A Doctor's Life on the Run

Physician's Money Digest, February15 2005, Volume 12, Issue 3

These two quotes sum up the late Dr. GeorgeSheehan's approach to life. Although thephysician who former President Bill Clintoncalled "the philosopher-king of running"was devoted to physical fitness, "Doc" Sheehan alsostressed the philosophical and spiritual benefits ofsport. The Running Doc, as he was known, was profoundlyconcerned about the soul, andas anyone familiar with his writingsknows, he believed that health andspirit went hand-in-hand.

George lived the strenuous life. Andwhile others touted the added years thatan active lifestyle promised, he focusedon the quality of those years. "Don't beconcerned if running or exercise willadd years to your life," he would say,"be concerned with adding life to youryears." Diagnosed with prostate cancerat age 67, he steadfastly refused to letthe disease define his life. He continued running andracing until he was no longer able to do so, all the timeproducing the inspirational essays that were his trademark,as he had done for the past 25 years.

Life Change

The Brooklyn-born son of a physician, Georgewas a runner in high school and a track star atManhattan College. He followed graduation frommedical school in 1943 with a stint in the US Navy,marriage, 12 children, and a successful New JerseyShore-based internal medicine practice. But at age 45,a vague discontent with his life led him to run again—long before jogging became a fitness fad. And hebegan to write about his running experiences.

A Doctor's Legacy

Running & Being

Going the Distance

By the time George passed away in November1993 at age 75, he had turned out hundreds of newspaperand magazine columns on running and eightbooks, including his signature tome and , a chronicleof his final illness, which was publishedshortly after his death. Althoughrunning was his primary subject,his writing was also a vehicle forhis philosophy of the whole man. Itwas this philosophy that, during histenure as the runner's guru, attractedfans worldwide.

According to George's point ofview, we are all athletes, and by nurturingour bodies we also nurture oursouls. "Don't be a spectator," hewould say. "You can only be happy when you dosomething yourself." His philosophy also focused onthe idea that we are all meant to be heroes and thatthe athletic experience is what allows us to be heroes."You are special," he'd say. "You can learn to liveyour life as the special person you are."

a Physician's Money Digest and MD Life staff

writer since 1996, is Dr. Sheehan's youngest brother.

Michael Sheehan,