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Where are they now?: Dick Beardsley

NOTHING about the first London Marathon, in 1981, delighted the organisers more than the sight of Inge Simonsen, of Oslo, and Dick Beardsley, from America's Midwest, crossing the line together in a spontaneous gesture of global sportsmanship.

'It just happened,' Beardsley recalled. 'Nothing was pre-planned.' Even though neither sought to win outright, their time - 2hr 11min 48sec - was the fastest ever in England and contributed to a record sequence of 13 consecutive personal bests by Beardsley, who peaked at 2.08:53 in Boston in 1982.

Beardsley retired to his dairy farm in 1988, whereupon he entered an extraordinary sequence of mishaps. 'First I got caught up in a rotating shaft on the farm and almost had my left leg torn off at the knee. I was really lucky - twice they were going to amputate.'

Next: three road accidents. 'A lady ran a stop sign and totalled our car; then I got hit by a truck, and then, in a snowstorm, I flipped my own truck and totalled that.'

Incredibly, he plans a comeback. 'I had back surgery and haven't run since December but if I can get back into half-decent shape I may go after a sub-2.20 as a master (veteran), maybe in London in 1996.'

Now 38, the farm sold, he lives with his wife and adopted Honduran son in Crookston, Minnesota, making a living as a motivational speaker, farm broadcaster and fishing expedition guide.

(Photograph omitted)