Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Fri, 31 Dec 1999 12:54:12 -0500

Dr. Quotable

In one of his early books George Sheehan explained his penchant for quoting the master thinkers of history -- from Socrates to Santayana -- in his own writing and speaking. "My family rarely gives me any credit for original thought,'' he wrote in Dr. Sheehan on Running. "When a topic comes under discussion at the dinner table, someone is likely to turn to me and ask, 'What would Bucky Fuller say about that?'

He added, "I find it difficult to speak without giving voice to someone else's words. I quote them because they said so well what I was thinking. They described my experience, my personal truth, in miraculously right words."

The lovely irony is that George the quoter became the most quoted writer on this sport. His friends and fans came to ask ourselves, "What would George Sheehan say about that?"

He gave voice to what other runners thought or felt or sensed, but couldn't find the words to express as well as he did. His phrases were clipped, underlined, posted, remembered. Here are some of his more memorable passages, one from each of his books.

DR. SHEEHAN ON RUNNING (1975): "Running frees me from the monosyllabic inanities of my usual tongue-tied state, liberates me from the polysyllabic jargon of my profession, removes me from the kind of talk which aims at concealing rather than revealing what is in my heart and what I mean to do and be. For me no time passes faster than when running with a companion. An hour of conversation on the run is one of the most satisfying hours ever spent."

RUNNING & BEING (1978): "For every runner who tours the world running marathons, there are thousands who run to hear the leaves and listen to the rain, and look to the day when it 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."

MEDICAL ADVICE FOR RUNNERS (1978): "There are as many reasons for running as there are days in the year, years in my life. But mostly I run because I am an animal and a child, an artist and a saint. So too are you. Find your own play, your own self-renewing compulsion, and you will become the person you are meant to be."

THIS RUNNING LIFE (1980): "In a race my performance is my concern, not yours. I wish you well. In fact, the better you do, the better I will do as well. That, I have come to see, is the true nature of competition. The Latin root of the word is 'petere' -- to go out,to head for, to seek. The 'com' is doing it together, in common, in unity, in harmony. Competition is simply each of us seeking our absolute best with the help of each other."

HOW TO FEEL GREAT 24 HOURS A DAY (1983): "For me winning is a matter of doing my absolute best on a particular day. It is a matter of enduring pain, never relaxing when I feel good and maintaining contact as long as I can with the runners around me, even those better than I. Winning is never forgetting that I am running against the unforgiving clock and not against the companions who race along with me. Winning is never having to say I quit."

PERSONAL BEST (1989): "Life is not a skill sport. It is a game anyone can play and play well. The requirements are those bedrock qualities we all possess. Their development demands no more than our time and effort. Our particular and peculiar genius will manifest itself if we devote ourselves to that project."

RUNNING TO WIN (1992): "Racing is the lovemaking of the runner. It is an excitement in the blood. There is the same agitation, the same stirring of the pulse, the same feeling in the chest, the same delightful apprehension that you feel when nearing the one you love."

GOING THE DISTANCE (1996): "When you are between the sword and the stone, you know who you want standing beside you. When time is short, it becomes obvious who the essential people are in your life. People who know they have cancer have a motto: 'Make every day count.' I have done that. What I have not done is make every PERSON count. I now know that Robert Frost was right: I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep."

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