Dick Beardsley event grew from humble beginnings
The Dick Beardsley Half Marathon, Relay, and 5k Walk/Run has drawn athletes to the area since the first races in 1996.
The event honors Beardsley, a former resident of Detroit Lakes, for his connection to the community and many accomplishments.
Beardsley’s place in the running history books was firmly established in the 1980s.
He continues to hold the record time for Duluth’s Grandma’s Marathon with a time of 2:09.37 set in 1981, returning to the course for another win in 1982.
Among his many races, perhaps Beardsley’s most famous is the 1982 Boston Marathon’s “Duel in the Sun.” The event brought Beardsley and Alberto Salazar to a neck and neck chase to the end, where Salazar narrowly captured the win for one of the closest finishes in the marathon’s history, a mere two second lead.
Beardsley holds the fifth fastest marathon time in United States men’s history. His autobiography, “Staying the Course,” was published in 2002 by the University of Minnesota Press.
Offering online coaching, Beardsley has also hosted an annual marathon training camp at the Rainbow Resort in Waubun, Minn.
A dynamic speaker, he travels and shares his experiences of recovering after a series of accidents caused him to develop an addiction to pain medication. The Dick Beardsley Foundation provides education and support for those fighting chemical dependency.
Mark Fritz said he and Dave Burd of Detroit Lakes, both avid runners, began discussing the idea of bringing a running event to Detroit Lakes while golfing together back in the mid-1990s.
The two were also members of the Chamber of Commerce board, and approached running legend Dick Beardsley about obtaining his support for a race in the Detroit Lakes area.
Of Beardsley’s reaction to the idea of establishing a running event in Detroit Lakes, Fritz said, “he was all fired up.”
Beardsley began suggesting possible names for the race, with themes focused around the lakes area and the upcoming fall season.
Fritz said that the committee approached him in reply, and said, “Actually, if you wouldn’t mind, we’d love to call it the Dick Beardsley.”
Honored, Beardsley agreed, and the rest is history.
Fritz and Burd teamed up to codirect the first three years, in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Bureau, and with the crucial support of volunteers.
While Fritz noted that the event had a great start and that many of the favorite features, such as the course entertainment, were established early on, he said, “The race directors after us really brought it to another level.”
Jeff Leighton helped to further develop the event, directing the race from 1999 to 2002.
David Langworthy has been involved with coordinating the event since 1999, and described the race also as “an event to stretch the summer one more weekend.”
The Dick Beardsley Half Marathon is held each year in early September, and has grown and evolved significantly since its conception 17 years ago.
According to Langworthy, in early years the event attracted around 400 athletes.
“It was a pretty small race, just in its infancy,” he added.
Langworthy said that for many years the number of registered athletes increased by 10 or 12 percent each summer.
In recent years the event has expanded to attract around 2,000 participants in the half marathon, 5k, relay, and 1k kids’ event.
“It’s really family friendly,” Fritz said of the Kid’s Run, which was an early part of the experience. He added that the event “celebrates the joy of being outside and being physically fit,” for people of all ages.
In addition to larger numbers, further changes were applied to the race when Langworthy teamed up with Jeff Mohr to codirect the race from 2003 to 2005. Runners were surveyed to check assumptions made by race coordinators in an effort to make the event even more appealing to athletes.
“We got some great data about what runners really care about when they come to race,” Langworthy said.
Fritz also said that a priority from the very beginning was to provide the best possible experience for runners. Features added with that goal in mind include restroom facilities along the course, entertainment during and after the run, and clearly marked certified courses.
High quality athletic shirts have also enhanced the event, and the introduction of chip timing allowed each runner to receive a more accurate time result.
“It’s really a value for what you get for the whole package,” Langworthy said.
“It’s a small town race, but we try to make it a big town event,” he added.
The desire for greater growth and improvement opportunities led to the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center becoming involved in planning the event.
Fritz said that the DLCCC felt like a good fit for the race.
“It can’t be done by someone with a full time job — it needs to be somebody’s full time job,” Langworthy added.
Brent Wolf of the DLCCC spearheaded race efforts from 2006 to 2012. Last year, Kim Bettcher, activities director of the community center, stepped into the leadership role.
“The community center is just a great fit,” Langworthy said. “Kim is doing a great job too.”
Langworthy cited the Community Center’s experience with large scale event planning as a major benefit, in addition to the combined talents and efforts of the DLCCC staff.
The Detroit Lakes High School cross country teams have traditionally volunteered with traffic control, course preparation and clean up. Community volunteers have also played a vital role in fueling race efforts.
The support of sponsors has also been crucial in ensuring future growth while providing a high quality experience for runners.
Accumulated profits from the race allowed the event to provide scholarships to area high school seniors through the Dollars for Scholars program, beginning several years ago.
“Our charter was to give back to the community,” Langworthy said.
From relatively humble beginnings, the race has certainly developed into a landmark event for the lakes area.
“It’s been fun watching how it’s evolved to what it is now,” Fritz said.
With a long history in the area and the enthusiasm of race coordinators and volunteers, the Dick Beardsley event continue to unite running enthusiasts of all levels, promoting community wellness and the enjoyment of the beautiful lakes area.