"When we take to the roads, we place ourselves in a setting that
fosters our art - which is no less than the self we make and the life we
George Sheehan, M.D. (1918-1993)
Dr. Sheehan was a great man. And in this day and age, great men are few and far between. I had been a fan of his since he started writing for Runner's World, and had always wanted to "drop him a line" to let him know how much I looked forward to his writings, but I never got around to it. They say we regret those things that we don't do in life, so I'm writing this tribute perhaps five or ten years late, but better late then never.
I've been involved in fitness since the mid 1970's. It was around this time period that the fitness boom started. For me, the late sixties and early seventies had taken their toll on my body, and by chance, in the mid 1970's, a friend had asked me if I wanted to play racquetball. Three days later my muscles still ached, but my spirit had been awakened. Movement, sweat, strain, I had found what I needed, and at a much deeper level, what I was looking for. To feel alive, fully, to feel connected, mind and body, and to have a path for a deeper awareness of self. Racquetball led to jogging, jogging to marathons, marathons to triathlons. Always there was a sense that I was moving closer to something undefinable. Something that I couldn't put into words.
I'm not exactly sure when I became aware of Dr. Sheehan's writings, but at some point I noticed that there was a man who loved running, and who wrote about it from his heart. A man who used running to learn, to grow, and to examine life. He wanted to know more about himself, about existence, about fitness, and about spiritual matters. Up until that point in time, sports and fitness were written about in terms of team scores, million dollar contracts, Super Bowls and World Series. Sports commentators resembled drill sergeants in their descriptive phrases of athletics, barking scores and delivering sound bytes about the game. But along with me, millions of Americans were beginning what was later to be called the "fitness boom". We were, in fact, becoming athletes. We were, awakening to a desire from within. A hunger that needed defining. I knew when I began to jog that I was gaining more then just a healthier heart. But what was it? Why had running taken on such significance in my life? The sports pages of the local newspaper never wrote about such things. But Dr. Sheehan did. He was able to begin to clarify that desire to run. He was able to define fitness, (running or whatever) in a way that brought it beyond the jumping jack mentality that we were all taught in school. And he re-reminded me of what I had known as a child, that physical activity was good for the soul. Running and fitness, undefinable at times, brinking on the religious, was always much more. And he reminded us that we were all athletes in the making. Nine or ninety, it didn't matter. We were all athletes.
I have had very few heros in my life, Dr. Sheehan has been one of them. My only regret is that I didn't tell him that when he was still with us. The world is a better place because of him. He will be missed. And my hope for Dr. Sheehan . . . would be that wherever his is, there are races yet to be run.
Robert Ross can be reached by E-mail at: SanDiegoRoss@Yahoo.com
Copyright 1995 by Robert Ross, All Rights
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