Paddy O'Leary

Paddy O’Leary: How Community Can Make You A Better Runner

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About this episode:
In this week’s episode, coach Hillary talks with professional runner Paddy O’Leary about the importance of community, building positive momentum, and balancing a full-time job with running professionally.

Guest Bio – Paddy O’Leary:

Paddy O‘Leary is an Irishman based out of San Francisco, California where he works as a cancer researcher. Over the past five years, he has converted from a lacrosse player to a mountain and ultrarunner. Paddy now spends his weekends running up mountains and races with The North Face, GU Energy Labs, and the Ireland national team.

Episode Highlights:

  • How a community can push you to be a better runner
  • Building accountability in your training
  • Creating positive momentum
  • Balancing a full-time job with running professionally

Read More About Paddy O’Leary:

https://www.instagram.com/poleary87/

https://www.strava.com/pros/poleary87

 

 

Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherGoogle Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform


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Episode Transcription:

Hillary Allen:

Hi everyone, and welcome to the CTS TrainRight podcast. Today’s guest is a special one, of course. I say that for everyone. But we’re going to talk to Paddy O’Leary. And Paddy O’Leary is a good friend of mine. He’s on The North Face team. A little bit about Paddy, he’s an Irishman based out of San Francisco, California, where he works as a cancer researcher. Over the past five years, he’s converted from a lacrosse player to a mountain and ultra runner. Paddy now spends his weekends running up mountains and races with The North Face GU Energy Labs and the Iron National team. So in today’s conversation, we’re going to talk to Paddy about how he got him started in running. And I think it’s really important for us to learn about the different backgrounds that people have, and how an elite runner can… it doesn’t just happen. But at least for people like Paddy, he kind of discovered it later in life. So hope you enjoy this podcast. We’ll learn a lot about Paddy, his wonderful Irish accent. I think it’s super soothing.

Hillary Allen:

So I hope you enjoy. And we’ll talk to him about how he balances his full-time job as a cancer researcher, running and just some other fun stories about what he’s been up to the past couple of years. So I hope you enjoy.

Hillary Allen:

Welcome to the CTS TrainRight podcast. Today, I’m talking with my good friend, Paddy O’Leary. Welcome Paddy.

Paddy O’Leary:

How’s it going? I’m excited to have the little chat this morning.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah. I know, with the time change. I’m here in France, you’re in San Francisco. It’s like breakfast with my, I don’t know, happy hour.

Paddy O’Leary:

Yeah.

Hillary Allen:

I feel like I should have wine.

Paddy O’Leary:

I’m here, enjoying my… [inaudible 00:02:08] the time to finish my [inaudible 00:02:10] before the start of this podcast. So I don’t have to speak with my mouth full. But I still do have a couple of slices of toast on my left. So I may dig into them throughout it, and a good Irish cup of tea, Irish cup of tea.

Hillary Allen:

Well that’s good. All right, I love it. It’s cool, I mean it’s like we’re going to bring you into the room when we’re talking with you Paddy. So feel free to keep eating on your toast. I know it’s like early over there.

Paddy O’Leary:

I’ve actually got this cookie butter on it, from Trader Joe’s. As the Americans say, it’s bomb. I think that is the term. In Ireland, we say it’s class. But it’s a class cookie butter.

Hillary Allen:

So Paddy, okay, so we’re teammates on The North Face. I’ve had the pleasure of sharing so many adventures with you, stateside, in San Francisco. But most recently, in Chile. We can get into that later. But you taught me something in Chile, it’s called what’s the craic. What? The Irish say something about what’s the craic, and it’s supposed to have so many meeting. I don’t know. Maybe inform me. I forget.

Paddy O’Leary:

It’s weird, we always go up and ask people around, like whenever you see your friends, you’re asking, what’s the craic or where’s the craic. And people in America-

Hillary Allen:

Yeah, where’s the craic.

Paddy O’Leary:

When you say that, are very confused. They’re like, why are you [inaudible 00:03:18] our drugs? And-

Hillary Allen:

I’m thinking like crack, like where’s the crack, like my butt crack. Like what? I’m sorry.

Paddy O’Leary:

Oh. [crosstalk 00:03:25]-

Hillary Allen:

[crosstalk 00:03:25].

Paddy O’Leary:

That’s kind of odd. So yeah, so craic in Ireland basically, it’s spelled c-r-a-i-c, it means fun and banter. And so it’s something that we kind of revolves our life around, because the Irish are the most fun people in the world. And so our life revolves around banter. So there’s different levels of craic. So you can have good craic, it’s like, eh, that’s okay. Then there’s great craic, and then there’s savage craic. Then there’s, I’d say I think brilliant craic is kind of the same as savage. But then you say the craic is mighty when the craic is like off the charts. But then the epitome of craic, like the kind of mecca of craic is the craic is 90.

Hillary Allen:

The craic is 90.

Paddy O’Leary:

It’s a random number.

Hillary Allen:

But why is it-

Paddy O’Leary:

I also like to think we’re a first, when Ireland… We qualified for the soccer World Cup in 1990, [inaudible 00:04:17]. And we got to like the quarter finals. We beat Italy, or they might have beat us. Not too sure, I was like three years old. But I think the craic is mighty refers back to that.

Hillary Allen:

Okay, because I was going to say, why isn’t the craic 100, or like 100 and…

Paddy O’Leary:

I don’t know. 90 is a more fun number, I guess.

Hillary Allen:

I think it has to do with-

Paddy O’Leary:

That’s actually, I was just in South Africa. And in South Africa they say, if something’s class, they say, oh, hundreds.

Hillary Allen:

Oh. And in England they always say 100%. And I’m just like, all right, cool.

Paddy O’Leary:

Yeah. We just like setting the bar a little lower, so we can more fun earlier.

Hillary Allen:

Oh my god, I like it. So the craic is 90 for this podcast. Did I use it right?

Paddy O’Leary:

Well we haven’t had the discussion yet. We have to see.

Hillary Allen:

Well then tell me, if [crosstalk 00:05:01]-

Paddy O’Leary:

[crosstalk 00:05:01].

Hillary Allen:

  1. All right, cool. Sweet. Well okay, Paddy, I’m so excited to talk to you. We’ve shared many a run and chats, and I’ve always had some really good conversations with you. You’re super down to Earth. You’re also obviously a super talented runner, hence The North Face. But what I really wanted to share with the listeners and just everyone, is your story and how you got into trail running, because I think it’s pretty incredible. So I guess just take it away. Like how did Paddy O’Leary start running? Because I know you’re from Ireland and you grew up like on a dairy farm. So yeah, kind of tell us the story of how you started running.

Paddy O’Leary:

so back in the day, actually, my dad was heavily involved in running and like cross country running and track running. He set our local club, he did as a kid. He was a gun starter, like at the starting. I’m the youngest of five kids, and we all did a little bit of cross country as kids. But we never really got into much. I prefer like Gaelic football and hurling were the two sports that [inaudible 00:06:11]… Show jumping, as well, in the pony clubs. So I did a bit of horse riding, as well. And just worked on the farm and such, and was always an active youth. But I was much more obsessed with team sports. Went to college and started playing lacrosse, and lacrosse became my biggest sport.

Paddy O’Leary:

We were actually, we were the first team to start in Ireland in something over… The sport was in Ireland, the late 1800s, but then it disappeared around the time of the first world war. And then for the next 100 years, it was non-existent. And then in 2005, some Americans moved over to set up a club, and we were the first batch of Irish people to start playing there. Over the next eight years, I proceeded to just play, develop more at lacrosse. And over in Europe, lacrosse isn’t that common. But there’s so few teams across, in many countries, you have to travel to get games. So we ended up from year, from when it started in 2005, I just go to start traveling around Europe to play games. We’d do a weekend trip to Frankfurt and then hang out with this team in Frankfurt, and play games all weekend. And then just go for beers with them, afterwards.

Paddy O’Leary:

So yeah, lacrosse was kind of, it was really, I really got obsessed with it. Because it was just so great fun to go meet new people through it. I had never traveled abroad, before I went to college and started playing lacrosse. And then over the next eight years, I started playing with the Irish team, went to travel to a couple of world championships. Played in two world indoor lacrosse championships, two world outdoors and two Europeans. We were like the Cinderella team of the 2012 European championships. We ended up getting to the final, I was captain of the team that year. We had a kind of a Cinderella run to the final, but lost it, the old enemy England, in the final.

Paddy O’Leary:

Then I got to like 2013, I was just finishing up my PhD in Dublin, and I was about to move to the US. And a colleague of mine at work was like, “Paddy, you’re running all day at lacrosse.” See, one thing about lacrosse in Ireland, we don’t have any subs because we only invite 10 players in the country. So you only have one team. So as a midfielder, you’re running up and down the field all day. So I felt I was doing an ultra marathon in the middle of a lacrosse game. Then yeah, I was about to move to the US. But then January of 2013, one of the lads decided, he was here, “Paddy, come out join this mountain running thing. It’d be a great craic, all together.” So yeah, went out and did a mountain race in Ireland, with part of the Irish Mountain Running Association Winter League. That spring, I did two or three mountain races. They were like 5K, 6K, 7Ks, and I was doing them in road runners and I was wearing my long lacrosse shorts.

Paddy O’Leary:

And I was doing well and actually like finishing near the front of these races. I’m like, wow, this is really fun all together. Then I ended up moving to the US, I moved to the US for a post doc, here, in San Francisco. And I continued to play lacrosse, I had my world championships. I was competing in the following year, in 2014, in Denver. But when I got to San Francisco, I didn’t know anyone. And I ended up finding my way into this running community, The November Project. It’s this free fitness group that started in Boston, back in 2011, that’s grown since to like 50 cities across the world. Where volunteers lead people through free morning workouts. And I got involved in this group as a way to meet people, but then started running more, and more, and more.

Paddy O’Leary:

Through 2014-2015, I was going out every week, I was still training for lacrosse. But I was using this workout group to get fit, and I was meeting all of my friends in the city and kind of making my community in the city. Then come that summer, the girl who founded the San Francisco group of November Project, Laura Green, she moved to Ireland for the summer, because her boyfriend, now husband, got an internship over there. So she said, “Paddy, would you look after the group when I’m away?” So like me, I’m not a runner, was put in charge of this group of like 50+ people doing running workouts. I was like, oh, I better start… Maybe I should start running. So then that winter I did like my first half marathon, trail half marathon, and I started taking running a little seriously.

Paddy O’Leary:

But then it came into January 2015, I was like, right, I think I’m going to step back from lacrosse. I’m going to try to give this running thing a go. And got involved, well then jumped into two 30Ks here, in the Bay Area. Did well, won these races and set course records. And everyone’s like, who’s this long lacrosse shorted Irishman doing really well in these races? But he doesn’t really look like he has clue what he’s doing. And at that time I was very fortunate, this fella, [Matt Lay 00:10:26], who, he was a local trail runner, who at the time just had won the US 100 mile trail championships. And he was like kind of one of the senior characters in the Bay Area trail running community. He said, “Do you want some training advice?” And I was here, sure, why not?

Paddy O’Leary:

So I started working with Matt as my coach, and he’s still my coach for… God, how many years is it? Okay, so we’re getting old. Five years later. And then with Matt, I started pushing up the distances. I did my first 50K that year, I did my first marathon that year, qualified for Boston, did my first 50K. Did my first 50 miler at the TNF 50 in December 2015. And then from there I realized I was just having so much fun with this, and I was doing quite well. I realized this is my sport, and then did my first 100K the following in 2016. Then did the [Rotlay 00:11:13] 2016, started getting involved with The North Face from some of my previous successes. And also, they were heavily involved with The November Project. Then, so I was, I came on with The North Face kind of as a talented trail runner, but also someone who was really core part of The November Project fitness group that they were supporting.

Paddy O’Leary:

Then yeah, met Hillary Allen, met Dylan Bowman, all these great runners, my new teammates and then started traveling the world with them, racing. And yeah, now ultra running’s my sport.

Hillary Allen:

Oh man, I love this story. Because first of all, let’s mention the long lacrosse shorts. Dylan Bowman is also a long lacrosse short man.

Paddy O’Leary:

Yeah.

Hillary Allen:

He is trying to make The North Face running kits with those long shorts, and not the super short shorts that are shorter than the woman shorts. So, you’re welcome. But then also, I started running with team sports, too. Like I was a tennis player in college. And it was funny, because I mean you were also a scientist. I mean you are at post doc in San… Well, not anymore. You already have your post doc.

Paddy O’Leary:

I’m a research specialist.

Hillary Allen:

Research specialist, congratulations. You’re off the-

Paddy O’Leary:

Off the tenure track, thankfully.

Hillary Allen:

I don’t even know. I mean I got off that track a long time ago. But I started running in graduate school, as well. It was kind of like this stress and I just needed something else, that was separate from school and work, that I could just do. And what drew me to trail running was that I like a community there, as well. And I think it’s really funny, because I think everyone thinks of running as a solo sport. But part of the reason why I loved trail running was the community. And I think, I mean I’m a coach, and I think the benefit of having a coach is the community that it provides you, even if it’s just one on one. But I think you can become a stronger runner if you share it with other people. And how has that influenced you? Like your ability to get excited about trail running, but then also just like training in general, and staying excited, and staying motivated to these races?

Paddy O’Leary:

When I started reading articles on the trail running, and running, and distance running, say endurance and trail running, when I started this running first, everyone was like, trail running, it seems like a very solitary sport. And it’s funny, you read a lot of news articles and that’s what they say. And it’s only when you actually get involved in the sport, do you realize that it’s so team driven, community driven. You towed a start line, at UTMB, I towed the start line this year. I look to my left, I look to my right, and there’s friends from all the over world, who you’re racing against. But you’re somewhat racing against each other. But ultimately, you’ll all racing against the course and you’re racing against the start to finish line that’s in front of you, and you actually work together on that.

Paddy O’Leary:

So like even in the races, it’s so community driven. Like I was just down in ultra trail [inaudible 00:13:59], and about 60K in, I had a stomach issue and I was dry heaving side of the trail. Luca, Italian runner I was racing against, stops beside me, said, “Paddy, get this water into you. Come on, we’re getting you out of this.” And he got me out of a hole, and we ran together for the next 20K before it hit me again, and he proceeded to run quite well. But, it’s examples like that of, like everyone wants to see everyone succeed. Everyone wants to see your friends and the people, your peers, succeed, because we all want to see this sport move forward.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah.

Paddy O’Leary:

But then also like you’d asked about how did I kind of, how does the community drive me? I’m very fortunate. Like initially I thought, I would say, wow, the Bay Area is so unique, that we have this great trail running community. Every Saturday we have 10, 20, 40, 50 people come out for a group run at a San Francisco running company, we run around Marin. Everyone, from leads to people walking the whole route, the whole reign. Now as I’ve started to travel abroad, I said, there’s pockets like this all over the US and all over the world. And it’s something, as I’ve started to travel to more and more cities and countries, I realize that, wow, it’s kind of endemic across the sport, that there’s amazing communities everywhere and that’s kind of what drives the sport forward.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah. And do you think that like… I mean it’s something that’s influenced me is, and for me, I think community looks different to every person. For me, I’m more, I mean I’m very outgoing and like to talk, obviously. But I’m also an introvert, and to me, even if I show up for a 40 to 50 person group run, I still have my community. Like my little group of friends, that like I’ll have like two or three people that I run with, religiously. And for me, that’s a big enough community. That I can show up, either to work out or just a long run, and run with those people in that community, just bring so much life into a single run or my training as a whole. And I think that that’s what’s so cool about trail running. And I think the more people can kind of find a community, or include themselves in one, even if it’s just one or two people. It can actually positively influence them.

Hillary Allen:

And I actually, it’s so funny. I think one of the first times I met you was at… I was in San Francisco, I was out there for The North Face 50, like not racing. But I did a November Project workout, and I remember you were there. And like oh my god, I had so much fun. Like because we travel around to like even different cities in the United States, and you were raving about it. And I was like, what is this? And then I traveled to Boston, I traveled to LA and I traveled to San Francisco, and I started looking up November Project workouts. And it was maybe not so much running, like I’m used to. But hundreds of people would show up, and it was just like we were at this random park, in the early morning at 6 am, in San Francisco, somewhere. You know, [Burnell Heights 00:16:44]. Is that a place? I think we were there.

Paddy O’Leary:

Yeah.

Hillary Allen:

And we did this amazing workout, that had like burpees and like team sprint things, and I was wrecked. And we went to coffee, afterwards. And it was like you were just invigorated for the day.

Paddy O’Leary:

Yeah. I think like, back to a couple of things you said there, that examples of community like The November Project, really bring to the fore. And in terms to kind of improving your training and also just improving your stock. One thing that groups like November Project, and just finding your group, finding your people, brings to you is accountability. Because you tell someone, okay, I’m going to be at the trail head Saturday at 7 am. And if you plan to go on your own, you might sleep. But the fact you told someone you’re going to meet them there, you found your community, you found your people. That you’re committing to, you’re going to be there. Then also just the infectious [inaudible 00:17:34] the groups brings you throughout the day. You were saying, after that that you were just invigorated for the day. And that’s one thing, that I’d say has helped The November Project get to the scale. It’s grown to over 50 cities now, around the world.

Paddy O’Leary:

Is that it’s always early morning workouts, and so it’s early always during the week before work. But people are going to work and they’re just smiles ear to ear. They’re probably napping by mid afternoon, because they got up so early for that. But it was probably a lot of [crosstalk 00:18:00]-

Hillary Allen:

The craic was mighty. No?

Paddy O’Leary:

But their stock must be through the roof.

Hillary Allen:

But wait. Is that a phrase you could use? The craic is 90.

Paddy O’Leary:

The craic is 90 at many workouts, yeah.

Hillary Allen:

Or the epitome of craic in November Project. Yeah, I mean I think it’s so cool. Because I’m such an early morning person. Like I love, if I’m in a city or on the trails, I love waking up with the world. Like watching a city wake up, just sharing some miles with a friend or even a bike ride, anything. It’s just like finding that community and getting yourself out the door, it just makes such a difference. And I think it can, it’s like a snowball effect. I think it’s positive momentum, and it can kind of take you to new places. Like how I started running is I got involved with this old lady running group, literally. They were a group of 55 to 60 year old women, who were Olympic trial qualifiers for the marathon back in the 80s, and they were still killing it. Like three days a week, they’d get up religiously at 5:30. And I was like some 25 year old girl who was running with them and like, tell me about running, tell me about trails. Like, what is this thing?

Hillary Allen:

Like one of them is this women, [Janie Day 00:19:10], who was like she had the record on Pike’s Peak ascent before Kim Dobson. Like that’s some random I met, who I never would have if I wasn’t at 5:30 in the morning, running circles around this park in the dark. You know? So community is what you make it. And the cool thing that, yeah, I also wanted to talk to you about, was like because I think trail running, like you said, there’s just these little micro communities but everywhere around the world. Like you can find something in common with anyone, and you can share that through running, even if you don’t speak the same language. And yeah, you kind of, you’ve had some great success in trail races. But this year, tell me about what did you do this year that was kind of different? Because, yeah. I guess you’ll tell me. But about like your job and everything. But yeah, what did you do this year that was like so cool?

Paddy O’Leary:

Yeah, so for years, for like the last two or three years, I’ve been traveling to races across the world. But because I have to get back for work, I would only, for example, like last January, I flew to Hong Kong left San Francisco Tuesday night, landed late Wednesday night. Had two days of getting ready for the race, raced all day Saturday and then flew home Monday morning to work Monday morning. And like wow, I just traveled to a new continent, to a city, I found this amazing trail running community there. But I’m there for like four nights and I’m racing like between two of them. And so I didn’t actually get to experience that properly. So I had the opportunity with work…

Hillary Allen:

Wouldn’t you be kind of tired, too?

Paddy O’Leary:

Yeah, I guess that, too. The whole traveling across the Pacific Ocean, yeah, it kind of wrecked me a little bit, as well, for the race and for work on Monday morning. Which I [inaudible 00:20:52] to not make.

Hillary Allen:

What did you do this weekend Paddy? Oh man.

Paddy O’Leary:

But one thing I decide is that, wow, I’m traveling to these places but I’m not actually getting to meet the people along the way, and not actually getting to see and experience a city or an area. So I decided to take three months, I took twelve weeks leave from work and plan this little tour, world tour in a sense. Where I would travel to race, to train, but mainly to meet people along the way. And yeah, I went down with you. In early October, we went to Santiago, Chile, for North Face Endurance Challenge there. Met up with [inaudible 00:21:25] and Moises Jimenez. And yeah, we did the endurance challenge in Santiago, had great craic for a week, there. And then Moises brought us down to his hometown of [Cayeke 00:21:37], which is down in the heart of ice in Patagonia. We did a week of adventuring down there. But one of the highlights of that was we down to a little town called [Cochran 00:21:45], and Moises had organized a group run with all of the kids of the area, from the school.

Paddy O’Leary:

And we went and led, or maybe they led us because they were much faster at times. And this group of like eight year old to 16 year old local kids, who on this beautiful 10K through a park, [inaudible 00:22:02] Patagonia. And I didn’t have any Spanish, and the chance that these little kids didn’t have very much English. But just the kind of regards of language, is just their ability just to have banter and fun, and just the visible shared love of the trail with these kids, was kind of one of the most special moments of that trip. That was a really cool experience.

Hillary Allen:

That was so cool to see you, too. Because these little kids would run up to me and they’d be like, “How do you say this?” Because they really wanted to talk to you, and they could just like… Like your excitement for the trail was contagious, through the language barrier and through anything. And also, so this also is just kind of cool, too, with the tying in the community aspect of getting back to trails. And these kids, kind of really didn’t really know about trail running. It was their backyard mountains. But they had gone their to hike with their families, but they didn’t know about running. And through community, we were able to share that. And you were down… So the reason that you went down to Patagonia, was you were actually training for the world championship of trail running.

Paddy O’Leary:

Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hillary Allen:

Yeah, and you were competing for Ireland. Correct?

Paddy O’Leary:

Yeah.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah. Go ahead.

Paddy O’Leary:

Yeah, so in the middle of November, I was training up to the world long distance trail championships, the Irish team, where we have people from like 50 or 60 different countries come to Patagonia to meet. Which is always an absolute stellar event. So the next two weeks after we left you guys in Cayeke, I took two weeks of traveling solo. And this is kind of a point, I think, is very important for people as they start traveling for trail races, or as they try to find their community. Is that along the way, even though I had no Spanish whatsoever, I started meeting people along the way that would tell me about future races and then going to these races. And I think just overcoming of a fear of just asking people for advice before you go to a place, asking local people for advice, and going, joining random trail running groups that you don’t know about. Over that next two weeks, I went to two races that of I knew one person, maybe in all of them. And just jumped into this community of people.

Paddy O’Leary:

Many of them wouldn’t have had English and I had no Spanish, whatsoever. Apart from like five curse words. I just jumped… Like people are really… One thing I found this trip, regardless of where you’re from, regardless of what language you speak, people across the trail running community are so welcoming because they just want to see people jump in, do their sport and critically enjoy their local mountains. Because we all feel our local mountains are the best in the world. Like the mountains back in Ireland are absolutely class. And yeah, [crosstalk 00:24:36]-

Hillary Allen:

Oh, I mean, the mountains in Colorado are pretty spectacular, Paddy. And I’m here in France, and they’re great. But I mean, I don’t know.

Paddy O’Leary:

Yeah. But then yeah, went to the world championships and met up with all my Irish buddies who flew down from Ireland. And yeah, we did a great two weeks of training leading up to the race, and then the race, itself. And that was just a… The world championships are such a special event, because you have everyone walking around. Like you can identify everyone, where they’re from, because we have all of our eccentric track suit pants and our bottom and top. You just get to meet people from all over the world. And like those people from Nepal to Ireland, from USA to New Zealand. You had people from every nation there, and that’s one of the coolest events I’ve ever attended, is the world championships, every year.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah.

Paddy O’Leary:

From that I went across to Cape Town, for the Cape Town 100K. And I was so impressed by the trail running community there. I land in on Tuesday afternoon, ultra trail Cape Town was on Saturday. And one of the guys who’s hosting us lands, he was like, “Paddy, you’ve got to come to Tuesday trails. Tuesday trails are the best day of the week.” And [inaudible 00:25:40] to this parking lot, on the side of Table Mountain, there’s 300 people there for an hour long trail run with beers afterwards, on the side of Table Mountain in Cape Town. And there was a big crowd there because it was the race week. But every week they get 150 people come out to that. And regardless of your fitness level, they just want to bring people into the trails and show them, get people in Cape Town to realize that, see this mountain above you? We can go out and run to that, and we can enjoy that. So it was just kind of a great kind of entry level trail running group.

Paddy O’Leary:

And it’s like what we have in San Francisco running company. People of every distance, from elites down to beginners, come [inaudible 00:26:14] to enjoy these trails together as a group. And it’s a really awesome experience. Then I continued on the travels and went back to Ireland. After Cape Town, I went back to Ireland. And yeah, so earlier this year, we made a, myself and my two friends, Ryan and Dylan, from [inaudible 00:26:29], we made a film on the Irish trail running community. And yeah, we called it Coming Home, like [inaudible 00:26:35]. And yeah, we launched that in Ireland the two weeks I was back. So we did a little, myself and Dylan flew over, we did a little tour of Dublin, Cork and New Castle, that’s up near Belfast. We did a little tour and show our film to a couple of hundred people.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah. So I mean I want to actually ask you about that film, in a second. But yeah, I mean some of the things that I just love so much about what you said, is just anywhere you are it’s just kind of about the sphere. It’s like it doesn’t matter, I mean it doesn’t matter how you get to a local trail run. If you have 300 people, that doesn’t mean that everyone is like this elite trail runner. You can have people hiking. You can have people running super fast or doing intervals. But you’re all out there, together, sharing something. It doesn’t even really matter, the pace. It’s just kind of like, just the fact that everyone’s out there just meeting together. Like you’re there at the start, you’re there at the end. Then you can be like, you know, get breakfast or coffee afterwards. But it’s just like this really cool thing that you can share.

Hillary Allen:

Like everyone’s individual experience is different. But the fact that you’re all there together, at that moment, I think is really empowering. Yeah, and you can have that anywhere. I think like that’s, yeah, I think that’s the best part about trails. But then also it’s really cool. Like you’ve qualified for the world championships of trail running for the past two years?

Paddy O’Leary:

It’s my second year, yeah. Did the world ultra last year, and the world long distance trail this year. Long distance is actually shorter.

Hillary Allen:

I know. Right? Long distance is like the marathon, yeah. And then the world [inaudible 00:28:07], that was like, [Penacalosa 00:28:07] was like an 80K.

Paddy O’Leary:

Yeah, like 90K, I think.

Hillary Allen:

90, and it was brutal. But like and then that’s a really cool way that… Like it’s this whole, like these teams, that you come together. It’s so cool. I’ve competed in… I’ve qualified for a couple years, and I’ve done one, the mountain running championships one year, when it was in [inaudible 00:28:23], in France. And it was so cool, you could wear like the team USA. And like you do, you feel like it’s an individual race but you’re like trying to work together as a team. It’s like it’s super empowering. But yeah, so this film. I actually got to see it. So this is when you were over in this summer, in 2019, for UTMB, you did a little private showing of your film called The Coming Home. Because I always think this is awesome. Like you started trail running, obviously you were an athlete when you were at home, in Ireland, when you were growing up in that little dairy farm. Maybe like with team sports.

Hillary Allen:

But like then it’s cool. You go away, you find this new, almost this new part of yourself and then you come back. And what did you do in this film that was so cool?

Paddy O’Leary:

Yeah. So this film had been a plan for a couple of years. Myself and my buddy, Ryan Scura, [inaudible 00:29:15] The November Project here in San Francisco, he’s a filmmaker, with his friend, Dylan Ladds. Ryan came back from a wedding in Ireland and he was like, dude, I went for a couple of hikes in the Irish mountains. We got to go back. We need some excuse to go back to Ireland, to make a film or do something. Mainly, he just wanted to go back and run in the mountains. And at that time I had started to get involved in the Irish team, and I was starting to meet Irish people. And I started to realize, wow, Ireland has this spectacular trail running community that I touched off just before I left. But then I moved to the US. But I never really realized how deep it was and how strong it was, and how great it is.

Paddy O’Leary:

And so yeah, we wanted to find a way to go back and discover more and tell more people about the amazing trail running community in Ireland, and the amazing mountains in Ireland. So as a platform to that, I flew back and I was going to attempt the fastest known time at this route called Wicklow Round. Which is a route around 26 mountains in the Wicklow Mountain range, which is out of Dublin. And it’s about 120 kilometers connect all 26 peaks, fastest route between each peak, you can take whatever route you want. But the weird thing about this is you have to use a compass and map for it. They didn’t want you to, one of the co-founders, [Joe Lalor 00:30:24], didn’t want it to be a pure endurance effort. He wanted it to be a mountain effort. So you had to find your ways around the mountains using a compass, a map, and not a GPS.

Paddy O’Leary:

So yeah, went for this record on a terrible, windy and foggy and wet day, which is… Or, no wet. Actually, windy and foggy day, and [inaudible 00:30:39] and I had a visibility of about 50 feet and was using a compass and map, and find my way around, and ended up beating the record by 45 minutes. I took it back to Ireland. Joe McConaughy, Joe String Bean McConaughy had it before me. So I took it back.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah.

Paddy O’Leary:

And then eight days later, another local Irish lad took three minutes off my 16 hour and 27 minute record, it was four minutes. And yeah, so we were using that trip back as me to attempt the round. But we were using my attempt of the round for a way of us to chronicle, and to film, and to meet, and to learn more about the Irish mountain running community. So then we made a film about the Irish mountain running community, and about the Wicklow Round, about the history of the round. And then lucky enough, because we were still there when my record was taken. And since then, the record was taken by our good friend Gavin Byrne, about a month later. And Gavin was actually heavily involved in crewing me. But that’s the great thing. Like we had both said, earlier in the year, we were both going to go for this record.

Paddy O’Leary:

And I said, “Right, I have to do it in April because I’m back there then.” He said, “Cool, I’ll help you out as much as I can.” And on his birthday, him and several or eight other people from the Irish mountain running community, came in to just follow me, or crew me, or help with the filming. Because they all just wanted to see someone attempt the round, and to support people doing it. And then, yeah, so we made a great film which we think really highlights the strength of the community there. And that trip back to Ireland, that we just did in December, was really special to getting Irish eyes seeing the movie first and just seeing their reactions to it. On the opening night, we had a panel with Gavin, who currently holds the record, with Moire O’Sullivan. She was the first person to complete the round. Joe Lalor, one of the co-founders, and myself. And we had a really insightful panel to try give people advice about and they want to tackle it themselves.

Paddy O’Leary:

And yeah, it was a really cool kind of community driven event. And like over the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to, even though I’m living in the US and may be here for the foreseeable future, I really want to be a part of the Irish mountain running community. And they really welcomed me in, and allowed me to be a part of it, and allowed me to contribute as much as I can. Which is really cool, even from afar. It’s really cool to be a part of that community at home.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah. Oh man, and I can say like I saw that, I saw that movie and it just… Seeing that, like seeing the community and seeing your story and how you were able to capture the community around trail running, in a place that you were just discovering, yourself, even though you grew up there. It’s such a cool film. So it’s called Coming Home, I encourage everyone listening to check it out. Because it’s such a cool film.

Paddy O’Leary:

It’s not online, yet, as of January 2020. But we’re currently, we’re doing the trails in motion film tour, which travels to like 20 countries. So wherever you are, if the trails in motions film tour come through, have a look at it. It’ll have our film, plus three other great films.

Hillary Allen:

All right. Well it’s going to be out soon, probably by the time this is live. And plus, like man, I want to get out there and do the Wicklow Round. Like these-

Paddy O’Leary:

I know. I told a lot of people that you were going to [crosstalk 00:33:37]-

Hillary Allen:

Oh no. All right, cool. Then let’s get my compass and map.

Paddy O’Leary:

Get your compass out.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah. I mean, yeah, it’s cool. The visibility that you had was shit. So I can learn from the best. And if you learned, you can learn in like a park in San Francisco. So it’s like I can do it, too. But yeah, I think-

Paddy O’Leary:

It brings up a good point, I think. That a lot of us get, especially in the US, where all of our trails are immaculately mapped and whatnot, that we kind of lose our… Like we experience trail running. But to get on the mountains first, actually being self sufficient out there is a really important thing. And I think the process of learning how to use a compass and map was really an empowering and enlightening moment for me, in my development as a mountain athlete. And I couldn’t recommend it more, for people just to take out their maps and a compass, and get out there and do an REI course or do any sort of course. And jump into an orienteering race. That is some of the most fun that I’ve had. I did this with a [navex 00:34:35] series, which is about longer two, four hour orienteering races, which I jumped into a few, last spring, and definitely going to do in the future. But it’s really empowering and enlightening kind of moment, in your development as a mountain athlete.

Paddy O’Leary:

But it’s also very important to have those skills. Because if you’re out in the mountains, having a phone is great, having the maps downloaded. But being able to find, to use bearings to find your way around is a very useful skill, and it’s so much fun. I recommend people try it.

Hillary Allen:

All right, nice. Cool. Well this is awesome. So I wanted to end the podcast with a few questions for you. And how about we start with this one first. So okay. So you are, well you have your post doc, now, you have your PhD. You’re a very qualified and smart person. But that also means you’re working a lot. So how… I mean this year was special. You took some time off of work to kind of like, to travel, explore the community with the trail running. But that’s not your everyday life. How do you balance a full-time job with training for something that actually requires a lot of time, like an endurance sport like ultra running?

Paddy O’Leary:

Yeah. I think like just a little bit of forward planning can go a long ways, to helping yourself train better with a full-time job. Like planning, having… I don’t have access to showers, where I work. So having wet wipes and all that can help. No, but I mean by like planning, having like a spare change of clothes and having like to include run commuting as part of your training. Like during the week, I get a lot of my mileage with run commuting. But also one of the things, I don’t know, I’m not a qualified coach. But I think that a lot of the most important training is the back to backs and weekends for these longer things. So I end up doing like 60% of my mileage is over a Saturday and Sunday. But then during the week, I think just planning to have, like I said, like a bit of forward planning at the start of the week to have a spare change of clothes and [inaudible 00:36:33].

Paddy O’Leary:

When I bike into work, it takes me 20 minutes. If I bus into work, it takes me 45 minutes. I can do this. I can use that 45 minutes to actually, to run even further to get home, because running is faster than public transport in a lot of cities. And also recognizing like, going out and getting to know your city. If you join a group like The November Project, they’ll like tour around the city and you can find like the best little hills or stairs in the city, that are great for training. So I do a lot of my training here. I must say that in San Francisco, we’re very fortunate that we have a lot of hills. That’s one thing we have a lot of. So it’s a good city for a mountain runner. But yeah, and also knowing your city better, so you can find suitable places where you can tailor in your training. If you need to get hills or whatnot, or parking lots, or parking garages with stairs or whatever. And also finding a group. Like many cities will have these different running groups. Whether it’s a flat.

Paddy O’Leary:

Maybe it’s a flat like track and field group. Or, it’s just a fun run in the evening, or midnight runners, or something like that. Finding a group in the city, that like… Because at times, you get back from a long days of work, you’re back at six o’clock, you’re like, oh, I don’t want to go on a run now. I just want to sit and watch Netflix, or want to cook dinner and want to chat with my housemates, whatever. Having a group that are going to meet, that they’re going to be there, I’m going to go and join them. Or having an early morning group that’s going to get you out of bed to join. So that’s actually one of the most important things, I feel, that helped me develop as a trail runner who has a full-time job, working in a city. Is I found a group that were going to be out there, and I know they’re going to be out there, and that’s going to draw me out to join them. And get me up in the morning, or encourage me to go run afterwards in the evening.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah.

Paddy O’Leary:

So that’s one of the most important things, find a group there.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah, I love that. And you also-

Paddy O’Leary:

Or start one.

Hillary Allen:

Exactly. [crosstalk 00:38:18]-

Paddy O’Leary:

If you’re in a city that doesn’t have one.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah.

Paddy O’Leary:

[inaudible 00:38:20], this November Project group started when two fellas, Brogan and Bojan, they were fed up with paying for gyms and things like that. So they’re like, all right, for the month of November, we’re going to workout together, keep each other accountable. We’re going to do an outdoor workout, everyday, for a month. They got to the end of the month, they were like, wow, this is fun. Let’s keep this going. Every Wednesday, we’ll meet at the stadium, Harvard Stadium, and they blasted it out on Twitter. It said, come join us, free… 6:30 am. And the following week, one person showed up and they were like, we’re kings of the world. We created a running community. But they didn’t quit. And over the weeks, months, years, it grew. The Boston group grew from 10, to 50, to 100, to 1,000 people coming to their workouts.

Paddy O’Leary:

Just from word of mouth and just the creating a platform, for people to have a group that kept them accountable to work out.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah.

Paddy O’Leary:

So yeah, finding that group or starting one.

Hillary Allen:

I like that. Well you answered my second question. Which was, how to best train for running trails when you live in a city? And you always have told me, like in San Francisco, you’re like, you can run these trails in the middle of the city. You just have to go and explore. And you kind of have to change, maybe, your perspective on what you think trails are. Like, you said like running up stairs or something like this. Finding a dirt path. Like, you know, a construction-

Paddy O’Leary:

Like my go to, mid-week, one of my go to mid-week kind of longer runs. I have like a 12, a 13 mile route, commute run from home into work. And that, so like 13 miles, I can pack in like 3000 feet of climbing. But you have to be inventive with that. You have to find the steepest streets, and you may have to take a lot of sharp turns and like find your way through different streets and whatnot. But with a bit of planning, going to Strava and look at maps, going to Google Maps, going to Gaia, and look through the best routes and you’ll find this little route. [inaudible 00:40:04] and you can get a lot of… It may not be 3000, 4000, 5000 foot climbs you find in the Alps. But you can get… If you find a small little climb, you can have a lot of fun with it.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah.

Paddy O’Leary:

And it’s an exercise in monotony, which is useful for [inaudible 00:40:17] running, as well.

Hillary Allen:

It’s true. It’s mental training. And the last question I want to ask you. Why, personally, do you think it’s important to have a community for running?

Paddy O’Leary:

I think in a day and age where most of our time can be spent in our phones, or looking at TV, at times it seems like we’re losing the ability to interact one to one with people. And I think having a community of like, using exercise as a way to draw you to have one on one conversations with people, to have one on one presence with people. To actually be present with people there, and I think having a community for running really helps that. Because I think it’s a great platform to brin people together. So I think that’s one of the most important things.

Hillary Allen:

Oh, I love it. You’re right. And I think it’s like just that small amount of interaction. Whether it’s like you’re a social butterfly and you want to talk with everyone at this group run, or just one person. I think it can make a huge positive influence on your running, or just like your daily life. So yeah.

Paddy O’Leary:

And there was actually one other point I should have said earlier. One thing about finding, when you find yourself a trail running community, especially if you’re an up and coming developing runner. When you find yourself into a running community, there’s so much knowledge in that. And not being afraid to ask questions, as we said earlier, everyone wants to see everyone succeed. Everyone wants to see people that are trying new distance, or getting faster, or going up a new mountain, aiming, targeting, running up a mountain they weren’t able to do before. To achieve something that they want to achieve. Everyone wants to see that, and people are always going to be willing to give advice, and to help out, and show you the ropes and things like that. So just asking, joining a community and asking for advice. People are always willing to give it, [inaudible 00:42:05].

Hillary Allen:

I love it. Well thank so much Paddy. It was such a good conversation.

Paddy O’Leary:

Thanks for the chat.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah.

Paddy O’Leary:

[inaudible 00:42:13]. Well actually, no. I’ll finish my toast first.

Hillary Allen:

All right, well you have a good rest of your day.

Paddy O’Leary:

Yeah, you too.

Hillary Allen:

And thanks so much for chatting with me.

Paddy O’Leary:

Yeah, and I’ll see you guys soon.

Hillary Allen:

Okay.

 


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