Charlie Sheen’s muse

For anyone who’s still wondering about the source of the jovially beleaguered actor’s energy and ideas, it may not be any of the popular suspects — an extended neurotransmitter storm with roots in pharmacopoeia, or merely a fantastic and solipsitic contrivance — but this 2007 interview with one of America’s greatest and most colorful distance runners.

In the age of the Internet and a million apocryphal tales, it’s difficult to say whether Gerry Lindgren’s chief notoriety today lies in his sublime accomplishments or in the training and racing feats attributed to him by himself and others. Whatever the case, several things are unquestioned: Lindgren held the U.S. high-school 5,000-meter record (13:44, set in 1964) for 40 years; he still holds the indoor two-mile record (8:40.0), run on a small eleven-laps-the-the-mile track and surviving a strong challenge over the weekend from Illinois wunderkind Lukas Verzbicas (8:40.70); he won eleven NCAA titles; and he set one world record (27:11.6 for six miles in 1965). As for the rest — the series of 350-mile training weeks, the comments about Oregon runners employing stealth hip checks — who knows? He gives a great interview.

When I was doing those long runs I kind of knew nobody else was doing so much. I thought that if you want to run well you have to go through hell to get to heaven. I was just willing (or stupid enough) to do whatever it takes to serve as I wanted to serve … Every day I have regrets. Why didn’t I do more? Why did I stop at 50 miles when there was still sunlight? Maybe I could have been a bigger influence on other runners and non-runners too if I had just demonstrated a little more courage. I never did enough!

My good fortune is that I was such a wimp and worthless as a runner. My coach told me to become the rabbit, to sacrifice myself for the good of others, so that the team could grow stronger. In running as a rabbit without any regard for myself, I tapped in to the will of the gods. The longer I ran the more I felt energy was there. The harder I trained the more joy I experienced. On those long lonely runs I was always either given more energy by the gods or forced to suffer some unusual circumstance that would test my determination to serve…

I could write a book on [America’s] problems. When the military/FBI/organized crime conspired to kill Kennedy, they killed virtue as well. Selfish military, selfish government and lies took over. We had rioting in the streets, distrust of police and government, and more and more people looking at what they can get for themselves. Runners today don’t want to MAKE great races; they only strive to win them. Runners are afraid to train hard, race hard, pay the price. It is as if we outsourced courage to Kenya and Ethiopia.

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