Tag Archives: marathon

Duel In The Sun

Duel In the Sun: The Story of Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley, and America’s Greatest Marathon – John Brant

In the twilight years of amateur running in the Boston Marathon before prize packages were introduced to incentivize big names and bigger turnouts, elite runners duked it out on 26.2 miles of pavement from Hopkinton to Boston for nothing other than bragging rights. Perhaps the greatest battle of all was the famed “duel in the sun” in 1982 between Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley. Beardsley had been favored to win the marathon until Salazar, the runner that confidently proclaimed improbable goals before his races only to demolish them, entered two months prior to the marathon. In a fierce contest of mental stamina and physical endurance, Beardsley and Salazar ran shoulder to shoulder for the last 9 miles of the race with no other competitors in sight. Although both men spent years dreaming about Boston and 2:09 minutes engaged in intense battle, the aftermath of the marathon was perhaps the most pivotal part of each man’s life. Salazar slowly descended from a promising career to one plagued by nagging and indeterminate maladies. Beardsley’s professional running career was cut short by ACL surgery shortly after the marathon, but his life was much more significantly impacted by addiction. In retrospect, each of the runners traces the change in their life trajectory back to the duel in the sun.

“Duel in the Sun” by John Brant chronicles much more than the famed race of ’82. Featuring two competitors, Brant spends time exploring the backgrounds of each runner, how they found their way to elite running, and the unexpected paths their lives branch out on after the culmination of the race. A thorough historian, Brant traces Cuban-American Salazar’s family history back to the days when his father was a resistor-in-arms with Castro before fleeing to the United States when he no longer felt safe under Castro’s communist Cuba. Similarly, Brant explores Beardsley’s country childhood and farming work ethic, as well as how the alcoholism of both his parents contributed to his genetic predisposition and later addiction to painkillers. As a sports writer, Brant focuses in on relevant details of training, racing, and everything else related to running without going into the weeds with nuance. At the same time, he offers a holistic picture of each runner and their experience by including how their childhoods shaped not only everything leading up to the duel in the sun, but also everything that came after. The result is a gripping retelling of an amazing race that considers all the factors at stake.

I love this book! The chapters alternate between runners, focusing on experiences before the marathon that influenced their running as well as significant moments after the marathon as the runners struggled to make meaning of the difficulties in their lives. Throughout the dueling narratives runs the theme of the ’82 Boston Marathon, which unites the multiple storylines. I was also pleased with the respectful tone Brant takes toward each of the runners’ struggles, rather than exploiting individual difficulty for consumption and comparison. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in running.

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Marathon Meditations

Around the time I was training for the Boston Marathon, my cousin casually remarked that he never imagined that, of all people, I would be the one to eventually run a marathon, much less the Boston Marathon. No offense meant and none taken. Growing up, I never in my wildest dreams foresaw a future in which so much of my time and energy was consumed by running. No, not consumed. Enthusiastically given.

running-favoriteI’ve been running for almost 10 years, and what started as a habit eventually grew into a passion. Running provided recreation, rejuvenation, purpose, focus, and everything else that helped me get through the day. It took me a while to set my sights on anything grander than a 5k, but as my confidence and goal distances gradually increased, so did my commitment to routines and regimens that would help me cross the finish line (in varying states of functionality). In the past four years, I’ve crossed finish lines (and picked up awesome medals!) in four different marathons.

2013 – Colfax Marathon
2014 – Richmond Marathon (my BQ!)
2015 – Marine Corps Marathon
2016 – Boston Marathon

Which begs the question – what’s in store for 2017? I should have another marathon on the calendar. Currently, I don’t. There are a few reasons behind that. First, I need to figure out the chronic plantar fasciitis I’ve had for over two years now. I’ve taken off a month at a time to focus on strengthening the muscle groups around it and try out various treatments, but it always comes back as soon as I start running again. Big problem. Second, my relationship with running seems to have stalled to the point where almost no amount of intrinsic or extrinsic motivation can influence me out the door. Also a problem.

dory-raceAlthough I may have little to no motivation to run, and injuries that probably (certainly) need more patience and attention than I’m giving them, those factors have had absolutely no impact on my desire to race. Every time I overhear conversations about races, training plans, nutrition strategies, and the latest gear, I feel like a kid in a candy shop. Spectating at races also feeds into this obsession because watching everyone else enjoy (or suffer through) the race gives me major “Fear Of Missing Out” (though I’m certainly helping by providing support and enthusiasm!). I’ve been part of that so many times before, and I want to continue to be part of that.

The desire to reach the finish line is there. I could easily go and sign up for all the races I have my eye on (once my next paycheck comes through). The more important question is whether I can and will train for those races. Hard to say right now. For the time being, I’m happy to stay in hibernation a bit longer, but I’m going to be intentional about this hibernation instead of nonchalant about the time off (like I have been the past few months). I’m hoping the time to reflect will also give me time to reconnect with my running roots, discover the different motivation I am so desperately in need of, and recommit myself to feeling awesome about and inspired by what my body is capable of doing. Those are the feelings that have carried me through the past 10 years, and those are the feelings I hope will carry me through a lifetime of running.

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