Tag Archives: George Sheehan

Run Through the Jungle

running after prefontaine (med.-lg.)

Running After Prefontaine: A Memoir by Scott F. Parker (Inside the Curtain, $15.00, 271 pages)

“I’m like people who meditate for the insights it gives them. They do it for a reason, but the reason is no reason. I run for a reason, and the reason is running – and this is no small joy.”

In this compilation of articles, Scott F. Parker seems to be trying to convince himself of the redemptive power of running. He offers some interesting stories, such as the one about the time he ran a marathon without preparation (been there, done that…). He comes to discover that some run simply because it’s something they like to do; doing something one likes in life is important in itself. The two best chapters of Running After Prefontaine have to do with idolizing the late Oregon runner Steve Prefontaine, and about a woman’s battle to save her son’s life from a rare disease.

“I had recently made a very conscious decision to change the way I thought about myself, with the hope that a change in thinking would be followed by a change in self. I was to be the kind of person who could do things beyond his means by a simple and persistent force of will.”

The other parts of Running After Prefontaine do not work as well because we’ve been there before. The runner as philosopher genre was created by Dr. George Sheehan, and perfected by Haruki Murakami. Parker’s attempt to write about mindfulness and running doesn’t work so well, again, because he still appears to doubt some of his own arguments.

A new runner might enjoy reading what amounts to a personal journal of a life in running, but those with more miles under their soles and/or souls may wish to investigate the real thing. Murakami’s classic, What I Think About When I Think About Running, is a very good place to start. And the late Dr. George Sheehan’s books, Running & Being: The Total Experience, Personal Best, and Running to Win, constitute a great place in which to finish.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

The complete title of George Sheehan’s second book is Running to Win: How to Achieve the Physical, Mental & Spiritual Victories of Running. “George Sheehan is perhaps the most important philospher of sport.” Sports Illustrated, 1978

For more on Steve Prefontaine, the classic account is PRE: The Story of America’s Greatest Running Legend, Steve Prefontaine by Tom Jordan.

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Running Full

For Haruki Murakami the solitude that running brings “is a pretty wonderful thing.”   Murakami – who lives in Tokyo and annually lectures in Cambridge, Massachusetts – wrote this series of essays while preparing for the New York City Marathon.   His goal was to answer the question often asked of runners, “What do you think about when you run?”   The answer, for Murakami, is nothing:  “I’m not thinking of a thing…   (I) keep on running in my own cozy, homemade void, my own nostalgic silence.”

But Murakami finds that running, like the art of writing each day, is something difficult and exhausting that makes him stronger.   By his own admission (“…is it ever possible for a professional writer to be liked by people?”) the loneliness of the long-distance runner and of the writer appears to be one and the same.

This “memoir”, though, is not really a collection of essays about the sport of running.   Running is just the hook.   Like the writings from the late Dr. George Sheehan (Running and Being, This Running Life), this is actually a book about personal philosophy, comfort and self-esteem.   Murakami shows us that we must enjoy our lives in our own way, meeting our own needs even if this displeases others.   In his case, he turns down social obligations and dinner invitations in order to write and run and plan his lectures.   What could be better?

Haruki also addresses the need to gracefully accept the aging process.   “It might not be a very enjoyable process, and what I discover might not be all that pleasant.   But what choice do I have anyway?”about running (paper)

The writer’s style is so engaging – and here’s another parallel with Dr. Sheehan – because of his humbleness and self-deprecation.   This is a Japanese citizen who lectures at Harvard but says of himself, “I’m not the brightest person.”   He’s also a tremendously successful writer who does not expect to be adored, “…I just can’t picture someone liking me on a personal level.”   But Murakami has a wife who loves and accepts him even as she wonders why he runs slower each year.

Yes, Murakami is a brilliant, quirky man who in 180 pages demonstrates for us the value of living on our own terms, with self-acceptance – despite our admitted flaws and limitations – being key.   The reader need not concur with everything Murakami writes but, in the end, you will learn to grant him the respect he has granted to himself.

“Long distance running has molded me into the person I am today…  I’m hoping it will remain a part of my life for as long as possible.   I’ll be happy if running and I can grow old together.”   Long life!

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This book was purchased by the reviewer.

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