Dick Beardsley’s Story About Overcoming Addiction

  • By Duncan Larkin
  • Published Apr. 8, 2011

He began taking painkillers after a near-fatal farming accident.

Most people know about the marathon-champion side of Dick Beardsley. After all, he may be one of the best American long-distance runners ever. And who could forget his famous “Duel in the Sun” at the 1982 Boston Marathon against Alberto Salazar?

But there’s more to Beardsley–a lot more.

Now retired from competitive running, Beardsley tours the country as a motivational speaker. As a child, he grew up in difficult circumstances.

“My mom and dad were both alcoholic, there was no physical abuse, but there was a lot of verbal abuse and then later physical abuse between my mom and dad when they were drinking,” he recalls.

However, the marathon great had his own struggles with addiction: painkillers. He began taking them after a horrendous farm accident that nearly killed him.

“I started taking these pills for more than the surgeries. I had been had thinking it would make the problems go away, but it made it worse and then I just go into a free fall,” Beardsley said. His addiction finally caught up with him when he was arrested for writing his own prescriptions.

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Duncan Larkin

Duncan Larkin

Duncan Larkin is the news editor at and a freelance journalist who’s been covering the sport of running for over five years. He’s run 2:32 in the marathon and won the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race in 2007. His first running book, RUN SIMPLE, was released last July.

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