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Running & Being: The Total Experience

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,197 ratings  ·  136 reviews
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 reade ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 1st 1998 by Second Wind II Llc (first published December 1978)
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3.77  · 
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 ·  1,197 ratings  ·  136 reviews

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This book has a few nice quotes (most of which are not even the author's, just some famous philosophers) for which I give it one star... This book's author has a tone of arrogance the whole way through and frequently refers back to his staunch notion that one must have a specific body type to run, and if you don't, you need to do something else. He gets so detailed with these ideals of physiological perfection it kind of reminds me of Hitler's obsession with ideal Aryan measurements. Also, I am ...more
Dec 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
A Recommended to me by another Buddhist running writing librarian, this book really speaks to me about what it truly means to be a runner; Sheehan has a terrific sense of humour, but also understands the spiritual side of running. While certain elements might be slightly dated, this book is a MUST for all runners!
Apr 08, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book years ago in my running phase, and decided to dip into it again before I got rid of it. Dr. George Sheehan was an older runner, having found this outlet later in his life. He became a top runner, competing in many early Boston Marathons and numerous other races each year. But, more than being a runner, he was a philosopher. He utilized running to become a whole person, to play (which all people need to do to be joyful, to be content), to challenge himself and push into pain for ...more
Jeremy Preacher
This was a hilarious book. Crazy over-the-top paeans to physical fitness as the ultimate virtue, wild claims about spirituality and its connection to running, and an insistence that every long-distance runner shares the same totally Asperger's traits as the author. I giggled all the way through.

That said, the sections that are actual memoirs of races or discussions of the nuts-and-bolts of running are solid - among other things, the author gives a dead-on description of hypercorticism while poin
Apr 03, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I got about 20 pages into this before I bailed. I think it was somewhere around the part where Sheehan proclaimed that "Religion will always push irreligion to the wall." Sorry, no thank you. Keep your God talk away from my favorite pastime.
Ashley Montulli
Mar 04, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction, dnf, running
I made it about halfway before I couldn't take it anymore. As a runner of over 20 years I have no idea what in Jesus' name he was talking about.
Sep 11, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, health
Sheehan writes beautifully. He talks of crafting his words while writing and it's clear he is an eloquent perfectionist. That he takes time and not only attends to the substance of what he is writing but also to the form. That said, Sheehan's writing is all about Sheehan. Perhaps I should have realized this before picking the book up, but I had the distinct sense that he wasn't writing to me but rather to himself. Basically this is an amazing book if you are similar in views and temperament to h ...more
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall, it was a really good philosophy book that focuses on running. Going into the book, I thought it was going to be a book about how to run better - it is a book about how Sheehan uses running to experience life and the afterlife. I enjoyed how he uses poets, philosophers, and theologians to all support whatever topic he was discussing.

"Like all pilgrimages, this one is filled with stops and starts, with peaks and valleys, with pains and pleasures. There are periods of depression and elati
Jun 16, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I first started this book I thought it was really lame. He talks about himself a lot in a self-deprecating-yet-egotistical way, like he is so proud of being a loner. I kept thinking, "Man, get over yourself." He also has a lot of bogus ideas about ecto/endo/mesomorphs and how that determines your personality. I kept thinking he must really be a loner and not know anyone because I can think of a zillion individuals whose body types do not match the personalities he related to them. The first ...more
Jan 05, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-read-books
I am two minds about this book. In small, infrequent doses, this book often provides inspiration and insights better than most of the chronicles of running and athleticism. Its unique premise -- running as a form of organic move within one's being -- stands out among shelves of running books mainly on techniques, Marathon lore, and biographic writings on sports professionals. It intends to be a philosophic rumination of both running and being. This is vastly different from running as a performan ...more
Jim Brennan
Nov 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
n my June 23, 2011 blog The Thinking Man’s Runner, I wrote about several of Dr. George Sheehan’s inspiring observations about distance running. In that blog I cited one of Dr. Sheehan’s memorable quotes, “But then my fitness program was never a fitness program. It was a campaign, a revolution, a conversion. I was determined to find myself. And, in the process, found my body and the soul that went with it.” It is one of many astute observations in his book, but one that resonated with the runner ...more
Laura Turbe
Jan 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Twenty five years ago when I started running, George Sheehan was a great inspiration and still is. Sheehan died in 1993 but his writings have lived on. This collection of essays is classic Sheehan - highly introspective, occasionally crabby, and brutally honest. While much of this work is timeless with highlighter-worthy one-liners, I found others to be of a specific time and place, particularly his insistence of the runner as the misunderstood loner. While this may still be the case, and was pr ...more
Jan 04, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book after seeing it repeatedly advertised in Runners Worlds. I am a dedicated distance runner myself as well as a cross country and track coach..needless to say I have a true obsession with the spore. This book however in no way inspired me. Like others have stated few words in this book are actually of the author himself. The pages consist of quotations of other philosophers, theologians, and athletes. Nothing that profound is ever stated and when the author writes that he is ...more
Andy Pederson
Nov 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I wish I bought this on paperback instead of renting the ebook from the library. The reason I say that is because I constantly found myself wanting to highlight or underline certain passages, wishing I could go back to them over time. Maybe I will just have to go out and pick up a copy...

This is a great read for anyone who runs or is interesting in athletics generally, but it is also so rich with different references to philosophers, religious leaders, and poets that it reaches a lot further tha
Jun 30, 2016 rated it did not like it
I did not finish this book. It was extremely boring, but that isn't why I didn't finish it. The reason I quit is because parts of it are very much autobiographical, and the author/main character is heinous. My breaking point was when he said that a) he is unable to make his own breakfast and b) if his breakfast English muffin is cut with a knife instead of pulled apart, it ruins his whole day.
Apr 09, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: library, dnf
Officially a DNF. May (someday) attempt to pick this back up and try again, I just couldn't stand the voice of the narrator and how pompous he came across. Which is too bad, because I was actually pretty excited to read it.
Mike Salamida
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
The runner-philosopher. This book reads as if Sheehan wrote the whole thing while on a runner's high. Besides Born to Run, this is the highlight of my running-book collection.
Sep 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I feel like this is of a piece with Loren Eiseley's The Night Country. I wonder what else.
Kevin Menzie
May 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
At times inspiring, but mostly repetitive and narcissistic "intellectual" ramblings. I wanted to like this book because I love running, but after giving it a few chances had to bail.
Martin Amy
Jun 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
many interesting quotes and thought provoking comments. Though lots of wishywashiness too... worth the read? just
Jul 26, 2015 rated it did not like it
What a weird book. I love books about running, but I can't even tell if this is about running. Sheehan was a strange dude.
Jan 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: health
GS was truly the first runner philosopher of our modern era. Some of my favorites from the book:

Page 11 I look for answers on the roads. I take my tools of sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste and intellect and run with it. I discover a total Universe, a world that begins and ends sweat and exhaustion.

Page 35 for the runner, less is better. Life that is his work of art is understated. His needs and wants are few; he can be captured in a few strokes. One friend, a few clothes, a meal now and then
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Running and Being
The total experience
Dr. George Sheehan
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 obje
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished
"Running meets philosophy": its theme appealed to me. I was glad to find Sheehan discussing what is now known as mindfulness, how in running, the past and future and their anxieties clear away to the now, how freeing this is. But these ideas are well explored elsewhere, so I needed more. Sheehan does grapple with finding meaning and excitement in life, often approaching the profound:

“What we need is an element of present danger, an intimation of tragedy, some feeling of powerful, implacable forc
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
A couple of weeks ago (around 12 March) I completed reading “Running & Being” by Dr. George Sheehan. Dr. Sheehan is widely considered one of the philosopher kings of running in the US (if not the world). The book was extremely philosophical and very well written. It also was full of quotes – another thing I love to read. It was also – at times – extremely boring. A good portion of the book was devoted to excusing his personal idiosyncrasies as characteristics of ALL runners. He was anti-soci ...more
Abby Kubicek
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
In the beginning of this book, much of Sheehan's view is outdated. He relies heavily on Dr. William Sheldon's theory that your body type can determine your personality and what type of exercise you should be doing. Sheehan can also come across as arrogant, and some of his training advice is dated. I nearly stopped reading. However, I'm glad I didn't because the rest of the book absolutely makes this worth the read.

This book is one of the most beautiful love letters to running (and runners) that
Christopher L.
I see this book, as an avid runner, the way I see a hill...I look forward to the challenge of running (reading) it but only half of it! I truly have a love-hate relationship with the book. I connected with half the book and and completely disconnected with the other half. The first page of chapter 9 (page 110) is a microcosm of the way I feel about the book: seeing the world as a beginner ("a beginner's mind, a beginner's heart, a beginner's body") is something that I connect with but in the ver ...more
Marija S.
Nov 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: soul-lifters
At some instances simply brilliant, at some just preposterous (namely, author's pious clinging to 'the science' of constitutional psychology), at times poetic, at times tedious, I view this book as one man's account of learning to be comfortable with who he is, consciously awakening to what he was meant to be. In his case, running was the thing that kept him centered and aware that the present moment is all there is.

So this is not a book about running, but about awakening and growth that happene
Aug 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: running
There were some good ideas in this book and there were some wildly opposing viewpoints. I think it's clear this was mostly a collection of articles pulled together that had a common theme to weave a narrative into a book. A lot of the articles are pretty good on their own, but when read in quick succession can sometimes provide information that contradicts previously read information.

That aside, the content is pretty good -- and it's given me a fair amount of motivation to get back out on the ro
Cher Yi Tan
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really good book, highly recommended, though I can appreciate why some might find this book pretentious. Still, I think this writing style is characteristic of serious amateur runners in general. Murakami comes to mind. It seems to stem from the nature of the sport - the belief that one can overcome any obstacle. It also helps that runners spend a long time in solitude on the roads or trails, so what else is there to do but to let one's mind wander? Me personally, I like humming when I run (on t ...more
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Dr. George A. Sheehan is best known for his books and writings about the sport of running. His book, Running & Being: The Total Experience, became a New York Times best seller. He was a track star in college, and later became a cardiologist like his father. He served as a doctor in the United States Navy in the South Pacific during World War II on the destroyer USS Daly (DD-519). He married Ma ...more
“The distance runner is mysteriously reconciling the separations of body and mind, of pain and pleasure, of the conscious and the unconscious. He is repairing the rent, and healing the wound in his divided self. He has found a way to make the ordinary extraordinary; the commonplace unique; the everyday eternal.” 13 likes
“The runner need not break four minutes in the mile or four hours in the marathon. It is only necessary that he runs and runs and sometimes suffers. Then one day he will wake up and discover that somewhere along the way he has begun to see order and law and love and Truth that makes men free. It” 4 likes
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