Two-time Olympic runner Dick Beardsley knows that addiction can take hold of you no matter what your social status or physical condition.
“People think that an alcoholic or a drug addict is someone living in a box on the other side of the railroad tracks,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “The thing about this disease is, there’s no boundaries.”
The marathon legend, best known for his second- place finish in the 1982 Boston Marathon, 1.6 seconds behind Alberto Salazar, found himself addicted to narcotic painkillers just years after that famous “Duel in the Sun.” After a spate of accidents in the late 1980s and early 1990s — mangled by farming equipment, breaking his back in a car crash, hit by a truck while running, falling off a cliff while hiking — Beardsley found himself taking 80 to 90 pills a day.
In 1996, he was arrested for forging prescriptions. It was the start of his long and painful recovery.
Beardsley, 57, will speak about his struggles with addiction Friday night at a fundraiser for Every Steps Counts, a running and walking program that aims to help people struggling with homelessness, mental illness, addiction and poverty.
“Hopefully, it gives them the hope [to think] that, gosh, if he can get better and move on with his life and be sober, then maybe I can too,” Beardsley said.
The program, founded by the Victoria Foundation and run by the Cool Aid Society, has helped 495 people since February 2009, said co-ordinator Gillie Easdon.
About 50 people are enrolled in the program — 37 of whom are running the 8-kilometre race and three running the half-marathon in Sunday’s GoodLife Fitness Royal Victoria Marathon.
The Fall Session at the Atrium begins at 6 p.m. Friday. The three-hour event will include food from Canoe Brewpub, Zambri’s, Pig and AJ’s Organics, and coffee from Habit. Local bands will be playing and there’s a live and silent auction.
Tickets are $40 each, include food, music and non-alcoholic drinks, and can be purchased at Frontrunners or the Victoria Cool Aid Society.