Thursday, January 3, 2008

Book reading: Staying the Course by Dick Beardsley

One of my many goals this year, running and regular is to read a book a week. I used to read books quite often. After 3 years of law school, it took years until reading was a pleasurable thing again. While I do not read books as often as I used to, I take solace in the fact that I read about “stuff” on the internet more than just about anyone I know. I am a curious chap and going from one link to another will take up hours in my day.

That said, actually finishing a real book is something I wish to do this year every week. I recall a conversation I had with my friend Karl Engleka about how if you read a book a week for your typical lifespan you would read a little over 4,000 books. This seems like quite a lot of reading until youpbut those books onto a typical library bookshelf. You would be surprised how little of those bookshelves they would fill. Especially when you consider it a life’s work.

But I am giving it a shot nonetheless. Luckily, I have a good half dozen or so books on the hopper ready to read. This is good for me since the hardest part of this challenge will be finding 52 books I want to read. Having recently delved into the classics (Catch-22; Fahrenheit 451; etc) and been supremely disappointed in, well, how disappointing of a read they were, I figured I would be out of luck come, say, May. However, with many running books out there to read and with a passion for running nowadays I never thought I would have had even just three years ago, I think I am in good hands.

Plus, now that the bulk of the work on my own book is done, I will not feel bad about reading instead of writing. With a hopeful early spring release date, my chronicle of Fiddy2 and its beginnings, as well as why I began running in the first place, promises to be an enlightening read one way or another. I hope all those who said they would buy the book if I sign it, will actually do so!

In the meantime, stay tuned here for a synopsis/review/critique of the books I have read.

To begin, I will start with Dick Beardsley’s autobiography, Staying the Course. For those who may not know, Dick is one of the most accomplished marathon runners in American History. Rather than list all of his many accomplishments (which you can view here) I will simply state one: his 1982 Boston marathon time remains the fourth fastest time in American history. Dang.

His book details his own rise to the top of the running ranks, as well as his hitting bottom as a drug addict. Unlike what a precursory view of the above sentence would make you think, Dick did not fall victim to cocaine, heroin or any of the other “hard” drugs. Rather, beset by a string of accident and injuries that would make a Greek tragedy seem funny, Beardsley instead became viciously addicted to painkillers. No less potent in their addictive quantities, this addiction had Beardsley taking so many pills that when the DEA finally caught him, they assumed he had to be dealing as no one human could ingest that many in the time period he did.

In just over 200 pages, Beardsley takes you through his childhood, marathon running days and to the present. At no time does the book bore, even for a non-runner. He rarely uses too many running terms and speaks in such a tone that you feel he is speaking directly to you, out on a boat in the middle of a Minnesota lake where he works as a fishing guide in his “dream job”.

If Americans love success stories, they lust after success, abject failure then success again stories. Beardsley’s life is one. So is this book. Go read it.


Alan said...

That is going to be one of my next books. I just finished "Duel in the Sun" about Dick and Alberto in the 1982 Boston marathon. Good read- took me about two days to read and left me wanting to learn more about Beardsley.

cyberpenguin said...

Great post! Good luck with your reading program!

Would love to hear more about why you found some of those classic disappointing (Catch 22, Fahrenheit 451, etc.).

Had no idea you were writing a book on your Fiddy2 experience. Wow, that's great. When & where will we be able to buy it? (Perhaps on

Thanks for your review of "Staying the Course." Love reading books about running, & sounds like this one is a good one, so I'll have to add it to my must-read book list!

Would be curious to hear some of the other books you've read as well.

Have a good night!

Dane said...


There are few things I did not find disappointing about those books. I felt they were poorly written with horrid prose; the ideas were stagnantly boring; the characters were developed about as much as one hour photo and they seem to be "classics" just because they are old!


That is a wonderful book. Without a doubt a page-turner.

Chris said...

I read Beardsley's book a couple of years ago after I met him at a local half-marathon. He's an incredibly friendly and personable guy. Even though the line to get his autograph was short (maybe 5 people ahead of me), it took awhile because he struck up a conversation with every single person in line. I too enjoyed "Staying the Course" and would also recommend "Duel in the Sun"'s amazing how both Beardsley's and Salazar's careers peaked at Boston and then quickly declined afterwards (although Beardsley can still pound out sub-3 marathons, even after the injuries he's suffered).

Yellow Scuba said...

I can't wait to read this book now, but I won't buy it until the other ten or so new books get read first!

I look forward to your reviews! Maybe you will inspire me to read more, and since you'll be in Utah and not here occupying my time, I should have more reading time. ;)

Happy reading!

DTEtarzan said...

I am currently reading "Strides" by Ben Cheever. It is an interesting look at running throughout history that you might enjoy. Congratulations on your next great adventure. Hope to see you in R.I. for the culmination of Jack's 50-state quest, if not before. --Anthony T

Dane said...


Holy Crap. I am reading that exact same book!