George Sheehan: Inspiration from “The Running Doc”
My physician-father called him a “true genius.” Dad also said that the two men practiced medicine together in Red Bank, NJ for about 25 years and “he was nothing more than an acquaintance.”
Dr. George A. Sheehan, Jr. was something of an enigma (Dad too, for that matter). But George’s taste for the peculiar would make him very famous. Once an oddity, today nearly 65 million Americans say they run/jog, according to Statista. One of 14 Brooklyn-born children, Uncle George was my mom’s oldest brother.
The original pioneer of the sport, George truly revolutionized running as a means of fitness for mind and body. He was the doctor who helped generate a nation of runners. Among all Americans now, running is the second most popular activity (after walking). And George claimed to have raced in all 50 states but his favorite spot to run, the one he always returned to, was Lake Takanassee in Long Branch, NJ.
George was a successful medical doctor (Sheehan & Kelly were much respected for their diagnostic skills), prolific author (one New York Times bestseller earned the title of “the philosophical bible for runners”), acclaimed lecturer (“the running community’s equivalent of a Springsteen concert”), father of 12 children (his wife Mary Jane defined class, dad once told me.), and longtime Rumson, NJ resident (home was an old mansion on august Rumson Road).
The nationally-renowned “Running Doc” inspired millions of runners nationwide. Including: President Bill Clinton; celebrated distance runners, Frank Shorter, Bill Rogers, Joan Benoit, and Alberto Salazar; and famous doctors, Dr. Ken Cooper (who introduced the concept of aerobics) and Dr. Walter Bortz (the nation’s top scientific expert on aging and longevity).
I got to see Uncle George just before he passed away. He died of cancer at his beach house in Ocean Grove, NJ in November 1993, only days before his 75th birthday.
Here are some of his pearls of wisdom:
- “The true runner is a very fortunate person. He has found something in him that is just perfect.”
- “To know you are one with what you are doing, to know that you are a complete athlete, begins with believing you are a runner.”
- “The difference between a jogger and a runner is an entry blank.”
- “The most important thing I learned from running is that there is only one runner in this race, and that is me.”
- “Have you ever felt worse after a run?”
- “Of all the races, there is no better stage for heroism than a marathon.”
- “Out on the roads there is fitness and self-discovery and the persons we were destined to be.”
- “Sweat cleanses from the inside. It comes from places a shower will never reach.”
- “Fitness is a stage you pass through on the way to becoming a racer.”
- “The music of a marathon is a powerful strain, one of those tunes of glory. It asks us to forsake pleasures, to discipline the body, to find courage, to renew faith and to become one’s own person, utterly and completely.”
- “The athlete must accept pain — not only accept it, but look for it, live with it, learn not to fear it.”
- “Running is a monastery — a retreat, a place to commune with God and yourself, a place for psychological and spiritual renewal.”
- “The mind’s first step to self-awareness must be through the body.”
- “If you don’t have a challenge, find one.”
- If you want to win anything — a race, yourself, your life — you have to go a little berserk.”
Quotes from: Dr. George Sheehan’s website.