PATRICK: [00:00:00] You know, I let go of running fast a long time ago. My relationship with running now is fantastic. I look at it in a lot of different aspects. I mean for some days it’s therapy and some days it’s just like — some days it’s a grind because I might not feel that great.
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JESSE: [00:01:15] Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host, Jesse Funk. My guest today is a former pro runner. During his time doing that he qualified for two World Championships. Previous to that he was a Division One runner at Tennessee with a former guest, Eric Bell back on episode 92. So, you might want to check that out as well as maybe we’ll give Eric a hard time as we get going. He has his master’s in education, comma, leadership. He’s also the head coach for the Knoxville Distance Project. Welcome to the show, Patrick Gildea.
PATRICK: [00:01:49] Thank you, Jesse. I appreciate it. It’s good to be here with you on this Friday, this lovely, beautiful Friday. It’s starting to steam up here in East Tennessee.
JESSE: [00:01:57] Yeah, it’s been raining here pretty much nonstop for the last week. And we were hoping for some break coming up to the next week. And then the forecast comes out, nope, another week of rain. And just — it’s to me. I mean, we’re on the tail end of it now.
But I’m like, well, it’s finally like track season weather. It’s been like unseasonably cold. So, the only thing I’m missing is we got all the rains, you get the rain smell. It’s 60s to maybe low 70s. All I need is to be at the track and get that actual track surface smell when it’s wet. And then I’ll be like, it’ll all start coming back to me.
PATRICK: [00:02:39] You know, there are those smells like you said, the spring track smell and there’s like the fall cross country smell of the freshly cut grass. And I saw yesterday on the news that they already have the Hurricanes named. And so I can’t quite recall what they all were.
But yeah, it’s been unseasonably cool. It’s been incredibly welcomed, just because like normally at this time, it’s like, super hot and super humid. But now we’re here and I just keep telling the athletes that I coach dig your heels in because this is going to be probably this way until October. But winter seems like such a long time ago. And with everything we’ve dealt with over the last 12 to 14 months, I’ll take a little bit of heat and humidity and deal with it as best as we can.
JESSE: [00:03:33] Yeah. When you’re out running now, do you get flashbacks when you smell certain things? Is it like — I know for a long time and it seems like it’s worn off for me a little bit but in the fall thinking about cross country there’s that cross country smell and to me it’s like — it’s a little bit cut grass, it’s a little bit decaying leaves, woody type areas, like that kind of thing.
And it’s — immediately after college for a couple of years definitely it was like this is cross country season and I’m 10 years post college now. And I feel like it’s worn off a little bit. But I still get bits and pieces here and there. I smell it and I’m like nope, that’s — Like, here it is. It’s track season, it’s whatever it is. I don’t think indoor season has a smell to me. Unless it’s maybe like musty moldy jam or something.
PATRICK: [00:04:30] You know, I’m 20 years removed from being a college athlete. Occasionally, I get those flashbacks about if I’m running down the Greenway or something here in town. And I don’t really work out anymore. I run every day but nothing quite like what I used to do. But occasionally I’ll have — something will jar my memory and I’ll remember a work that I might have done with Eric Bell or whatever it was.
And I do get, there’s like certain smells and feelings that you get. Indoors, I would think, having grew up in New York and then moved down to Knoxville in 2001 to go to UT. And the indoor smell is like mineral ice. Like, that — whatever you want to call that. I think there’s been like BenGay and mineral ice, and all sorts of different appointments that you put on.
And so yeah, cross country is like the newly cut grass. For me, I think of indoor track, not only is it a circus, but I remember that smell. And then outdoor track, like you said, it’s like that — when the track is damp from the rainfall and not — I used to coach high school track and field and cross country and so I missed that aspect to it.
But I still definitely get those, yeah, those little flashbacks on occasion. Like, oh, this was what it was like around the state meet or whatever. Whether it was the state meet and cross country, indoors or outdoors. So, yeah, I missed that aspect to it. But those little sense and sometimes it’s a sound that might jar my memory.
JESSE: [00:06:40] To me, it’s almost like the only other thing that I have, like an olfactory memory, like a smell memory about is my grandmother’s house. And a house smells like cigarettes and home interior candles. But — [crosstalk]
PATRICK: That sounds like a great combination.
JESSE: [00:07:00] Yeah, yeah. So, that’s the only other thing that’s like, if I smell I’m like grandma’s house. And she doesn’t use the home interior candles anymore. So, Grandma, if you’re watching stop with the like, Glade plugins spritzy things. Go back to the candles, it doesn’t smell like your house anymore. But it just — I don’t feel like there’s any other thing that’s so consistent growing up.
Because it’s four years now to either of us is much faster than like four years high school or four years of college. It feels like such a long period of time and those consistent smells year after year after year in the same conditions to really like cement it in your head, I just — besides going to grandma’s house or something like that. I just — I can’t think of anything else that’s so consistent like that, to stick that kind of olfactory memory in my brain.
PATRICK: [00:07:51] I love it, personally. I think it’s fantastic. Because sometimes I do forget. I mean, I’m getting older. And so I love when I head out for a run and there’s a smell or a sound that just makes me think of something from a long time ago and I like it. Sometimes it can do one of two things on a run, if I’m by myself or if I’m with a group of friends, it might make me slow down and try to like appreciate it a little bit more.
Or it might make me speed up my tempo and think like, oh, yeah, it was 15 years ago or 20 years ago that I was really training — really out there doing it. And if I’m by myself, it only affects me. If I’m with my group of buddies, then it impacts them and sometimes they might not be too happy about it. But I get a kick out of it. You know, it’s a real hoot.
And so, yeah, it’s neat. I don’t know that you can get that from — swimmers probably get it when they go into the natatorium and they smell the chlorine and it’s like reminds them of that. And tennis players probably get it when they hit the court and basketball players get it when they pick up a basketball. Hockey is in full bloom at the moment, no pun intended, but they get it probably when they hit the ice. And so it’s a neat component to all athletics.
JESSE: [00:09:32] Yeah. Last week, I was speaking to Jason Fitzgerald, who’s the founder of Strength Running. He’s built a really big kind of running community. He’s kind of basically in between our ages actually. And between that and then you’d sent an article from — there was an interview with you back in 2006.
And you were getting ready for, I think, your first World Championships and reading about like training with a team and just — So, between my interview with him, reading that and getting ready to talk to you, I felt a little bit kind of reminded of that like — I’ll call it running magic. Like, that excited feeling you get when it’s like you’re thinking about the next season, you’re thinking about being with your teammates, and like, just the anticipation of the possibilities that the season could hold.
And like getting excited for that next race and the excitement in the race, and just all those little moments that I feel like I’ve been missing for such a long time since I’ve — Once you’re post college, many of us don’t really have a team anymore. It becomes a much more individual sport.
And I feel like I haven’t felt like that for a long time. So, it’s kind of been nice to kind of go back for maybe a short week, and feel some of that again. This is rest week for me so it’s just easy runs. But it was nice to feel at least motivated and kind of inspired thinking backwards. So, I’m kind of curious, for you, being a little farther on than I am, to like — [crosstalk]
PATRICK: So you’re calling me old? You’re calling me old.
JESSE: No, I’m not calling you old? I definitely had older guests on my show.
PATRICK: I’m not the oldest guest that’s good. Okay, fantastic.
JESSE: No, definitely not. Not even close.
PATRICK: [inaudible 00:11:32] within the next pocket, though, I’ll say that. I have to call it Max. So, I’m going to call him out.
JESSE: [00:11:38] Yeah, it’s — See, I don’t remember — I can’t remember what episode number Max is. So, I’ll have to look that up real quick. But I just was curious, like how your relationship with running has changed over time? Because I mean, we all deal with the inevitable fact that we can’t be as fast as we were forever.
So, for reference, Max is back on episode 71, another friend of Patrick’s who was on the show. So, I’m collecting, apparently, your group of friends. It’s like trading cards or Pokemon, I gotta collect them all. But yeah, I’m curious how your relationship with running has changed. Because you were at the peak of your running.
And I don’t know exactly where you got, but definitely at least mid 28s, you’ll have to tell me where you got 10K wise. Which is, to me, certainly and I think many people probably listening, a very enviable kind of time, even if you’re not setting any world records.
Many people can only dream of running that. So, obviously, that doesn’t last forever. So, how do you relate to running now? Is it hard to let go of wanting to be that fast? How has that relationship with running changed over time?
PATRICK: [00:13:03] Well, yeah, that’s a really good question, Jesse. You know, I let go of running fast a long time ago. My relationship with running now is fantastic. I look at it in a lot of different aspects. I mean for some days it’s therapy and some days it’s just like — some days it’s a grind because I might not feel that great. And other days, it’s just like hanging with the guys or the group that I’m with.
And obviously, I see it as just like a form of — it’s my form of exercise. Like people — I’m approaching, next year will be eight years, since I’ve not missed a single run in eight years. And I’ve run, give or take, 10 miles every day for what will be January 27, 2022 will be eight years. But it’s my form of exercise. And so people go to the gym and people get on an elliptical or a bike.
I don’t have the time nor do I want to make the time to like invest in buying a bike and spending four hours of my — on any given day out riding a bike. I have no problem — I respect the heck out of people that do that.
For me, running is — it’s 75 minutes out of my day. And I am someone that is whether I’m disciplined or stupid, I get up every day and do it like clockwork over and over and over again. And I have a really good relationship with it because I don’t — it doesn’t — The only — I don’t let it affect any other part of my life. And so I don’t — I never run in the middle of the day. I’m a five o’clock in the morning runner.
And so if a friend calls me up, or there’s something else that I have planned in the afternoon or the evening, my run is already done. So, I’ve had that moment with my run and it’s over. And I log it because I’m old school, because I am old. I like handwrite my logs.
I have whatever, 25 years of running logs that occasionally I’ll look back on if I’m — not necessarily if I need like inspiration, but if I just sometimes, again, like that olfactory sense. Like, if there’s something in the air that I needed to remind myself of, I’ll look back and if I need to reference it for like a particular athlete that I coach.
But yeah, my relationship is really good with it. And I don’t get too excited about things. I’m pretty, I think, even keel and very plain, I think, or mundane, or however you want to describe it. But to me, it is just like something I do. And so other people have their own habits.
And for me, there’s no question. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, what the weather is like, or what things might be happening, like I go for a run every day. And so it’s my time. You know, sometimes I run with music, sometimes I don’t, sometimes I run with friends. Other times, they’re not there. But I get my run in all the time and I enjoy it. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to do it every single day.
But I’ll probably do it for as long as I can. I mean, I wake up and my knees hurt and then everything is tight and sore. But I’ve had knock on wood, like no surgeries, or no real, like major injuries. And so I enjoy everything about running,
I like watching it, I like reading about it, I like speculating about things. And I like what it does for me and I also, with the individuals that I coach, the athletes that I coach, like I like what it provides them. And so, yeah, I love running. It’s got me to this point in talking to you, and it got me to UT and it took me to a lot of nice events like around the world and it’s been a fascinating trip so far.
JESSE: [00:18:18] Well, I think I’m probably just a blip in the grand story of your running life. But — [crosstalk]
PATRICK: This could be as good as it gets [inaudible 00:18:23] for me.
JESSE: Well, I appreciate the mention. But there’s something nice about getting the run done in the morning. Like I usually have a habit of I’ll get up and eat breakfast and then go work out, whatever it is I’m doing for the day. I have one day I swim, one day I bike, and then another four days that I run.
But I always try and get it done in the morning because it’s like the day, at least for me, wears on you and just, you know, things can come up. The later on you go in the day, the easier it is for something to come up, get in the way, you got to go do this thing. And then now you didn’t do, in your case, the run or whatever the workout is. And then you feel bad because you didn’t do it and you feel bad because you’re guilty because you didn’t do it.
So, it’s like this compounding effect. So, there’s something so nice about just like knocking it out of the way right in the morning. And then not only is it out of the way, but you can already check like I accomplished something for the day. With, if the rest of the day goes to shit, I got this done. Like, something was accomplished. I got something out of the day.
PATRICK: [00:19:38] Yeah, I agree. We may or may not get there at some point. But the Grateful Dead have a song called Hell In A Bucket. And after I’ve run in the morning, then the rest of the day could go to hell in a bucket. I could eat pizza or not. I could do whatever I want to do.
Because as long as I’ve accomplished that one thing and as long as I’ve done my job to the best of my ability and taking care of the athletes that I coach and manage my nine to five pretty well, then I’ve done all the things I need to do every day. And so I joke, I make bad jokes all the time. And I say that people that don’t wake up and run in the morning, they’re just lazy.
And I know that’s not true because people have different schedules. And some people — I’m a morning person. The alarm goes off at 04:15, I don’t necessarily hop out of bed, but I get up and I and I get going, just because I know that throughout the rest of the day, it’s going to make me feel better.
I might get — I might drag around three o’clock or four o’clock, but I know that at least I don’t have to go home and run because I already did that today. And I can go home and like sit on the couch, watch running stuff, or whatever it might be. But that’s just my thing. And I’m not throwing shade on anybody that doesn’t wake up at 04:15 and run at 05:00.
Because I run through campus sometimes. And I see the swimmers out and they seemingly are going back to their dorm from their swim. So, I think they’re kind of crazy in the sense like, what — if I woke up at this time, what time did y’all wake up to — like, wake up, walk to the pool, like practice, and then you’re walking home already. Like, the cafeteria isn’t even open up yet. But yeah.
JESSE: [00:21:38] Swimming is — Everything I’ve learned about especially collegiate swimming, but swimming at a high level, is just hours and hours and hours, two a days and just grinding like crazy. And I mean, to be a good distance runner, like you have to be a little bit of a glutton for punishment, so to speak. But the swimming seems like another level.
And it’s so much time just to, you know, like in the interview that I was reading with you from back in 2006 talking about trying to improve your 10K time and you could do about 25 seconds faster a year. I was like that’s something to chew on. Like, 25 seconds is something to chew on. You go in the pool, it’s like, now we’re talking about like tenths or hundredths of a second.
And you got to put all this time in just this little fractional, it feels more disheartening to me. But I also didn’t grow up a swimmer. So, maybe that’s simply the difference. But there’s something nice about going oh, I knocked a half a minute off my PR. I knocked a minute off in the last such and such time, whatever it is. There’s just something more nice and tangible about that than I got three hundredths of a second faster. And that’s all I needed to go.
PATRICK: [00:23:01] Yeah. I’m glad that in running, that we get deal on bigger chunks because, yeah, I did a long time ago, I ran 28, 38, 72 in, I don’t know, 2006 or something like that at the Mount SAC Relays. Prior to that my PR was 29:09 when I was a senior at UT. And then so that was 2003.
So, yeah, 2005 or six, somewhere there. I went out to Mount SAC, ran pretty big PR and thought — So, it would have been 2005 because 2006 would have been the Olympic trials. And so then the following year, I thought well, I’m ready to go. Like I’m going to run 28 minutes or 28:05 or something like that. And so started training a little bit more and pushing a little bit more.
And went out to Stanford meet and the same one I gone to whatever, three years prior as a senior in college with Eric and a bunch of other guys and thought I’m ready to run 28:05. I’m going to qualify for the Olympic trials. And I went out in 14:10.
At the time, I’ve never broken 14 minutes. I ran 14 — what did I run — 14:02-7 or something like that. At Penn relays, I was a distant third or fourth, the winning time was Alan Webb ran like 13:35 with like two other two other guys with him and I was basically just running by myself and so I went out in 14:10 and ended up running 29:20.
So, it didn’t work out — it didn’t go very well for me. And then the next year, I ran 28:45. So, I kind of got back to that point, but then the qualifying time for the trials is 28:40. And so I missed it by five seconds. And there was a lot of things that happened in between then. I ran different races and was still training and putting in the work and running with my college coach, George Watts, who was still here at UT. But then it just kind of came to an end.
But all my experiences from it were fantastic. And not too many people can say that they ran like a cross country race in Japan and I did. You know, and I wouldn’t trade it, I wouldn’t wish for more, you know? Because that’s what it was. And so I look — I don’t look back on it really that often. And thankfully, the athletes I coach don’t ask me those questions.
And they could care less as long as their workout is — And I don’t mean this — that they’re selfish. They want to know what the workout is that they’re doing. They don’t ask me like, what did you do 20 years ago, or 15 years ago, or 10 years ago. They just want to know that the workout that they have is appropriate for where they are, and what they have coming up on their calendar.
So, it’s kind of a nice thing that — The only time I might think of it is like between my own two ears. There’s no point in like rehashing what I did that long ago. Because in the grand scheme of things and Jesse, you know this, yeah, it might have been — it was decent.
But now it’s like, if you run 28:38, you’re not even going to make it into the A section of a 10,000. And so — but it’s still nice — it’s nice to be, I wish I would have been able to break 14 minutes, just so I can say like, I ran under 29 minutes and 14 minutes. Because I broke, I broke 64 minutes for a half marathon. And I won’t even go into the marathon talk just because that was a total train wreck. But it would have been nice to check the box for four sub 14 but it didn’t happen. I was close twice and twice I came up short.
JESSE: [00:27:56] Yeah. Well, it’s the good and bad thing about running, right? Where it’s like, the clock is what the clock is. Say we’re playing like soccer or football or whatever. It’s like, well, if this person had just moved forward a little bit more and just barely had been there, then oh, the shot would have been — It’s like, there’s none of that. It’s just this is what the time was. I mean, you can look back and say, maybe this type lap or that lap, and it’s like, you make adjustments as you can.
And during the race, you have your game plan, you try to execute the game plan as best you can. But sometimes it just — it doesn’t go off. And that’s just — it is what it is. Like, there’s no — it’s both the beauty and the brutality of the sport is that there is no hiding. There’s no like, oh, my teammate didn’t do it. I didn’t do — it’s all on me. It’s I didn’t do it. And it’s — I think that’s tough especially when you get close.
For me, it was — I’m much slower. So, getting under 16 was the big mark for me and I’ve done it three times in my life. I’d like to get back there in the next year or two but we’ll see as my legs are waning. Obviously, I’m early 30s. But there’s just some of those marks we’re like, it’s a personal satisfaction because like I said, I can sit here with you and I’m like, heck, I wish I was like sub — 29. Like that’s light years away from anything I would have ever ran.
But it doesn’t matter. Like the way I view say going sub 33 is the same way you would view going that like low 28. It’s the same mentality. It’s just a physicality difference of this is impart just genetic potential of what each body can achieve.
One thing I’d like to ask about, especially for people like yourself, who have run at a high level, continue to run post college and delayed that student athlete to no longer athlete transition. How did that transition go for you when it was like, okay, it’s over. Was it easy to put it away or do you still have nagging? Do you remember?
PATRICK: [00:30:31] You know, I think it was pretty easy. You know, I never — I remember showing up to the track one day. And I think my coach at the time, George Watts, I had a workout planned, or he had a workout plan. And I showed up and I said, “Yeah, I’m not going to do the workout today. I think I’m done.” And he is like, “What do you mean, you think you need a couple of days off?” And I said, “No, I think I’m just going to be done, you know.”
And then it was finished. And I didn’t immediately put myself all into like coaching. I never really thought that I was going to be a coach or wanted to coach. It just kind of happened. Frankly, I just — because, one, I just didn’t think I’d be any good at it. Just because my personality, my attitude, I was just like, I don’t think I’m going to be really good at like telling other people what to do. Half the time, I don’t even listen to my own self, let alone like instruct other people, like this is what you should do.
But then, fast forward I got a grad position at St. Francis University in Pennsylvania, and got — was a GA for two years while I got my Master’s degree coaching at the Division One level. And I didn’t do a whole lot of coaching. As a GA, you’re just kind of doing a whole lot of just plain work, if you will. But then when I moved back here, of course, I came back to Knoxville and Coach Watts was like — he was in between things. And he’s like, well, you need to come help me out at this high school. And I’m like, “I’m not coaching high school athletes, that ain’t happening.”
And, again, fast forward that lasted almost 10 years coaching at the high school level. And at first, I was like, I’d call him up pretty much every season and be like, “I’m done coaching these high school kids, this is ridiculous. Like, I’m not cut out for this, I’m not doing a good job.” And he was like, “Nope, you got to keep doing it.” And I’m like, “Well, I guess I’ll keep doing it. Okay.” And so I kept doing it. And we had some pretty good success. And some kids, not everybody goes on to run and in college athletics. But you had a couple of state champions and team title.
And then something called and was like it’s time to get out of high school coaching and started morphing into coaching adults. And I’ve coached an individual that qualified for the mirror on trials last February. And a lot of the folks that I coach now are — they’re out doing what I do every day.
Like, they’re running every day. And so they’re trying to be the best version of their own self and it’s a different, like the thing I say, or I’ve said before was like I like wearing like a variety of hats, because it’s like, I’ve coached at the college level, I’ve coached at the high school level during the 20 — Leading up to the 2016 Olympic track trials, I was with Ben Rosario, on NAC elite group.
And so like, that was something completely different working with some of the highest level athletes that we’re trying to make the Olympic team. And I don’t view it as like coming down to work with folks that are not at that level. It’s a similar mindset, like the workouts are pretty similar. You know, they’re obviously not running at the same pace and effort and speed.
But everybody does the same workouts and the same approach or a similar approach to the person that’s making the Olympic team to the person that’s trying to like PR on a Saturday morning 5K there’s not much difference. And so I think all those experiences as a student athlete at UT, and then as a professional athlete, whatever, the things that I’ve accomplished, and then as a college coach, high school coach, and then as however, you want to categorize what it is that I do now with the Knoxville Distance Project.
You know, I’m able to pull from all those things. And for some people, it works. And, obviously, it’s a — we improvise every day. And so sometimes we need to change workouts and do different things. But yeah, like I said before, it’s been a neat trip, and I wouldn’t change it or trade it in for anything else. And so, like I said, it’s gotten me to this point, here, now and I like where I’m at, at the moment. I like being here with you.
JESSE: [00:36:37] I appreciate it. You said while you were kind of giving the backstory to the last, I’ll call it 20 years, but exact timeframe, obviously, it’s going to vary. But thinking about the time of the high school, you said you’re basically like no way, not doing it.
And then your coach is like, well, you’re going to do it, and you’re like, okay, so I’ll be there, and you keep showing up for a decade, which is not an insignificant amount of time. I think about my high school coaches I told you, before we got going, I’d just got married a few weeks ago, and we had just posted pictures on Facebook and I had a high school coach congratulate me and I shared a memory I had of him giving me advice about girlfriends, basically, how there’s more fish in the sea is kind of the story he was telling me in his own way.
And just just, I remember exactly where we were, and exactly what he said. And so it’s interesting how like certain things that coaches say, stick with you. I don’t know if you’ve had that personal experience. So, being on the other side of the equation for you, with the high school kids, what changed your mind? Did you feel like you were just there to make them be better runners? Are you coaching them to be better people? Is it — like, what kind of environment was it — and was it a matter of just like, you kind of still being an athlete and your coach said, do this and you said okay.
PATRICK: [00:38:20] D, all the above. And so initially, it was, I didn’t — When I moved back after grad school, I didn’t have a job. And so Coach Watts was like yeah, you need to come out and help these — help me with these kids. And so, at first, it was just like I’d be pacing girls running six minute pace, or whatever it was, running with a kid that’s running four 30 pace, like pacing them for 400 meter reps or something like that.
And then when he left Knoxville, and took the job at East Tennessee State University, the athletic director was like, “Well do you just want the job?” And I’m like, thinking like, not really. But initially, I think early on, it was I’m just going to try to make these, like this group of kids like really good. I don’t really care about anything else. But then over time, and it was a public school so it wasn’t like I was like, recruiting for private high school in the area.
And so it just kind of — it just flowed into like, well, like no, I kind of care about these kids. And you get to meet mom and dad and brothers and sisters and you get to know their family a little bit more and then wow, he or she has some success and you’re like, well, I can’t leave now because now they’re committed, I have to be devoted.
And so it just kind of — it just snowballed from there. And then obviously, success, seeing kids run well, and seeing mom and dad be happy. Even though I was steadfast, I remained grumpy the entire time. Just because that was the MO that I chose to follow.
And just because someone, and I solely took on that role that like, someone had to not celebrate every tiny little victory. Like you celebrate the victories — mom and dad. Like, that’s fine, you go and have your donut or a cookie, whatever it is that you do to celebrate. I was still going to remain grumpy.
And I still probably do to this day coaching adults and so — But it just — it – yeah, it snowballed. And like the team got a little bit better and we had boys and girls running really well. And then different circumstances happened and I made the tough decision to move on from it.
But in a similar sense, Jesse, when I moved on from my own running career, even though I’d continue to run to this day, I made the — it was a difficult decision, and I moved on from it, and I’m at peace with it. And I would hope that with some of the athletes that I coached in high school, like I still keep in touch with them on occasion. Like, most of them now are going on to do bigger and better things, than I’ve ever done, like PhDs and master’s degrees and different things like that some of them still run in college.
And so I’d like to think that we did a good job of not just focusing on the running. Like that was really important, but at the same time, like I’d like to think that they became like, better people. And based on the things that I know and see, I think mission accomplished, I hope. Fingers crossed.
JESSE: [00:42:53] Right. The way you talk about it is just like, one of my high school coaches who I believe is still there, here 15 years later. And he’s been threatening, and by threatening I mean, I think, largely to himself to leave pretty much every year. He’s like, “All right. I just got to get these kids through and then I’m done.”
And then another one comes along, “Okay. I just got to get these kids through and then I’m done.” And he just keeps finding himself where he’s like you said, they’re committed, so he’s committed. And he is definitely like — so the high school I went to was — it’s really like mixed economically, where you’ve got people doing pretty well, and people on the completely other end of the spectrum who are below the poverty line, and he’s happy to take anybody that wants to work, doesn’t care.
And his motivation is largely, like preparing kids for life. Because just where they are, you know, you typically see more affluent areas and those high schools do better, you know, athletically often. At least, that’s the way it is around here, I guess. Not always. You definitely get some standouts from schools that don’t have as affluent an area to pull from, but it seems like that’s often the case. And he just — he finds himself so committed and does so much for these kids. That I wonder if he’ll ever quit, or if he’ll drop dead first.
PATRICK: Gotta be one of those deals. Yeah.
JESSE: [00:44:39] Yeah. It just — I hope that he is cemented. There’s one particular coach in the area who actually passed away in the last few years. I can’t remember whether he had cancer or what happened but there’s a race with his name on the course and he is cemented as one of the kind of legendary local coaches. I hope my coach is that way eventually.
But thinking about how you get kids out, who comes out, I think I read something — I don’t know if it was on the Knoxville Distance Project website or article or where it was when I was getting ready to talk to you. Thinking about how people think running isn’t cool and they don’t want to run and it’s kind of like this thing that you just don’t do like, it’s stupid.
The kids that came out, did you get them, did you convince them to come out? Did you have other teachers in the school be like, no, go run for Coach Patrick? Did you have people coming in? Did you have to convince them? Did they show up ready to go? Did you develop that? Like, what kind of personalities did you have show up, I guess?
PATRICK: [00:45:59] Well, so I’m a terrible salesperson. And so no, I can’t sell running to anybody. I couldn’t sell it to the doorknob. And I think because of like I said, my grumpy nature, I don’t think there were any teachers in the building, and I was in the building at the time that would have said, “Oh, you need to go run for Patrick because they’re really good.
Or he’s a great coach.” It was like, “You need to go play football, you know.” And I use that accent on purpose because that’s probably how it went down. No, I don’t know how kids got steered and the school that I was in, Jesse, it’s similar to where you went. Like, it was the affluent part of town, and then the not so affluent part of town. So, it was a really unique mixture. And our team was like super small. I didn’t have 100 kids to pull from. I had like, nine to pull from.
JESSE: [00:47:10] Yeah, we were like 15 on a good year.
PATRICK: I would have loved 15. And so — [crosstalk]
JESSE: I mean, boys and girls. I’m talking boys and girls.
PATRICK: Oh, oh. Yeah, we would have like 18 total.
JESSE: Yeah, yeah. So, some were like 15 and 20 total.
PATRICK: [00:47:25] Yeah. And one or two guys go down, one kid isn’t committed, then the whole thing goes to hell in a bucket. And so I didn’t do a very good job of like, bringing kids into the mix. It’s like, if a kid came to me and said, hey, I want to run. I’d be like, okay, well, this is what you got to do. And then I’d lay it out for them. Like, this is the plan. And not that everybody had, like the same pre-plan schedule, but it’s like, well, this is the basis of it.
Yeah, that sounds like a whole lot of work. Then I’m very honest and blunt then it’s probably not going to work out for you. So, if I were you, I wouldn’t waste your time. And while I might not value my time to the nth degree, don’t waste my time, like go home after school, and do whatever it is that you want to do as long as you’re not a practice.
Because I didn’t want kids at practice that took down anybody else that wanted to be there. And so during that time that I spent at West High School, we had a good group of kids. I think — I don’t take any credit for it — I think the kids just kind of found their way. They weren’t going to play soccer. The boys weren’t going to play football, and they just kind of found their way to running.
And thankfully, it worked out. And so what I want — I mean, I would have liked to coach 30 kids, if I coached 10 kids really well, I would have liked 30 or 40 of them. But for the 10 to 15 kids that I did coach really well, or that ended up running really well, like that was nice. But hopefully it meant something to them. Because in 20 years, I’ll probably forget about it. Unless I look back at the training log and find out like what did this person do on that day, and so —
But yeah, I think every coach would like to have like 100 kids. The old saying is like you got an egg carton, you throw the eggs up and like, hopefully, it works out. And I used to — when I first started coaching high school kids, which it was and I would say it to myself, and this might be the first time I say to anybody else, like I had a pretty good high school coach. I wasn’t really all that great in high school.
I think I was like everybody else, I ran like 9:30, and 4:30. And like, those are like the very basic times that everybody’s run. I qualified for like one indoor national meet, which was probably the most obscure meet that you could qualify for. And I used to think like, I want to be — the high school coach for the student athletes that I coached that I didn’t have.
And then like, as I went through the process a little bit more I was like, well, you know what, shit. Like, I might not have run nine minutes and 4:10. But like, he got me to this point. And I’ve only had two coaches in my entire life. Like, I might have ventured off a little bit outside of like working with Coach Watts. But for the most part, I’ve had two coaches. I had a high school coach, I had a college coach, and I had a professional coach.
And so like towards the end of my time at West High School, I was like Coach Paddler did a pretty good job, you know. But that’s what I used to say early on. Like, I want to be a better coach for these kids than I had. And, I mean, I was on a pretty good team in high school. And we were ranked in our state, which didn’t — doesn’t mean much now. And it didn’t really mean much then either because we didn’t win a state title. But yeah, that’s kind of a long-winded answer to your question.
JESSE: [00:52:15] No, that’s all right. It’s always interesting like hearing other people’s perspectives and kind of your journey. I had so many coaches that it seemed like they turned over — I had the first three years of high school — Well, I started running in the eighth grade, so I had that coach and a new coach in high school. Head coach was the same for three years but the assistants changed every single year.
And then my senior year, new head coach, move on to college, coach that changes over again, head coach changes over again. My sophomore year, get handed off to basically the assistant coach who is more experienced in distance running and then was with him through the rest. And then kind of self-coached post-college, and finally now, I’ve been with the coach I’m working with now for the longest duration of any coach.
PATRICK: [00:53:11] So, how many years?
JESSE: [00:53:13:] Well, so that period of years, so that was — let’s see. That was basically five — what I would consider five or six head coaches in eight years.
PATRICK: [00:53:26] Oh, yeah, that’s bad. [crosstalk] That’s a lot of turnover.
JESSE: [00:53:30] Yeah. So, the consistency more had to be me than anything. I mean, in college we had — my sophomore year it was basically me and my friend Grant and we were the distance guys. Like, that was it. And we rebuilt the program from there largely off the two of us getting faster and that — having new guys be like okay, I want to run with them and being — kind of be used as recruiting tools.
But yeah, I always felt like I had this kind of nagging like could I have been better if I had more consistency, consistency is so important and just stayed under one coaching philosophy. Because every coach changes, they’ve got a different way to view it. They approach you differently. They have different workouts set up, like the whole thing.
I’m not too bummed by any stretch of the imagination. I mean, I did — I think I could do and my last coach that I had for basically that last three year stretch, I screwed myself up senior year getting injured trying to mess with my running form and improve it and not knowing what I was doing. But otherwise, he really got the most out of me. Had I not messed myself up we would have got a little bit more out. Probably gone like 15:30-ish. Which when I started college — [crosstalk]
PATRICK: Yeah, that would have been fantastic.
JESSE: Yeah. When I started college, I was only like, just under 18. So, I went from there to — So, I made a fair amount of improvement in that time. But so that’s — anyway. So, I’m always curious like, do other people get this more, you know, consistent treatment? Is the turnover high everywhere? Is it just because I went to a small school — well, for college.
And anyway, it’s just as a — There’s no question, there’s no big statement or philosophical thought. It’s just a kind of reminiscing on this journey I went through versus your experience, and it’s just interesting how that treatment kind of turns out different athletes, and sometimes for the better sometimes for the worse, depending on good coaches, bad coaches and fit, philosophy, all that kind of stuff.
PATRICK: [00:55:54] You know, I mean, I preach consistency, I did then and I do now with the athletes that I coach. And whether that consistency remains with me, or some other coach like, I just think if you — not that you want to bang your head against the wall, but if you consistently do something with pure intent, and dedication and commitment like we talked about, then you’re bound to see results, as long as you’re not doing anything, like haphazardly.
So, I mean, and that was like, the same thing I preach to working with high school athletes. Like, you can’t come to practice two days a week and expect to run well and perform well. And so yeah, musicians can’t not, like rehearse and then get on stage and think that they’re going to have a great show. And so whomever, dancer, whatever it might be, and so to perform a recital, you just can’t do it. And so scientists perform experiments over and over and over again, in order to get the result that they desire.
And I think as coaches and in turn athletes, the coach — hell, sometimes I think the coach coaches the athlete, but it’s a cyclical thing. Because, like the athlete performs the objectives that we give them, and we get the feedback and then it just keeps going around in a circle and then — so it’s a continuous thing. But if you’d just looked at it and been like, okay, that’s fine. Like, we’d move on to the next thing. Which, in some cases, I like to do that.
When the season is over, and there’s nothing else to look at examine then it’s like, then I wash my hands clean of it. And it’s like, okay, we go on to the next objective. But when you’re in the midst of it then, like the athletes that had workouts today, I’ll look at their training and see what the splits were and like they’ll teach me something that maybe I forgot, or didn’t really well, hell, you ran a little bit quicker than I thought you were going to run or why did this workout go as well as we planned it to go. And it’s just like a give and take, back and forth and like that aspect to it is, I don’t know, that’s fascinating, you know?
JESSE: [00:59:02] Yeah, yeah. Patrick, as we’re starting to wind down on time, you’ve watched a number of episodes so you know my question already, unlike many people. But I’ll ask you anyway, just for the listener, if you haven’t listened to any other episodes. The question I’m asking every single person this year is how do you stay motivated after you fail to reach a goal?
PATRICK: [00:59:26] Oh, man. Wow, that’s — how do I stay motivated? Well, I guess my grumpy response to that would be, I don’t really set goals for myself. And so that means — [crosstalk]
JESSE: You can’t fail if you don’t set a mark.
PATRICK: Yeah, so my — As far as like running, like running goals, I don’t really have any running goals anymore. Like, I would like to keep this quote, “streak” up. I don’t know for how long I’m going to keep it up. Thankfully, my body is willing and able to participate in this activity every day. But that’s me, that’s my perspective from it. So, my only goal every day is to get — like, open up the front door and start moving every day. And so I think when I talk with athletes, I try to — I like to think long term. And so like, tomorrow could be a great day.
Although like, I would think what is the run today going to bring you like five, 10, 15 years from now. And so if you don’t reach — if they don’t reach the goal that they had set for themselves in that moment, well, how can you grow and become not only a better runner, but become like obviously, a better person, a better co-worker, a better spouse, partner, whatever it might be.
And so, learning from that experience, and so maybe, even though I might not like to admit it, like there’s days when I’m probably like, a really shitty running partner to my friends. And like, I probably complain too much some days. And this hurts, that hurts, or I’m just in a bad mood. And then I get done with the run, and I get a text from my buddy who is like, “Hey, you okay?” And I’m like, “Yeah, I’m fine. Like, what’s the –” He’s like, “Oh, you seemed grumpy.” Like, “Well, A, I’m always grumpy.
But B, again, from my perspective, well, how can I be a better training partner tomorrow? Like, what can I do to make myself better tomorrow?” And I think that’s how, as an athlete, if I put myself back in like my athletic days, Like, well, if I didn’t accomplish the goal that I wanted to this weekend, what do I need to do? Like, what did it teach me?
So, every moment, I think, as a coach, or an athlete is a teaching moment? And so maybe having been in a past career, a teacher, like maybe that has something to do with it. But yeah, I think learning from the experience and being able to pull from it and some of the stuff, you might want to just like leave it. And then some of it like, I’m going to take this with me, but I’m going to move on with this experience, and I’m going to leave that shit behind. You know, yeah.
JESSE: [01:03:12] Fair enough. Patrick, if people want to get in touch with you, see what you’re up to if they’re in town, maybe go for a run or be a part of your team; where can they find you, get in touch, all that kind of stuff?
PATRICK: [01:03:24] Well, they’d have to wake up pretty early. So, since I hit the road at 05:00 AM, we run — I run with any and all paces, people, individual, it doesn’t matter. My email address is Knox, K-N-O-X, firstname.lastname@example.org. As long as they’re not going to spam me and send me like invitations to things I don’t want to invitations to. They can find us on Instagram, Facebook.
You know, I’m easily accessible. I don’t think I’m not accessible. And yeah. But, yeah, anybody that’s willing and able to run at 05:00 AM, we can run six minute pace, we can run 10 minute pace for all I care. As long as it promotes like a good vibe and a good atmosphere then I think that’s the most important thing.
JESSE: [01:04:33] Sounds good. Thanks for hanging out with me today, Patrick.
PATRICK: [01:04:36] Thank you, Jesse. I appreciate it, man. This has been a great time.