Monday, March 8, 2010

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

This is the 3rd of 3 posts. Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here. I'll repeat the intro below:

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 posts, on March 4th, 6th and 8th:

11. The man who has not seen the road in the early light of morning, cool and living between two rows of trees, does not know the meaning of hope.

12. When you see me, that lonely figure out on the road, I am looking for my territory, my self, the person I must be. There I am no longer the observer watching myself think and talk and react. I am not the person others see and meet and even love. There I am whole; I am finally who I am. And there I encounter myself. That encounter is a deep place totally isolated which cannot be understood or touched by others, a place that cannot be described as much as experienced, a state that philosophers describe as solitude.

13. I know that there is an answer to my odd union of animal and angel, my mysterious mixture of body and consciousness, my perplexing amalgam of material and spirit. And if for now that answer is only for the moment and only for me in my lowest common denominator, me the runner, it is still enough.

14. I look for those answers on the roads. I take my tools of sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste and intellect and run with them. And I leave behind whatever I own, forgetting whatever I thought valuable, whatever I held dear. Naked, or almost, I come upon a new world. There on a country road, moving at eight miles an hour, I discover the total universe, the natural and the supernatural that wise men speculate about. It is a life, a world, a universe that begins on the other side of sweat and exhaustion.

15. And that perhaps is the essence of the running experience for me, and any number of different experiences for other people. The lack of anxiety, the complete acceptance, the letting go and the faith that all will be well. In running, I feel free. I have no other goal, no other reward. The running is its own reason for being.

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