Dear Dr. Sheehan:
Happy 100th birthday! I guess it must be bittersweet since you died in 1993, but still. You live on through your words. What more could you ask than that?
You probably don’t remember me. We met back in 1980 or so. You spoke at the Holiday Inn the night before our little 8K. I was already a huge fan, a True Believer following in your footsteps after being forever changed by “Running & Being.” I had just been running a year or so and I hadn’t quite figured things out. Your words and your belief in running as more of a philosophy than an exercise forever changed me.
I don’t remember what you talked about that day; I just recall your aura. Turtleneck, faded jeans, beat-up Tigers. I wanted to be you. I still do. I’m not an autograph kind of guy. I got yours.
“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 him free.”
Order and law and love and Truth that makes men free. That’s when I knew that running was what I had been looking for my entire life. It stopped being my sport and became my religion. You were my prophet and “Running & Being” was my bible. It still is.
I carry a copy of it on my phone now (I’ll catch you up on this technology stuff some other time.) I think about you and your teachings almost any time I run.
I embrace the daily hour you believed in, a quiet time to solve the world’s ills and contemplate. Then I come home and write, just as you did. I even have a pseudo-Royal keyboard that connects to my phone by bluetooth (again, I’ll catch you up later.) It doesn’t matter that nobody reads it. It’s the writing that matters.
“The true runner is a very fortunate person,” you wrote. “He has found something in him that is just perfect.”
I was lucky enough to find that something, and it’s in large part because of you. I just wanted to say thanks.
“Success rests in having the courage and endurance, and above all, the will to become the person you are.” Anyhow, happy birthday and thanks for helping me become the person I am. As long as I’m around, you’ll still be going out for that daily run. See you tomorrow.
you fan gary