Running with the Champ

My Forty-Year Friendship with Muhammad Ali

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About The Book

The “affectionate…charming” (Kirkus Reviews) story of Tim Shanahan’s remarkable and little-known forty-year friendship with boxing legend Muhammad Ali, filled with stories never told as well as never-before-published personal photos.

In 1975, Tim Shanahan was a medical instruments salesman living in Chicago and working with a charity that arranged for pro athletes to speak to underprivileged kids. Muhammad Ali had just reclaimed his title as heavyweight champion of the world by defeating George Foreman (the “Rumble in the Jungle”) and then successfully defended it in a rematch against Joe Frazier (the “Thrilla in Manila”). When Shanahan learned Ali was planning a move to Chicago, he contacted the Champ to ask whether he would participate in the charity program. Not only did Ali agree, he invited Shanahan to his new home, where the two spent a night talking, laughing, and bonding over bowls of ice cream—the beginning of an incredible friendship.

Ali soon enlisted Shanahan as his early morning running partner. Quickly, Shanahan became a trusted confidant and travel companion, and Ali often stunned strangers by introducing Shanahan as his cousin. The two grew even closer over family dinners with Shanahan’s wife, Helga, and Ali’s wife, Veronica. Shanahan was with Ali as the Champ trained for his legendary battles with Ken Norton, Earnie Shavers, Leon Spinks, and Larry Holmes, and moved to Los Angeles with Ali when the Champ prepared for a life after boxing. Shanahan was a recipient of and witness to Ali’s tremendous generosity, and as Ali’s health began to deteriorate, Shanahan had a chance to return the favor, encouraging and comforting his ailing friend.

Running with the Champ is an insightful personal portrait of the Greatest of All Time. But, above all, it is a touching, candid narrative of an extraordinary friendship that continued until Ali's death.

About The Author

Photograph by Hana Yasmeen Ali

Tim Shanahan has been a close and trusted friend of Muhammad Ali and his family for nearly forty years. He retired in 2013 as regional sales manager covering five Western states for a medical products company. Running with the Champ is his first book.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 10, 2016)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501102356

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Raves and Reviews

“When I heard that Tim Shanahan was writing a book about Muhammad Ali I was excited, because for the first time we’d get a chance to look at the Champ from the perspective of a real friend. In the years that I have spoken to Tim, it seems that we never run out of stories about the Great Ali. Tim has taken the term ‘brother’ to another level; no one has been as close to the Champ as Tim Shanahan. Read with me and celebrate true friendship.”

– George Foreman

“Oh my! This is the reader’s opportunity to get inside the ropes with ‘The Greatest.’ Tim Shanahan’s book is a knockout read, offering rare insight into the man regarded as the most powerful and prominent athlete of his time.”

– Dick Enberg

“Of all of his great achievements in life, from champion prizefighter to goodwill ambassador to instrument of hope for the underprivileged, it is quite lovely to learn that Muhammad Ali was also a devoted friend. In his affectionate memoir of their long and durable bond, Tim Shanahan reminds us of a sometimes overlooked aspect of The Champ—that in stride with the wonderful talent and wild antics that kept us so entertained walks a man of profound decency.”

– Mark Kram, Jr., author of the PEN Literary Award-winning Like Any Normal Day

“An affectionate portrait of boxing legend Muhammad Ali. . . . Charming moments abound. . . . If you're wondering why Ali is called ‘The Greatest,’ this . . . pleasant memoir makes for a good place to start.”

– Kirkus Reviews

“An engrossing story…of an enviable friendship. … Shanahan comes off as a likable guy…it's easy to understand why the fighter allowed him into his inner circle.” 

– Publishers Weekly

“Shanahan presents a complex but less bombastic person than is popularly associated with the name; generous to a fault, devoted to his religion and…family, and a champion of the less fortunate. This view of a fabled boxer from the unusual angle of friendship offers justification beyond the boxing ring for calling Ali ‘The Greatest.’”

– Library Journal

“If you thought you knew about the life of Muhammad Ali, think again.  His best friend—unknown until now to all but Ali’s closest insiders and family members—gives us new insight into Ali’s thoughts, hopes, dreams and fears.  Awesome!”

– Larry Elder, host of the nationally syndicated “The Larry Elder Show”

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