Beardsley adds new chapter to his life and running story

Even if you think you know Dick Beardsley's story -- a Minnesota guy becomes a star marathoner, is felled by injuries and addiction, and survives it all -- there's more.

Even if you think you know Dick Beardsley's story -- a Minnesota guy becomes a star marathoner, is felled by injuries and addiction, and survives it all -- there's more.

New chapters continue to unfold for the 53-year-old, who owns the fastest time in Grandma's Marathon history, which have initiated a screen- play of his life for a possible movie, while a second autobiography is in the works.

Beardsley had a total replacement of his right knee Jan. 7 and, this won't surprise anyone, he's back running. He'll certainly put in a few miles later this week in downtown Duluth when here as a speaker and radio commentator for Saturday's 33rd Grandma's Marathon.

"I've been told a number of times, since the knee replacement, that I wouldn't or shouldn't run again. I haven't gone back to it to prove the doctors wrong, I just love running," Beardsley said recently from home in Austin, Texas. "I may be making a big mistake, but I don't think anyone really knows the effects of running on an artificial knee. Yes, the knee will probably wear out faster, maybe it will last only 10 years instead of 15 or 20, but how will I know unless I try?"

Right now he's running 40-45 miles a week, squeezed into his life as a sought-after motivational speaker. His longest run with the new knee, nine miles, came Monday.


A nasty turn

A wave rolled over Beardsley as he stood in the Atlantic Ocean off Palm Beach, Fla., last September and his right knee was twisted. It ultimately needed arthroscopic cleaning in November and then the situation became seriously complicated by an infection. The infection ate away the knee joint and, after facing excruciating pain, a knee replacement was Beardsley's only option.

He underwent a three-hour operation and was hospitalized four days. It was the 12th operation on the knee since his first in 1976, and cost about $50,000. The DePuy orthopaedic rotating titanium knee, with a ceramic surface, made by Johnson & Johnson, is the most up-to-date replacement joint, said Beardsley, and allows for improved side-to-side movement and better wear.

Physical therapy and then biking and swimming were the first steps on the road to recovery.

"I found I loved biking and you can get an aerobic fix on the bike, but it's still not like running," said Beardsley, who completed about 30 career marathons, including his course-record in the 1981 Grandma's Marathon in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 37 seconds.

So, little by little, he's gotten back to it as he continues to travel almost every weekend as a speaker. An atrophied right quadriceps leg muscle meant slow going at first, as it took nearly 12 minutes to cover a mile. He eventually was able to run without a limp and now can run a mile in under eight minutes.

Beardsley's wife, Jill, said Dick isn't one to take the easy route.

"At first, he had accepted that he wasn't going to run again. And then he said, 'Let me try this and try this.' He's going to run and live for today. That's who he is; he's not going to limit himself," said Jill Beardsley, a citizen runner, who helps organize his speaking engagements.


The Next Chapter

Beardsley's life has been detailed in his 2004 autobiography "Staying the Course: A Runner's Toughest Race," which included his battle with prescription pain killers, and in John Brant's 2006 book "Duel in the Sun," the story of the 1982 Boston Marathon, a searing race against Alberto Salazar. Beardsley was also featured in the acclaimed 2007 independent documentary "Spirit of the Marathon."

Yet, not all of his tales have been told, leading to work on a second autobiography and a screen play by film producer Paul Martin of Vineyard Productions of Sonoma, Calif.

Yet whatever new material is produced, running is still at the base of Beardsley's identity.

"When I retired from running, after the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials, I knew I wouldn't be back at that level again. But I still like to push myself as hard as I possibly can," said the two-time Grandma's Marathon champion, who grew up in Wayzata, Minn. "Even now, I'm at a slow place, but I'm doing more than just shuffling my feet. I'm working at it and I actually feel like a regular runner again."

Before the knee replacement, Beardsley was still running marathons, including the 2006 Grandma's Marathon when he finished in 2:47:56 at age 50. He's not predicting a 26.2-mile race any time soon on his new knee, but there is precedent.

Randy Rendon, also a resident of Austin, Texas, had a knee replacement in 2007, according to the Austin American-Statesman, and six months later completed the 2008 Houston Marathon at age 60 and did so again in 2009.

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