On top of his game

U.S. runner Dick Beardsley is shown in 1981 winning Grandma’s Marathon in 2 hours, 9 minutes and 36 seconds — the second-fastest clocking for an American in any marathon at that time. The race was in Duluth, Minn.

Clarence DeMar Marathon organizers have announced the keynote speaker for the 2019 race weekend: Dick Beardsley.

Beardsley, 63, is referred to as a running legend in the United States and is best known for his incredible race in the 1982 Boston Marathon, which was later chronicled in a book by freelance author John Brant titled “Duel in the Sun.”

He is also a motivational/inspirational keynote speaker at Fortune 500 companies, nonprofit organizations, conferences, conventions, corporate events, fundraisers, galas, sporting events, prisons, schools and drug treatment centers.

Run on a hot day, the 1982 Boston race was a near photo finish. The unheralded Beardsley battled world record-holder Alberto Salazar down to the finish. In the end, the runners were separated by fewer than two seconds.

Both men broke the American record for the marathon distance: Salazar won in a record time of 2 hours, 8 minutes and 51 seconds; Beardsley’s time was 2:08:53.

Beardsley was at the height of his professional running career, as was Salazar, considered one of the finest marathon runners of his generation. The Cuban also won the N.Y. City Marathon in 1982, his third straight in that event.

He went on to star in college at Oregon.

In November 1989, tragedy struck for Beardsley. While using an auger to lift corn into a bin on his Minnesota farm, he became entangled in the machine; it began to literally tear him apart. Not expected to live or walk —much less ever run again— he managed to survive.

But that was just the first in a series of events that would forever change his life. During the next few years, Beardsley was involved in a severe car accident; later he was hit by a truck while running; later still, he rolled his vehicle in a snowstorm; and finally, while hiking one day, the ground gave out and he fell off a cliff.

Each incident resulted in hospital stays and surgeries.

In time, he became addicted to pain medication, and his life began to spiral out of control. It has been a long and difficult road back, as he tells it, but Beardsley has been celebrating every day of his sobriety since Feb. 12, 1997, he said.

He will share his life story and will walk through his exciting highs and his dark lows. His journey is compelling, filled with obvious anguish, but hope and hope and redemption, too.

Amby Burfoot, the 1968 Boston Marathon winner, was last year’s guest speaker. Burfoot, 72 then, also ran the DeMar Half Marathon. The year before, in 2017, longtime Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillvray spoke to DeMar competitors on the eve of the races in Keene.

Burfoot, interestingly, ran the Grace Cottage 5K in Townshend, Vt., over the weekend, finishing 76th.

Beardsley will deliver his program at the evening pre-race pasta dinner at the Courtyard Marriot on Saturday, Sept. 28. The DeMar Marathon and Half Marathon are run the next day.

That dinner event is sponsored in part by True North Networks, a Swanzey-based Managed IT services and IT support business.