. “Instead of sending 19 athletes and two coaches to the US at a cost of P12 Million, we decided to invite two outstanding American coaches to come over for a training and development program,” said Juico. “I met Jim through Go Teng Kok and he has been quietly supporting Philippine athletes for years. Jim was previously Procter and Gamble country manager here, took early retirement, moved to Nigeria with Coca-Cola and came back to Manila with British American Tobacco. He’s a fitness buff and track coach. His passion is to help in developing Filipino world-class athletes.”

Beardsley was in Manila for the first time two months ago to speak before British American Tobacco employees and the Young Presidents Organization. He is well-known as a motivational speaker who specializes in team-building, establishing pillars of leadership and encouraging excellence.

“I honestly don’t know if we can impact on the athletes bound for Singapore with less than three months together,” said Beardsley. “But Bill and I are happy to help. We’re rooting for development. We like the people involved in athletics – the officials, coaches and athletes. We really can’t commit to staying over for a long period but want to get things started then stay in contact through the internet. We think there’s a lot of potential talent. We’ve got athletes who are in their 30s but very competitive at the SEA Games level. Our job is to try to bring Filipino athletes to the next level. We want our athletes to be world-class and potential medal winners in Asia and even in the Olympics. We know there are obstacles. For my part, I hope to share what worked for me, to motivate the athletes to improve and aim for the top. In a distance race, there are ups and downs like a roller coaster. You’ve got to know how to pace yourself, how to manage the ups and downs over the long haul.”

Beardsley said he’s open to share his life experiences. In high school in Minnesota, he was a scrawny 130-pound teener who tried out for the football team to impress a girl but couldn’t make the cut. Beardsley took to running instead and finally, gained a letter as a senior and won the girl. At the University of Minnesota in Waseca, Beardsley began to run seriously under coach Dr. John Fulkrod and worked his way to national status. He improved his time in the marathon from 2:47:14 in 1977 to 2:08:53 in placing second to Alberto Salazar at the 1982 Boston Marathon. Beardsley is the only man in history to register consecutive personal bests in 13 straight marathons, earning recognition in the Guinness Book of Records. His clocking of 2:09:37 was unmatched at the annual Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, for 33 years.

In 1989, Beardsley suffered a major accident working in his farm. He was literally torn up by a drill in the back of a tractor while hauling corn and his left leg was reduced to shredded skin on bone. After six weeks in the hospital, Beardsley was back in the farm. But in a matter of days, infection ravaged the wound in his leg and he was found nearly lifeless by his physical therapist who showed up for a session. A 75-year-old retired dairy farmer came to his rescue and drove him to the hospital 3 1/2 hours away, speeding at 100 miles an hour. Miraculously, Beardsley survived. But bad luck continued to hound Beardsley as he was involved in three serious car accidents over the next few years.

Beardsley soon found himself addicted to narcotic pain killers trying to survive the series of mishaps. He popped 80 to 90 pills a day and constantly looked for Valium, Percocet and Demerol. Beardsley even forged doctors’ prescriptions to get his drugs. He eventually underwent psychiatric treatment and overcame his addiction. He has now been drug-free the last 18 years.

Today, Beardsley runs about 100 kilometers a week, getting up at 4:30 every morning to jog. He had double knee replacement surgery in 2008 but still ran races up to two years later. “There’s no pain when I run but I struggle with uphills because my quads aren’t as strong as they used to be,” he said. “I have nothing left to prove by running competitively. I continue to enjoy running. I set up my foundation in 2007 to help those trying to break out of drug addiction as my advocacy.”

No doubt, Beardsley has a lot to share in terms of life’s lessons as a motivational speaker. As PATAFA consultant, he, too, has a lot to share in lifting the Filipino athletes’ spirit in excelling for the country.  

 

 

 

ALBERTO SALAZAR

AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA

ATHLETES

BEARDSLEY

BEARDSLEY AND SCHNIER

BILL SCHNIER

BOSTON MARATHON

BRITISH AMERICAN TOBACCO

BRITISH AMERICAN TOBACCO COMPANY

BUT BILL AND I

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