Dick Beardsley took his captivated audience almost a mile at a time through one of the most memorable marathons in the history of running.
He did it from the light side as well as the serious aspect.
The Minnesota native spoke to more than 100 running enthusiasts as the Indianhead Track Club celebrated its 50th anniversary awards banquet highlighted by the induction of Traci Messner into the club’s Hall of Fame Saturday evening at the River Prairie Center in Altoona.
It was April of 1982 when Beardsley hooked up in an epic duel with Alberto Salazar in the Boston Marathon, the grandaddy of all 26.2-milers.
He said he went out fast and was hurting early.
“I almost dropped out at four miles,” he said. “If I had, I wouldn’t be here today.
“That day, we gave everything we had and neither had anything left. Even though I didn’t win, I felt if I could get through this race, I could get through anything I could face in life.”
At the finish, Salazar pushed ahead and won by two steps, or 1.6 seconds as Beardsley clocked a time of 2-hours, 8-minutes, 36-seconds and became the world’s most famous marathoner.
He would meet more challenges ahead.
Following a life-threatening farm accident that left him in critical condition, he became addicted to opoids. He said that was one of his toughest battles to overcome, but not the toughest.
Later, the Beardsleys adopted Andy from Honduras. He joined he Army and served in Iraq.
“People ask me if Boston was my most memorable run,” Beardsley said. “I tell them no, my most memorable run was a two-miler I took with Andy, who was no runner but he was that day.
“He gave me a big hug and said ‘I love you, you’ve always got my back.’ “
When back from Iraq, Andy took his life.
“I was devastated,” Beardsley said of the toughest challenge he has had to face.
Beardsley, who grew up on a farm just across the border from Wisconsin and didn’t start running until he was 17, related another running incident.
On the way north to Duluth for Grandma’s Marathon in 1981, he noticed a road sign that read 209 and when he checked into his room, the number of 902.
“I was sure that meant I was going to run a 2:09,” he said. “And sure enough, that’s what I did.”
Beardsley is also remembered as helping put the Buckshot Run on the map, making his only running appearance here in 1984 and winning well ahead of Dan Conway and the rest of the field – dodging lightning strikes in a deafening thunderstorm.
And now in his early 60s he still runs. Beardsley is a tour guide and operates a Bed and Breakfast at Bemidji, Minn., and turns in 40 to 45 miles a week.
“When I go to bed at night, I can hardly wait to get up in the morning and run,” he said. ‘It refreshes me physically and mentally.”
Messner was cited for being an athlete, volunteer and marathon runner, having run the Eau Claire Marathon nine times and running others across the nation from Boston to San Francisco.
She started running at age 40 and has been running 16 years. And every day.
“I love the Indianhead Track Club,” she said. “I feel honored to be a part of that (Hall of Fame) group.”
Other award winners were: Adam Condit, Male Runner of the Year; Kate Lee, Female Runner of the Year; Carli Palmer, Most Inspirational; Cole Michaelson, Bloomer, High School; Jullian Heth, Memorial, Female High School; Sue Rudd, Don Lynnes Volunteer and Jen Rees, Grungy Shoe.