Member Spotlight: Sean Clark

By: Kevin Brandon
Sean, welcome. Could you introduce yourself to the group? How did you end up in Philadelphia and when did you start running? Did a specific event compel you to become a runner?
Thanks for the honor of a PRTC interview! I’m Sean and I’ve been training with the club since early 2016. I grew up in the Philly burbs, so Philadelphia has always been a part of my life. After graduating from Penn State in 2008, I bounced around a bit before finding myself back in Philadelphia for graduate school in 2010. I’ve been here ever since, enjoying the SRT on an almost daily basis. I ran CYO track in elementary school… but I got into running the same way many of us did: dropped soccer in favor of cross-country.
Once you began running, what sort of trajectory did your career take? Can you walk us through day one to today?
I was a mid-distance runner in high school, as we fielded a fairly decent 4×800 team. I then ran for La Salle University’s XC and T&F teams before transferring to Penn State and competing for the club XC team. For most of my life, I didn’t take running very seriously. It has always served primarily as a stress outlet and a healthy activity to balance out the vices.
In August 2014, my then-fiancee Bethany and I decided to quit our jobs, get married, and drive cross-country for a few months. Though not our initial plan, we eventually found ourselves back in Philadelphia for the long-haul. Bethany was quickly able to land a job at CHOP, but I remained unemployed for a stretch due to stubbornness and lack of opportunities. I found myself with a lot of time on my hands, so I started to run.. a lot… more than I ever had before.
The result was a consistent drop in times and an unexpected sense of accomplishment in running that I never felt before. I went from running 16:30 5k’s year-in, year-out for 12 years to running 15:30’s within a few months. And it made me determined to shoot for loftier goals even after hitting the dreaded 30.
You’re one of several Penn State alumni on PRTC. What was your time like on the Penn State Club team?
PSU Club XC was crazy! Coming from a serious D1 running program at La Salle, it was nice to be around people who ran purely for the fun of it. You were surrounded by runners putting in 100 miles per week and others who would pound tequila before a Saturday afternoon race. In other words, it was the perfect mixture of competitiveness and fun.
Can you share a favorite race memory or general moment in running?
In college I used to run under fake names, in the off-chance I’d do well enough to hear the race director say whatever ridiculous name I’d put down (Launchpad McQuack, Dirk Diggler, Lloyd Christmas, etc.). I once won a 5k while running under the name “Walter Sobchak,” one of my favorite movie characters. It must have been a slow news day, I suppose, but the next day the front page of the local newspaper had a big color picture of me, “Walter Sobchak” breaking the tape at the finish. It was one of my proudest moments.
How about a not-so-great running moment?
Oh geez… where to begin? I melted down so bad at last year’s Steamtown Marathon that I started horrifically vomiting at mile 23. It was a deserted part of the course and I was completely on my own at that point, except for a family of 3 who was in their front yard to watch the race. The youngest of the brood went from happily cheering and clapping to clutching his dad’s leg and hiding from the horror unfolding in front of him. It was awful.
Regarding your running future, what are your near and long-term goals?
Short term goal: get fit and healthy after an injury-plagued 2016. Long term goal is to break 2:30 in the marathon, next step towards that will be at Boston 2017.
You and your wife Bethany are one of two married running couples on PRTC. Is running something that brought/brings you together?
Yes! Bethany and I met through the club team at Penn State. And running is still a strong bond that we share. I ran a 10k race on a farm the morning of our wedding and presented the race prize, a giant wheel of cheese, to her as a wedding gift. We often plan vacations around fun races and have had some great “travel running” experiences, especially with Bethany’s side of the family. Mostly, though, we serve as each others motivators. If Bethany can put in 10 miles and core while working a 12-13 hour shift, I absolutely have no reason to slack off.
Can you tell us about your recent weekend in Chicago? Bethany had a great result in the marathon! What was you role for the race and how did you enjoy the experience?
This, I think, is my proper answer to the favorite race experience question. We signed up for Chicago back in early spring, but I suffered an injury shortly after that made any attempt at a PR impossible. Once the injury was manageable, I had 1.5 months to try and get in good enough shape to run Chicago with Bethany. She graciously allowed me to run with her and help her (as little as one can in a marathon) reach her goal. It is difficult to describe how moving the experience was. The weather, the crowds, and all that were incredible, but it was just so awesome to see Bethany accomplish a goal that she worked very hard for. She ended up running 3:05 and change, with a big negative split and (maybe more importantly) confidence for the next big race. And I got to watch it every step of the way. We had many, many celebratory pints that afternoon.
We’ve talked some about your job at Drexel as an academic advisor. What sort of students do you work with? Can you think of any general career/academic advice that people in our club may find useful?
Currently, I work with graduate students in several engineering fields. I chose to work in higher education because 1) it’s fun to work with college students and 2) it really stresses quality of life. I’m probably the last person anyone should solicit career advice from, but I’d say it’s important to focus on a career you can stand as opposed to a pay grade. Try to find the right balance between living comfortably (compensation-wise) while also having the free time to dedicate to friends, family, hobbies, etc.
Is there anything else we should know about Sean Clark? Hobbies, hidden talents or interests?
I have seen the band “Built to Spill” 26 times and counting. I have a Beagle mutt named Buddy Waffle. And I love beer. That’s about it.
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