Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Meet(ing) Dick Beardsley

The Hyannis Half Marathon was my first half marathon ever back in 2009! It holds a very special place in my heart and it always feels like coming home when we walk into the Resort and Conference Center at Hyannis.

Here are some photos from 2009:

And here I am 5 years later with Bill Rodgers - what a transformation!

There is always some kind of magic in the air on race weekend but this weekend was more magical than I could have ever imagined.

There is always a lot of "trash talk" and fun talk at the pre race pasta dinner. It's great to meet up with old friends and make new friends finding out whose first half or full marathon it is and sharing our Hyannis stories. I was in no way prepared for the story that Dick Beardsley was about to share. Initially Bill Rodgers and Dick quipped about running and shared some humorous stories about their shared past at the Boston Marathon. Dick went on to share his story.

It was a big deal for him to graduate high school. He was the first one in his family to graduate high school and when he graduated, he went over to his father who had tears in his eyes. His father handed him a piece of paper that said it was good for one round trip ticket to the Boston Marathon.

Dick went on to share how he got into a near fatal farm accident. He got choked up as he shared that there was a problem with the insurance and he had hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid medical expenses and Bill Rodgers sent him money as did Alberto Salazar.

He then shared how, as a result of the accident, he got addicted to prescription pain medication. He shared his powerful, inspirational journey and the group that was gathered in the ballroom were spellbound.

My husband and I were overcome with emotion. Addiction ran rampant in our families and we know the pain and struggle of addiction. But before us stood Dick Beardsley, a runner and a champion in every sense of the word. Out of his pain and suffering, he created the Dick Beardsley Foundation. Their mission as stated on their website is to:

The Dick Beardsley Foundation will educate the public (including the youth in schools and clubs) on the disease of chemical dependency, the warning signs of chemical dependency, the dangers of chemical dependency, and how chemical dependency can be treated; to promote living a healthy, active lifestyle, chemically free; and to promote greater openness about chemical dependency.

Dick shared with us that they also use funds to pay for recovery treatment programs if an individual has no means of paying for treatment.

Tom and I usually hang around after the speakers finish and if it is someone we haven't met yet, we usually go up and talk to them after their talk. But we were so moved by Dick's talk, that we decided to go back to our room.

The next morning - Race Day and the energy and excitement reverberates throughout the entire hotel. Tom and I had our usual routine of bringing our oatmeal to the lobby, getting coffee for Tom and a bagel for me with fresh fruit. As we were sitting there talking about the amazing weather (45 and sunny for race day in Hyannis - say what?!) and how grateful we felt for our lives together (we're comin' up on 36 years of marriage on 3/4), Tom nudged me.

"Look who's there," he said.

I looked up and I saw Dick Beardsley sporting his red New Balance fleece with his name on it.

"Oh my goodness," I said...

We both thanked Dick for his talk and told him how our family has been touched by addiction. He started talking to us totally wrapped up in the present moment. We suggested that he get in line to order his breakfast. We paid for it! It was the least we could do for all the time he was giving us. I asked him if he needed his space to get in the zone for the relay and he said he would love to have his breakfast with us.

His honesty, his vulnerability, his raw heart and his genuine interest in me and my journey touched my heart beyond words. He told me that he wanted to give me a copy of his book and as I walked with him, at quite a brisk pace I might add, we talked about my recovery from trauma and paralytic polio. We talked about our faith and asking God for help because our challenges needed a force greater than ourselves, yet a force that we possess inside of ourselves to get through the dark nights of our souls.

And after Dick autographed my book, Staying the Course: A Runner's Toughest Race,

he told me that one thing that humans cannot live without is hope. You can go without water for so many days and food for so many days and you can even be deprived of breathing for short periods of time. But once you are deprived of hope, the Spirit withers. I gasped as he talked about hope and told him that the title of my memoir is Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility.

He told me that I will touch and save lives by sharing my journey. I told him that he touched and blessed my life more than words could say. He knows that he has saved lives by sharing his journey and bringing chemical dependency out of the closet. He mentioned that often people hesitate to donate to his foundation because of the shame and stigma around chemical dependency. I told him that my mother was addicted to prescription pain medication. My father was an alcoholic who suicided. My nephew began using drugs at an early age and his addiction resulted in his suicide 3 years ago this March 4th. Dick's compassion and love, his warmth, his humor his passion and exuberance for life, for running and for using his journey to help others heal is overwhelming. As a retired social worker, as the daughter and aunt of losing two people I loved to chemical dependency, I share in his passion for the work he is doing.

Meeting Dick Beardsley has changed my life forever! Go to his website and meet him yourself! And please consider donating to the Dick Beardsley Foundation.

1 comment:

runwithken said...

What a great moment--when Dick gave you a copy of hs book! Thanks for sharing it, and the story behind it.