George Sheehan on Running to Win: How to Achieve the Physical, Mental and Spiritual Victories of Running Paperback – April 15, 1994
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- Publisher : Rodale Books (April 15, 1994)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 230 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0875962173
- ISBN-13 : 978-0875962177
- Item Weight : 9.9 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.75 x 8.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,855,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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In my teens, I sniffed at sports. I skied a little, skated some, rode a bike around town until I got my license. I swam during college to keep the weight off. Took a few aerobics classes when Jane Fonda was all the rage. I once went "running" with an inspiring girlfriend. But that lasted a mile, at which point I threw up.
Billie Jean King was clearly someone I was not.
It wasn't until I moved to Iran that I missed all the activities I'd ignored in the States. Suddenly, there were a million and one things I could no longer do.
Where I was living, an athletic woman was considered tawdry. Iranians had nothing against an active woman, per se. Moving and sweating, after all, were part of their way.It's that an athlete exposes her body in public. Which spits in the face of Islamic modesty.
I found it gross that an Iranian girl could ride her bike until nine. But, at ten years old-- when she could legally marry-- she was scandalous for doing the very same thing. I found it unfair that women-- in an all female gym--had to exercise in long sleeves and a scarf. In case some random man wandered in. And there was that friend of a friend, who ran on a walled-in track. Wearing a trench coat and scarf in 90-degree weather. You might as well throw on a parka before hitting the sauna.
The forbiden turned into that which I yearned for. I thought, while I de-stoned the rice for dinner, how nice it would be to bike across Iran. Run along Chamran. Kayak the Karun.
Then, when I came back to the States, I caught up with some other friends I'd really missed. I partied with Cheese Cake and Big Mac and Little Debbie. Overnight, or so it seemed, I packed on twenty pounds.
About the time my zippers stopped zipping, I came across a photo in a glossy magazine. A woman running; the vantage point, her back.
I thought how wonderful it would be to look that good--legs, waist, and arms the epitome of perfection. A runner's body, it occured to me in a lightbulb moment, would only be gotten if one actually ran.
I started jogging with an arthritic girlfriend. Out of shape, we'd stumble for five minutes, then speed walk for ten. When pain got the best of her, I didn't give it up. I signed up at the gym. Formed a relationship with the tredmill. I'd huff and puff for half an hour, then, after a few weeks, push myself to do more.
By the end of the year, I was faster and svelter. Despite going through a divorce, I liked myself more.
At work I discovered the lunch time crew. A handful of runners who ate lunch at their desk, then ran downtown Waterbury at half past noon.There was a young German fellow who missed the Black Forest. An accountant I liked because he loved his wife. An overweight manager, obsessed with women. A girl, fresh out of college, whose self-confidence I admired. Every once in awhile, someone would fall to the wayside; someone new would join the ranks.
Some days, running was a social thing. A time to talk, joke, decompress. I time to be a kid again. And just get silly.
Some days, running was a me thing. A time to listen to the wind, the slap of my feet, the sound of my breath.
Little by little, however, running became something more.
When I came across George Sheehan on Running to Win: How to Achieve the Physical, Mental and Spiritual Victories of Running in the local Barnes and Nobel, I picked the book up and gave it a look. Usually, I find sports writing as dull as dirt. I don't care who Bill Rodgers is. What Bruce Jenner eats.
But I was looking for answers. An explanation for how, or why, running was transforming me.
George Sheehan, it appeared, had spent the last thirty years asking the same thing:
"And the more I run, the more certain I am that I am heading for my real goal: to become the person I am. ..I see that whole person as being part animal, part child, part artist, and part saint. Running makes me all of these. It makes me a whole person...Being an artist is, after all, only seeing things as if for the first time. When we do, we see the real meaning of things, the solutions to our problems. Running gives me that creativity. It provides the meditative setting. It opens up areas in my mind I seem not to use otherwise."
It was true. When I ran with others, I communed with playmates. I wasn't the girl on the sidelines, but part of a gang. When I ran by myself, I had space to think. I wasn't bombarded with opinions. I could hear my own voice.
I bought the book and I took it home. Every night I would read some more.
"All the while, I was learning more and more about myself and discovering again and again the satisfactions, the joys, the sense of a job well done that comes from the race...What's more, I found I was full of misconceptions about myself and others. With racing,I learned how to handle pain and give an improbable effort, and do it all alone."
I liked the notion of racing, so I signed up for a 5k with two of my crew. 5k's turned into 10k's. A half-marathon, into marathons. The three of us ran together almost every weekend. On long runs we'd discuss roofing materials, favored donuts, and troublesome term papers. When my ex-husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer, my running mates listened to me cry while the pavement slipped past. The two and a half years it took him to die, we logged hundreds of miles. I talked myself blue.
Running was what George Sheehan claimed: The proving ground where one learns to conquer pain.
What started as a weight loss gimmick, became the centering force to my existence. Running gave me confidence. Pride. Space. The abiity to cope.
"Somewhere along the way, I learned how to relax. I learned to relax not only my body but my mind and soul as well."
I run with my husband now. He's the perfect partner. For miles we say nothing. We get lost in our heads. Sometimes we talk about the day. Or hash out our problems.
We point out foxes to each other.And the eagle in the tree.We comment on the perfect sunrise.Or the mist rising from the river.
With running I am selfish. My daughter complains: I won't let anything get in the way of my morning run. I won't take her to the train station. I won't pick up her friend. In short: her urgent needs--from 6AM to 7, anyway-- are tragically ignored.
She thinks it's about my husbandand me. Our need to tighten bonds. And while that's a lovely byproduct, running, for me, is about so much more.
Running is the key to my power. It's the magic pill that keeps me whole.