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Marathoner Dick Beardsley discusses addiction in Fargo

FARGO--Dick Beardsley, the famed long -distance runner from Detroit Lakes, Minn., began the tale of his life with these words: "My name is Dick, and I'm an addict."...

Dick Beardsley shared his story of his successful battle against an addiction to painkillers at First Step Recovery in Fargo, N.D. on Wednesday, December 30, 2015. Carrie Snyder / The Forum
Dick Beardsley shared his story of his successful battle against an addiction to painkillers at First Step Recover in Fargo, N.D. on Wednesday, December 30, 2015. Carrie Snyder / Forum News Service

FARGO--Dick Beardsley, the famed long -distance runner from Detroit Lakes, Minn., began the tale of his life with these words: "My name is Dick, and I'm an addict."

The group he was speaking to Wednesday, in a packed room at First Step Recovery, a drug and alcohol treatment facility in Fargo, responded in unison: "Hi, Dick."

Beardsley went on to tell the remarkable story of his rise to elite marathon runner and then, following a series of injuries, a fall into painkiller addiction.

In the hospital after a 1989 farm accident, he got his first taste of Demerol, injected into his buttock.

"She gives me a little shot, and about 20 minutes later, I had the most incredible feeling hit my brain that I had never, ever felt before," he said. "As I look back now, I think I might have become addicted to it at that point."

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But Beardsley did not come to crave the high until after he was prescribed painkillers again and again, following other injuries.

He started to pop the drug Percocet like Tic Tacs.

"I justified every pill I took," he said. When he received a prescription for 300 Percoset, he thought, "these are going to last me forever." But at the rate he was eating them, they lasted less than one month.

In 1996, he was caught forging prescriptions at local pharmacies and was sentenced in Clay County District Court to probation and community service.

That year, he got into treatment. His counselor, Sue Stenehjem-Brown, was one of the founders of First Step Recovery, 3201 Fiechtner Drive S.

"I try to come back as often as I can to share my story," Beardsley said in an interview before his talk.

His goal is to give addicts hope that they, too, can kick their habit.

"We're all fighting the same thing," he said. "Sometimes you feel you're all alone."

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Beardsley is perhaps best known for missing a first-place finish in the 1982 Boston Marathon by only 2 seconds, in a famous race called "The Duel in the Sun." He is a member of the National Distance Running Hall of Fame.

Beardsley works as a motivational speaker and lives in Texas. He said he is planning to open a bed and breakfast in Bemidji, Minn.

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