THE ESSENTIAL SHEEHAN
BOOK REVIEW by ELLIOTT DENMAN
“If you would be a marathoner, study William James,” Dr. George Sheehan advised readers in his best-selling 1978 classic, “Running and Being.”
“Man must be stretched,” William James told us. “If not in one way, then another.
“The marathon is one way. Running 26 miles is a feat that truly stretches a human being.”
Dr. Sheehan, “the Running Doc,” studied James and Ortega and Barrett, along with Plato and Joyce and Melville, and so many more, as he trotted the highway of life. In effect, a marathon.
And as he proceeded, he formulated the personal observations and life-views that identified this singular man as a major philosopher of his day, just as the others were of their own.
Running – and all of sport – became the milieu he immersed us in as he applied his analyses to all the rest of life.
In “Running and Being” and “This Running Life” and “Personal Best” and the five other books he wrote, and in the thousands of columns he authored for the Red Bank, N.J. Register and Asbury Park, N.J. Press newspapers, and for Runner’s World Magazine, Dr. Sheehan helped to “stretch” us all.
He “stretched” us regularly with a myriad supply of advice on topics both mundane and existential.
He got us deep-thinking as we ran and walked and proceeded down the avenues of daily existence.
He got us to examine ourselves and our surroundings and our universe.
He did all this in a second career as a journalist that he took up beyond his first one as a noted cardiologist. He did all this starting at age 45 as he resumed the running life he’d given up after intercollegiate middle-distance stardom. Among other things, his 4:47 was the first sub-5 ever recorded by a 50-plus miler.
The by-then noted man of medicine, husband and father of 12, and soon-to-be standout Masters division runner at distances up to the marathon, did all this for the 30 years before his death to prostate cancer in 1993.
Still, two decades after his passing, “the Running Doc” lives on.
Just off the Rodale Press presses is “The Essential Sheehan,” 312 pages of the best “the Doc” gave to us. These excerpts from his books and columns can help provide the renewal many of us may be able to put to excellent use when we “hit the wall” of life.
The Sheehan Family -son Andrew served as editor, daughter Nora as illustrator and their siblings as contributors – along with Runner’s World Magazine editor-in-chief David Willey – have done the job for us.
Call it a world-class “stretch” and a gold-medal read.
Dr. George Sheehan’s words are timeless – especially those guiding us through life
beyond “the wall.”
Elliott Denman, a U.S. Olympic Team racewalker, was Dr. Sheehan’s writing colleague at the Asbury Park Press for many years. And, too, his Shore Athletic Club teammate, fellow participant in Masters track events, and occasional travel companion, in “The Doc’s” road-weary but ever-reliable VW beetle sedan, to races hither, yon and elsewhere.