Meet RUNColumbus team member Pat Conroy. Pat and his wife Maria (also a runner) have two kids—Matt (18) and Josh (15)—and Kieran, a 3 1/2-year-old collie. Pat turns 50 this year and is in the process of signing up for lots of races to convince himself he is still not too old to do things. The RUNColumbus Race Series provides extra motivation and incentive to get signed up and run.
Why/when did you start running? First started running in college, as a way to stay in shape, though I didn’t follow any specific training plan or follow a regular schedule. My running was a bit sporadic, but I did manage to prepare for and compete in my first real running race, the 1994 Charlottesville Crestar 10-miler.
I started running with more regularity in graduate school at UNC-Chapel Hill, due in large part to having a running partner (and later wife) in my good friend Maria. We ran together multiple times a week regularly competed in 5K and 10K races in Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh. Upon graduating I moved up to Cambridge, MA, where I reverted my typically sporadic running schedule. Maria remained in Chapel Hill where she maintained a much better running schedule. We decided to enter together at the 1998 Marine Corps Marathon, where my youth and ignorance got me through (along with Maria’s support and patience with me).
Maria and I got married in 1999 and moved to Columbus in December. We started playing soccer as a way to meet people and make friends, so running became more of an occasional activity. That changed once we had kids, and schedules changed completely. I started getting back into running first as a way to deal with the times when the kids decided they didn’t want to nap when we wanted them to. I found the baby jogger to be a very effective alternative — after about ten minutes of running they would fall asleep and stay out for the remainder of the run.
In 2009 a family friend stated that he was going to train for the Columbus Half Marathon, and asked if I wanted to join him. It sounded good to me so I signed up as well. We got together for Sunday long runs, and trained independently the rest of the time. I had a lot of fun running that race, and have continued to run the Columbus half or full every year since.
One of my favorite aspects of running is that it can be done at any time, with very little prep required, so it was very easy to work around the kids’ schedules. When they were young I was able to take one or both along in the baby jogger, both on training runs and in actual races. As they got older they started participating themselves, first with the fun runs and then with the main events. It was a big day for each of them when they were able to run an entire race on their own. Now they are both faster than me, but will often be kind and hang out with me in the corral before the gun goes off and they leave me behind. For many years now we have all run the First on the First and the Columbus Turkey Trot, so running has become a family tradition.
What is your favorite aspect(s) of running? The flexibility associated with it, being able to run anywhere and anytime. I also like the fact that there are no expectations beyond those I put on myself. If I am feeling tired I can go out for a slow, short-run and still feel a sense of accomplishment. When I am feeling good I can go out longer and just lose myself in it for a few hours. I find I am virtually always in a better place mentally after a run, and there is no feeling quite like the full-body exhaustion and satisfaction that follows a long run.
I have also found that running is a great way to get out and see places, both at home and when traveling. As a family, we have now done running tours in four different cities and look forward to doing some more. We now make it a point to run when we travel, and by doing so have seen places that we might never have made it to otherwise.
What excites you about being part of the RUNColumbus Race Series and Team? I am interested to see how I will stack up against others in the series. I tend to run a good number of races each year but have never previously done a series like this, so I am looking forward to the opportunity. I am also excited to get to know some of the other people in the series. I have been to races where I have seen familiar faces, but haven’t taken the time to get to know the people. I think being part of the race series will make it easier to connect with and get to know others, which should make the races even more enjoyable.