Over the weekend I re-read Duel in the Sun: Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley, and America's Greatest Marathon. The author (John Brant) tells both of their stories so well and you just feel as if you are in the middle of things.
Great great read and you fly through it pretty quickly.
The backdrop to the book is the 1982 Boston Marathon, where an insanely competitive Alberto Salazar and an insanely tough Dick Beardsley ran side by side all the way from Hopkinton, doing everything they could to break each other, neither giving an inch.
Reading the story of the race is like watching the movie Apollo 13, you know how everything turns out, but you are on the edge of your seat, waitng to see who wins. Brant does a good job presenting what was going on in the underdog Beardsley's head during the race, but doesn't provide much from Alberto. I don't know if that was intentional or not, but it leaves you rooting for the underdog.
The basis for the rest of the book is that the 1982 Boston Marathon was the last really great running performance for each of the athletes. Salazar lost his performance level through the effects of overtraining and depression (it's actually more complicated than that, but the book does a pretty good job of fully explaining it). Beardsley was taken down by achilles surgery, a freak farming accident, and finally an addiction to prescription pain killers.
The book spends much of the time examining the troubles each runner experienced following that legendary race. I find it interesting that Salazar's journey afterward genuinely changed him, whereas the troubles that befell Beardsley only brought him back to his true self. It's a great commentary on the eternal question: Can people really change?
Neither Beardsley nor Salazar chose their personal burdens, but each approached life as a marathon, and both have overcome adversity and are now cruising comfortably down the stretch.
Two inspiring tales, well told.
Boston Marathon 1982: Dick Beardsley and Alberto Salazar race neck and neck to the finish