“AS long as you’re still moving to the finish line, you still have a chance.”
This is one of the enduring messages from noted runner and motivational speaker Dick Beardsley, who is in Manila for a series of talks with national athletes, running enthusiasts, businessmen and government leaders.
Beardsley, best known for his remarkable second place finish in the 1982 Boston Marathon, is now a sought-after motivational and inspirational speaker, best-selling author, and fitness coach. He is the subject of the book Duel in the Sun, which chronicled his neck-and-neck race to the finish with renowned distance runner Alberto Salazar.
The 59-year old Minnesota native is the only man to have ever run 13 consecutive personal bests in the marathon, and is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the feat.
“Dick Beardsley’s performance in the 1982 Boston Marathon showed that even underdogs can give the biggest, baddest, toughest competitors a run for their money. Although he didn’t win the race, he gave Salazar such a hard time that the two men crossed the finish line within two seconds of each other – a finish way beyond what people expected,” said Jim Lafferty, general manager of British American Tobacco (Philippines) Limited (BAT) who brought the noted runner to the country.
With 42 years of running experience, Beardsley will speak to BAT employees in their annual strategy workshop, and will grace other activities including a clinic for national distance runners under the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (Patafa) and other sports personalities during his six-day stay. He will also be paying a courtesy call to Senator Pia Cayetano, a known sports enthusiast.
Lafferty said Beardsley’s experiences – both in his running career and his personal life – can inspire people to strive to fulfill their dreams despite seemingly insurmountable odds.
Beardsley will also be leading an informal group talk and running event at Filinvest City, in cooperation with runner and blogger Jaymie Pizarro, also known as The Bull Runner.
Known as a running legend in the United States, Beardsley is also well known for his climb back to health after becoming addicted to pain medication for more than four years.
In November 1989, Beardsley survived a terrible farm accident while using an auger to lift corn into a bin in his Minnesota farm, the first of a series of events that would include a serious car accident. Later he was hit by a truck while running and in another accident he rolled his vehicle in a snowstorm and finally, while hiking one day, the ground gave out and he fell off a cliff. These resulted in extended hospital stays and multiple surgeries.
Due to all the large amount of pain medication Beardsley was taking, he became addicted that had adverse effects on his personal life. After a long and difficult road back, he has been celebrating sobriety since 1997.
Lafferty, an ardent supporter of Patafa, said the agency and Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) have asked Beardsley to help train the country’s marathon runners for the upcoming Southeast Asian Games, some of whom may be brought to the US.
Beardsley said he is excited on the potential of the country’s long-distance athletes, noting Filipinos “have the perfect bodies for running marathons."
One particular runner caught his eye, the woman known as the ‘Philippine Marathon Queen,' Mary Joy Tabal who ran with Beardsley on Wednesday morning.
“She is really focused. You can see the desire in her eyes. She can run like a Kenyan!” Beardsley told selected members of the press in an informal talk in Makati City.
He earlier met and talked to national team marathoners who “were picking my brains for information," mostly about the type of training he does — the number of kilometers he runs per week, his track workout, up tempo work and speed plays.
Lafferty said one issue he wishes to address is the amount of races Filipino elite runners take part in due to economic reasons.
“The issue is runners don’t have sponsors and they need to send money back to the provinces, so they race every weekend so they can send (money) back home. If you race every weekend, you’re destroying your legs. It’s like studying for (final exams) every night. The reason we lose our distance runners is that they over-race”, said Lafferty who is trying to get companies to sponsor running athletes to help preserve them for international meets such as the SEA Games and the Asian Games.
“(The Philippines is) the largest country in the world not to win an Olympic gold medal. This is our label and I want to remove it. In distance running, we have world-class talent – they just need coaching, funding and the right development,” Lafferty added.