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From The Desk of Clarence Bass

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“[Alberto Salazar] was not the fastest runner or the prettiest one to look at, but he could run at the red line—that place where speed and pain commingled—longer than anybody on earth.”

               ~Duel in the Sun, John Brant (Rodale 2006)


Duel in the Sun transcends the boundaries of sports writing to give us a tale for the ages.”

               ~Daniel Coyle, author of Lance Armstrong’s War


Running to the Highest Peak—and the Deepest Valley


John Brant’s Duel in the Sun is the story of the greatest American distance race—and the devastating and potentially permanent effects of overtraining. Plus, it’s a real page turner. The writing is superb.


The book is about the epic battle between renowned champion Alberto Salazar and gutsy underdog Dick Beardsley at the 1982 Boston Marathon. Salazar was a two-time winner of the New York City Marathon and held the world record in the marathon at 2:08.13. Talking to the media beforehand, Salazar refused to acknowledge that Beardsley had a chance, or even that he was in the race. Salazar’s 2-second margin of victory came as quite a surprise to everyone, especially Salazar.


The winning time was just under 2 hours and 9 minutes. To put that in perspective, the course record, set this year (2006) by Kenyan Robert Cheruiyot, is 2:07.14. The best American, Meb Keflezghi, who moved to the United States from East Africa as a child, was third with a time of 2:09.56. Salazar and Beardsley would have beaten him by a minute or more!


Other marathons had featured narrow victories, of course, but this was different. “Beardsley and Salazar ran in each other’s pockets the entire 26.2 miles,” Brant writes, “with no other competitors near them for the final 9 miles. They were so close that, for most of the last half of the race, Beardsley, while in the lead, monitored Salazar’s progress by watching his shadow on the asphalt.” But there was more. Near the end of the race, Beardsley stepped in a pot hole and fell. He lost sight of Salazar for the first time. Everyone thought the race was over. Even Beardsley, but only for a moment. Somehow, “he found another gear,” put his head down and made a mad dash for the finish line. Salazar thought Beardsley was gone. “But instead he was right there, on his shoulder, bearing down on him.”


Dick Beardsley was 26 and Salazar 23. “Everyone assumed that this would be the start of a long and glorious rivalry, one that would seal American dominance in the sport through the 1984 Olympics and beyond.” But it was not to be. “After that day, neither man ran as well again.” Beardsley suffered a career-ending injury and Salazar finished a dismal 15th in the marathon at the Los Angeles Olympics.


The challenges that lay ahead for both runners are why the book is a landmark. The events leading up to the ’82 Boston Marathon and the aftermath are the meat of the book, and why I recommend it to every serious trainer, endurance, strength or both.


I’ll leave you with a hint to whet your appetite. In Ripped 2, I wrote about the hard-day, easy-day system of training developed by Bill Bowerman and used by his successor Bill Dellinger, the legendary track coaches at the University of Oregon--and why it is so important. Well, Dellinger was Salazar’s coach, but Salazar followed only part of the system: he doubled the workouts Dellinger designed for him, and skipped the easy days. “[His] idea was to never rest, never be satisfied at his current level of fitness, but to push, push, push.” The effects follow Alberto Salazar to this day. Beardsley’s story is different (more troubled), but equally engrossing and meaningful. You won’t be able to put the book down. I guaranty it.


You’ll find Duel in the Sun at your local bookstore or on Amazon.com.  

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Ripped Enterprises, P.O. Box 51236, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87181-1236 or street address: 528 Chama, N.E., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87108, Phone (505) 266-5858, e-mail:  cncbass@aol.com, FAX:  (505) 266-9123.  Office hours:  Monday-Friday, 8-5, Mountain time.  FAX for international orders: Please check with your local phone book and add the following: 505 266-9123

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Copyright © 2006 Clarence and Carol Bass.  All rights reserved.