Running & Being: The Total Experience by George Sheehan

.books Dec 25, 2020

Running saved my life, and that’s not an overstatement. This solitary activity helped me get my fat ass off the couch, motivated me to quit smoking, discover yoga, stop consuming alcohol, and adopt a plant-based lifestyle. –Within this past sentence, I lost all the drinking smokers, but if you’re still with me, let me say that I wish everyone would find such activity in their life.

Just thinking about running makes me understand all those mountain climbers, hikers, parachuters, swimmers, cyclers, and other sports addicts. Yes, running can be addictive, and it’s not the kind you’ll need rehab from. There’s no twelve-step program or Runners Anonymous, but we do have our Woodstocks, and they’re called Marathons.

I dedicated a special chapter in my book to running, and I’ve read and listened to many other running books. They’re always deep and meditative, just like that long Saturday run.

Being big on life design and intentional living, I am happy to report that I’ve found my enough in the running — and it’s the half marathon. I ran three full (42K) marathons just to prove to myself that I’m a real runner, and then decided that 21K races are something I enjoy much more. Two hours at my meditative pace are the right amount of time to enjoy your surroundings and spend some time inside your head. The person at the start and the finish lines are never the same. Some magic happens during that run; it’s super addictive and satisfying.

George Sheehan offers many deep thoughts about running, writing, and life. I’m not sure how meaningful those are to non-runners. But in my eyes, they’re profound.

Here’s a selection of my highlights from the book. They’re all beautiful. Emphasis mine.

Writing, someone said, is turning blood into ink.
He runs because he has to. Because in being a runner, in moving through pain and fatigue and suffering, in imposing stress upon stress, in eliminating all but the necessities of life, he is fulfilling himself and becoming the person he is.
For the runner, less is better. The life that is his work of art is understated. His needs and wants are few, he can be captured in a few strokes. One friend, a few clothes, a meal now and then, some change in his pockets, and, for enjoyment, his thoughts and the elements.
moving at a pace I could hold forever and my mind running free.
I have never smoked. Buying something and then setting it on fire is incomprehensible.
From the moment you become a spectator, everything is downhill. It is a life that ends before the cheering and the shouting die.
And running is the answer to the crucial question: How do you want to live the rest of your life?
I am an intellectual. This does not mean I am intelligent, but that ideas are more important to me than people.
Despite exercise, diet and abstention from all the vices, we will die in our appointed time. That should not concern. It is what happens from now until then that is important.
I had changed from a genius without talent into the worst of all possible beings, a consumer.
Every five-year-old is a success, just as every consumer is a failure.
man who does not move through the countryside with his own thoughts as his companions is in danger of never making the real discovery. Who he is.
I am here to speak not for work, but for play. Not for the mind, but the body. Not for becoming a man or a woman, but remaining a child.
the waste of a mind is a terrible thing. The waste of a soul is worse. But it all begins with the waste of the body.
Running is my fountain of youth, my elixir of life. It will keep me young forever. When I run, I know there is no need to grow old.
We forget that the opposite of the present is not past or future; it is absence.
The jogger has three natural enemies: drivers, dogs and doctors.
The athlete becomes more and more as he has less and less. He is obsessed with being all he can be.
When you race, you are under oath. When you race, you are testifying as to who you are.
I like being alone. I enjoy my own company. I am satisfied running the roads far from any other human being. For me loneliness is the desirable state. Solitary confinement, a touch of heaven. I am never bored.
The intellectual does badly as a lover and almost as poorly as a friend. It is the payment I must make for a life free of boredom. The price I must meet for my precious stream of consciousness, my river of ideas, and the growth that goes with it.
The first half hour of my run is for my body. The last half hour, for my soul.
In the beginning the road is a miracle of solitude and escape. In the end it is a miracle of discovery and joy.
How long it will take is another story. One must go through discipline to get to freedom.
Running becomes so addictive physically, so habit-forming psychologically, that it takes willpower for me not to run.
And it has a solitude so satisfying that I sometimes wonder if the hermit isn’t the supreme hedonist.
I live in a fantasy world shut off from other people.
We were not created to be spectators. Not made to be on-lookers. Not born to be bystanders.
a universe that begins on the other side of sweat and exhaustion. I am purified by that sweat. I am baptized in my own water.
Those who know laughter have learned the secret of living.

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