Unconventional wisdoms interview, part 3 of 4: Patrick Sweeney

Patrick Sweeney Running Chicago marathon’s a noble achievement.

Running New York marathon in the same year, a life time achievement maybe…

Running both and the distance between the two?  

Patrick Sweeney reckons pretty much any of us can do this.  It’s just a matter of getting into the rhythm of things.

Me (M)- What are you up to tomorrow?

Patrick (P)- Tomorrow I’ll be flying to Chicago to meet with a friend “Barefoot Alex” then onto the Kenyan Embassy to meet some top Kenyan marathoners.  Alex and I’ll then pick up a torch and run from Chicago to New York and then run the New York Marathon.

This is as part of the “Champions Walk For Peace” to raise awareness of ethnic violence in Kenya.  In Kenya right now there have been over 600 murders, over 4,000 people have been displaced from their homes.  A bunch of top Kenyan marathoners did a 500 mile walk across Kenya to raise awareness of this and the Kenyan people really rallied behind the runners and put down their differences, so although this was not my cause per se, and I am missing some other races I had planned in order to do this, I am hoping we can raise awareness and promote this message of peace.  It’s a distance of around 900 miles from Chicago to NYC, we have 3 days off planned, so it’s around 40-50 miles a day, we can use the day-offs to catch up on milage if needed. cali

M- You have developed a taste for running across America then?  How was that on reflection? (Patrick ran across America earlier this year to raise money for the 100 mile club, a US-based organisation that aims to combat childhood obesity by encouraging school children to run 100-miles a year).  It took 114 days and covered 3,500 miles, the width of the US from California to Boston.

P- It was a 99.9% positive experience! People were coming out of nowhere to stop on the side of the road, offering me money for food which I didn’t need :)  It took about a month maybe to adapt.  After 2-3 weeks my body wasn’t coping very well.  The outer part of my calf was hurting, because of the canter in the road (we were running on the side of the road everyday and it’s at a slant) so it worked some muscle groups that weren’t used to it, but after that I felt like I could do 40 miles a day for the rest of my life if I had to.

M- You did this all in Luna Sandals?

P-  I ran in my sandals, and I brought a pair of Altras.  I’d done no road running in preparation for this so when the mileage got to about 300 a week, I needed a shoe.  I was scared that I might get a stress fracture in my foot, that would’ve maybe meant a lot of pain or that I may not be able to finish, so I rotated between the shoes and the sandals for the rest of the trip, I needed to give the feet some rest on certain days.  The shoes I wore were 0 drop so I could still move somewhat naturally, but they were heavily cushioned.

M- I read you put on weight over this adventure?

patrick run with us
Run Across USA

P- I probably weighed about 5lbs more by the end of the race.  I was definitely fitter, more muscle and more toned.  I was getting enough calories every day, I didn’t lose weight.

M- Did you ever feel like stopping?

P- There were definitely days where we’d just be miserable all day, but I never took any of those thoughts seriously (laughs) I knew I was gonna get it done.  There were lots of mornings where I woke up and would maybe rather have done something else or slept in, but it became kinda like a job, I just knew what I had to do and just went about it, kinda thing.

M- What were the standout experiences or things that you saw?

P- I did not expect it to get as cold as it did.  Texas is a big flat state and it got to 0 degrees Fahrenheit there.  Stand out things were just meeting people, everyone was just really nice.

M- Except for that man who tried to shoot you?

P- Yeaaah. I don’t know if he actually tried to shoot me.  I think he was just trying to scare me and fired a warning shot into the air. Whatever :)

M- And you found an engagement ring, still in it’s box?

P- Yeah I found quite a few interesting things by the side of the road.  The ring was probably the most exciting.

M- Did you sell it?

P- I still have it.  Maybe one day I’ll give it to someone special.  It’d be pretty cool if one day I met somebody that would appreciate the value of something like that.

M- Oh, it’s really valuable? 

P- No!  It’s probably worth about 500 bucks or so, I mean it’s more the sentimental value.

M- What’s a typical day of training like?  Did you do any cross training when you ran across America?

P- When I was running across America there wasn’t time.  I would wake up run, finish, eat dinner, have a shower, a beer, go to sleep, do it again the next day.  In my normal life, I don’t really train.  Running is more something I just love to do, and racing justifies the amount of time I spend running.  It’s very common for me to spend 3-4 hours at the beach everyday on a run, but there’s some walking and swimming involved too.

M- So it’s not a diligent plan?

P- I’d rather listen to my body each day and find fun things to do than have a set plan.  I’m not a fan of telling myself that I have to do a certain thing because a calendar or training regiment dictates so.  I think that’s foolish and leads to injury, I’d rather see what my body wants.

Mount Sherman
Mount Sherman

M- And you train on the beach even for mountain trail races and things?

P- Yeah, I tell myself, or, I used to tell myself I need to get on the trail more, I’d plan on it and everyday I would just end up at the beach.  The beach is where I love to run, it’s where I live, it’s a resource I have at my disposal and I think I should take advantage of at every chance.

M- You run barefoot on the beach? I’ve tried it but found the skin on my soles feel it’s going to tear with the stretch…

P- Yeah always barefoot.

It might take a bit of time, first walking on the beach, but the human body’s pretty amazing at how it will adapt to it’s surroundings.  That’s a thing that running across the country showed me, pretty much anyone could do it.  The human body can do some amazing things, you just have to give it a chance.

M- Didn’t some people drop out of it though?

P- Yeah some people had stress fractures and broken bones, things you can’t recover from on the fly, so you gotta be careful at the same time…

M- Why do you run in Luna sandals?

P- A long time ago I was running in the vibram five fingers and then I found a pair of Luna sandals and put them on for novelty, I thought they would be fun.  I wore them in the desert, pacing at badwater.  I ended up wearing them for 40-something miles that day and I’ve been wearing them ever since.  I really think that it’s not the shoe that matters so much, it’s the person wearing them.  I could run in shoes and be fine and I can run in sandals.  The sandals just let me rely on myself a bit more, which I think just makes me a better runner overall.

M- How do you mean, “makes you rely on yourself”?

P- So like there’s a big trend for people running in Hoka shoes, which is a maximum cushioned shoe, and I think they are a good tool, but if you use those every day and every run, then your form gets sloppy and you become dependent on them.  Then you can’t go and run barefoot and be efficient, it won’t feel right. If you run barefoot or run in a sandal, you develop a form that will be ok if you go into a cushioned shoe, you can still use that form and then the cushioned shoe to your advantage as well, but you don’t necessarily need it.  There are people who had problems and couldn’t run at all, then they went into a Hoka and that was great, but for most people they need to be careful not to rely on them completely.

I know when I ran across America, I had barely run in shoes in the past 6 years, and then I found putting the shoes on, it felt my feet were in boiling cauldrons of water, they were so hot and uncomfortable, but I adjusted and I was pretty thankful that I had the shoes.

M- You must’ve felt elated when you completed that.

P- I’m not a goal driven person.  Finishing a task doesn’t really thrill me.  It’s more the process of doing things that I get excited about.  As soon as I was done I was looking for another adventure to be a part of.  I missed it a bit, I had weird dreams when I finished.


(Then followed a bit of the interview where I tried to get Pat to understand me saying the word “Buggy”,  in the end I asked him instead about his “trailer”)…

P- Ahh the Patcave! Now I know what you’re saying :) It’s a 4 x 8 ft trailer, enough room for a bed and some storage: cooking supplies, some food, solar panels.  I spent about 6 weeks in it, in Colorado and Utah and it worked out pretty good.  As soon as I get back from NYC I’m going to take off in it to Arizona, I might take it down to Mexico, I’m not sure, but I plan on doing a lot of travelling in it in the next year.  It’s pretty basic but I have enough to survive, other than a shower or some things I’m pretty self-sufficient in there.  It makes things a lot easier if I wanna do some events, I can stay out on the road and just go to the next event.

M- Do you have a job?

P- Not really! I have a lot of freedom and a couple avenues of income.  When an opportunity comes I try to not say no, my goal is usually to travel at least 3/4s of the year.

M- Ever wish for something a bit more boring?

P- No, not at all.  Maybe when I’m old and decrepit it’ll be fine for me to stick in the same place, but it would drive me insane to be at a desk or in an office all day.

onion, radish, carrot, collard greens, kale, brussels spout, serrano, pasilla, garlic, bella mushroom and bourbon BBQ sauce, toped with half an avocado: Patrick
onion, radish, carrot, collard greens, kale, brussels spout, serrano, pasilla, garlic, bella mushroom and bourbon BBQ sauce, toped with half an avocado: Patrick

M- You have a solar cooker?   The food you make looks pretty amazing…

P- Yeah! It’s pretty fun.  I just buy what’s in season, what’s cheap, it’s usually the same ingredients that I cook for everything.  No chef training, no recipes, I don’t time anything.  I’ve been eating a vegan diet for about 6 years.  It works for me.   It’s more of an ethical thing than health.  It’s a very affordable way to eat, as long as you prepare your own meals, and I know what’s going into my body.  I think someone can eat meat and be healthy, but I’m glad we live in a day and age where I don’t have to sacrifice animals for my health.

M- You could make vegan pizzas as a job?

P- Many people have suggested I should open a restaurant or write a cook book, I have a desire to eat a lot of pizzas, but not open a restaurant.

One thing I learned running across the country, wasn’t something I expected to learn.  It didn’t matter what I ate, as long as I put calories in me. I ate pretty cleanly but I think I could’ve put McDonalds in me and performed 95% as if I had the best diet possible.  I think the body’s pretty amazing at figuring things out when your exercising 10-12 hours a day, I think it’s pretty good at filtering out what it doesn’t need and using what you’re giving it.

I’m not a super-fussy eater other than not eating animal products.  Just lots of bread, avocados, chips, and beer.  I drink beer almost on a daily basis :)

M- And didn’t you invent the International Beer Mile Association?

P- Yeah it’s just something I kind of stumbled into.  It tries to raise money for charity through beer mile-ing.  (A beer mile consists of drinking a beer, then running a quarter of a mile, so four beers, one mile).  It’s a lot of fun. Not that a lot of my friends are reserved, it’s shared misery during the event, but it’s then fun to see a people come out of their shells afterwards. I’ve probably given out about 500 of the shovel amulets over the last couple of years, when people complete a beer mile.

They say the soft sand sunset run is one of the three most important runs of the day. #‎Sweeneydoes #‎livingthedream
They say the soft sand sunset run is one of the three most important runs of the day. #‎Sweeneydoes #‎livingthedream

M- Yeah, I love those, you’re doing a double-good deed, clearing the beach of left behind sand-shovels, tying them on a bit of string and giving them as prizes, making people happy.

P- Some days it motivates me to go for a run.  You know, if I don’t feel I want to run I decide to go and find some shovels.  You know, trick myself into going for a run. Sometimes I find shovels that have hearts in the handles, I don’t find them often, probably I’ve only found 20 ever, those always make my day. When I raised money for the 100 mile club for the race across USA, people who donated a good chunk-a-change, I sent them out one of them.

M- You train for running mountains on the beach? Do you have a preference over where you run?

P- I enjoy mountains and trails, but it’s not something I miss.  It is silly that I don’t train in the mountains.  The only time I run on trails is in races, and it’s kind of a shame that I’m in these beautiful places but trying to go as fast as I can so don’t spend the time noticing how beautiful things are, as I’m watching my feet trying not to fall down as I run down the trail.

M- Running down a mountain is quite different to the beach? You don’t find that difficult?

P- Yeah I probably don’t have the confidence built up to run as aggressively as some of the other runners do on technical downhills.  And also wearing sandals on the trail I have to go a little bit slower and take it easy, but I’m ok with that. I have an 8.5 mile stretch of uninterrupted beach.  I run 10-15 miles once everyday on the beach.  When you’re running in soft sand, it takes a lot more effort.  An 12 min mile on sand is equivalent to  this is equivalent to an 8 min mile on pavement.

M- What about altitude?

P- I used to not be very good at altitude, as I live at the beach.  I spent a month and a half at altitude this summer and I was fine.

Embrace our shared humanity, have empathy for all and see the world through hopeful optimistic eyes, finding joy in helping others. Positive actions are contagious and every human being could use a hug. Happiness is a perception that can be found anywhere so long as the fear is gone. “The sun shines everyday. Sometimes you just got to see past the clouds.”

 Read the rest of this inspirational interview series here:

Maria Walton part 1

Nathan Farrugia part 1/part 2/2

Dini Martinez


I'm a Yoga teacher and mother to now 10 year old twins, with an interest in health, wellness and movement. In addition to articles on here, my work can be found by searching on Elephant Journal for my name, which will bring up recipes and mindful living articles. Thanks for reading :-)

2 thoughts on “Unconventional wisdoms interview, part 3 of 4: Patrick Sweeney

  1. thank you for passing this on, it makes me feel sooooooo good, even though i dont run, i can feel the benefits just ooooozing through me, and deep down would love to try it one day hehehe xx HUGS xxxx will be passing it on and hopefully encouraging another human being :-)x

    1. Cheers Rina! My best mate moaned she is bored of reading about runners, before she read this, but my mum thoroughly enjoyed every bit and said “what an amazing person” he sounds. So obviously it does have (as I hoped) wider appeal than just for runners, so please do pass it along ! xxx (PS often thinking how you are? Will call you/ pop in soon!) xxx

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