Thursday, March 4, 2010

Homage to Dr. George Sheehan (Part 1 of 3)

Back in my road racing days, before I saw the light and embraced UltraRunning, the poet-philosopher of the running boom was Dr. George Sheehan. This post is in his honor.

He was a prolific author of running books, focusing on the mental aspects of running, and was a regular contributor to Runner's World. I had several of his books and would reread them frequently, especially prior to a marathon, as the message never seemed to get old. Here are some of my all-time favorite quotes, excerpted from Running and Being--the Total Experience, by Dr. George Sheehan. These are timeless and equally apply to a 50 miler as to a road race.

I'll limit the quotes to 5, a short manageable number, and divvy up the list into 3 separate posts, on March 4th, 6th and 8th.:

1. "There are days when you can't get the ball in the basket, no matter how hard you try,” a basketball coach once told me. “But there is no excuse for not playing good defense.”

2. We are born, I suspect, with a built-in longevity quotient, which we can diminish but not increase. We are born, it seems to me, with an appointed time when noise will develop in the signals sent by our messenger RNA. When the song the molecules sing will no longer be heard by the cells. Disease, disintegration and death let us forget about is not how long you live, but how you played the game.

3. The opportunity to encounter and deal with pain is one of the aspects that makes the running experience ultimately so satisfactory.

4. For every runner who tours the world running marathons, there are thousands who run to hear leaves and listen to rain and look to the day when it all is suddenly as easy as a bird in flight. For them, sport is not a test but a therapy; not a trial but a reward; not a question but an answer.

5. I am ready to start a new religion, the first law of which is, “Play regularly.” An hour’s play a day makes a man whole and healthy and long-lived. A man’s exercise must be play, or it will do him little good.

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