Famous Dead Person of the Week: Jim Fixx
Life: April 23, 1932 – July 20, 1984
Occupation: Runner, author
Claim to Fame: Huge part of the American fitness revolution in the 70s.
Fun Fact: Avid runner passed away while running.
Sorry to spoil the punch line here, but the fun fact is the reason I wanted to discuss Jim Fixx.
Fixx wrote four books about running, which puts him four up on just about everyone else. I can’t imagine reading a book about something as basic as running, but apparently they were hugely popular in the 1970’s and quite a turnaround for an era where sex, drugs and rock n’ roll (along with terrible dieting and copious boozing) were the norm.
(I can’t believe I missed out on that era, but my uptight parents had the opportunity to be active participants and chose not to. I may never get over that.)
By all rights, Jim Fixx was an embodiment of the American Dream: he changed his life and made a fortune by doing so. He opened a window of opportunity and hopped through it. Maybe ‘icon’ is too strong a word but a sizable faction of the population owe their continued good health to Jim Fixx for being one of the first people to realize that exercise can be good for you.
Unfortunately, none of the positive effects of Jim Fixx’s life will ever do anything to replace the fact that he died while doing the one thing that changed his life both physically and professionally. The phrase, ‘passed away while out for his morning run’ will follow him in every obituary ever written about him, including this one.
There’s something almost poetic about Fixx’s exit from this world; he dedicated his life to running and then one day, he went for a run and dropped dead from a heart attack. I can’t prove this and wouldn’t try, but I would say that was probably the way that he wanted to go out.
I’ve always wanted to pick the way I could go out – eating a massive steak, violent shoot-out against faceless bad men trying to break into my home or mauled by a tiger being three prime examples. Not running. Never running.
Darkly, Fixx’s passing provided comics like Denis Leary and Bill Hicks the opportunity to make jokes at his expense (to the point that Hicks accused Leary of stealing his bit). The obvious joke (that running killed this guy instead of helping him live longer) has been made by anyone that has ever heard the story.
As someone that tries to avoid running anywhere, I can easily imagine dropping dead while running. It’s what I want to do every time I run. Or walk. Or lift a weight, or basically do anything that’s not sitting. I am not what you would call active. I am actively turning into a sedentary creature. Jim Fixx would not approve.