Running and Being: The total experience

This week's book review was written by the library's Book Review Blog's co-host, Nicole Kutz-Menard. Miss our last book review? Check it out here: The Killer Angels. Happy reading!

Running and Being: The total experience
By Dr. George Sheehan

Nonfiction | Health | Fitness | Self Help
Audience: General adult

Book Blurb from Goodreads:

The book that helped get the world running is back. This New York Times bestseller written by the late runner, doctor, philosopher, Dr. George Sheehan is a timeless classic. It tells of Dr. Sheehan's midlife return to the world of exercise, play, and competition. Focusing on the importance of "play", Sheehan describes his program for fitness and joy, sharing with the reader how the body helps open up our mental and spiritual energies.

Nicole’s Review:

Originally published in 1978. The author was a Dr. who took to running at a late age. Dr. Sheehan invites the reader into the recollection of the discovery of himself. The book is both a physical and spiritual one. He attests there is a strong correlation between body build and function. His ideas stem from Dr. William Sheldon who wrote Atlas of Men. This Dr. proclaims that the shape of the man determines his behavior. The body is the objective record of that person and the task is to convert that record into speech. It is believed that all of nature structure determines function.  He divides mankind into 3 “races”:

Mesomorphs (doers) Action, dominant, cheerful, assertive, optimistic, reckless, adventures

Endormorphs (talkers) Leisurely, social, calm, placid, generous, tolerant, forgiving, sympathetic, kind

Ectomorphs (thinkers) detached, ambivalent, reticent, suspicious, cautious, awkward, withdrawal

The connection between his body and the personality traits presented, encouraged the understanding of himself. He writes “As in all of nature, structure determines function.”

 Dr. Sheehan connects form to the presence of being.  He insisted that presence must be kept with intensity, participation, commitment, constant awareness, and to remain observant:  
 “We must be present because at this moment there never is a tomorrow. This gives such a feeling of consequence and performing a dangerous and essential action in a great cause. This is the heightened life. Heart determines man’s actions, rather than reason or instinct. Heart is courage, it has reasons the mind and body do not know. The heart is where faith lies. It gives us the courage to be, to take arms against oneself and become one’s own perfection. Courage, according to Paul Tillich, is the universal and essential self- affirmation of one’s being. It therefore includes the unavoidable sacrifice of elements that are part of us but prevent us from reaching out actual fulfillment. Meaning: that is the most essential part of our being is to prevail against the less essential, we may have to give up pleasure. Happiness, and even life itself.” The words of this author change the tone of sacrifice from the commodity of fear to the pleasure of affirmation. Dr. Sheehan views what he isn’t able to indulge as the reiteration of a higher capability. Running asked him to release parts of himself that did not act in his best self- interest and through that dynamic connected his physical self to his higher self.
 “I have given up many things in this becoming process. None was a sacrifice. When something clearly became nonessential, there was no problem in doing without. When something clearly became essential, there was no problem accepting it and whatever went with it. Whatever I give up, whatever innocent indulgences, ordinary pleasures, or extraordinary vices, I do so from inner compulsion, not in the mood of self-sacrifice or a sense of duty. I am simply doing what comes naturally.  For the runner, less is better.”

Running brought Dr. Sheehan closer to his essence. This return to himself, allowed for a deeply moving existence. Art and poetry find rhythm in his footsteps as he propels himself into a greater connection of worlds. This “total experience” travels between biology, philosophy, God, and a daily life. You need only to be a person of physical action to benefit from the words of Dr. Sheehan.

Mandy's Book Recommendations:

Interested in the genre of running memoirs? Try these titles: "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" by Haruki Murakami, "My Year of Running Dangerously: A Dad, a Daughter, and a Ridiculous Plan" by Tom Foreman, and "Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen" by Christopher McDougall.