Name: Pat McLaughlin
Interviewed by: Kevin Brandon (01/08/17)
Pat, thanks for taking time to speak with us. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you end up in Philadelphia and competing with PRTC?
After graduating school in 2012, I moved back to my mom’s couch in the suburbs, and thanks to being unemployed, managed to find time between episodes of “Dawson’s Creek” to get in the best shape of my life. The following spring I smoked Paul at Broad Street in probably the best race of my life. Shortly after, I took a job in Camden so I was stopping in Philly on my commute home each night to run. I kept recognizing Paul and he would invite me out to club runs and finally one night I figured out how to actually get into Franklin Field for a workout and things got serious from there.
When did you first become a runner? Did a specific event compel you to take on the sport?
I got into running completely by accident. I used to play the viola and one day in middle school I tried to go to rehearsal but didn’t know it had been canceled and replaced with the cross country recruiting meeting. The coach, legendary Paul Vandergrift, convinced me to at least sit through his sparsely attended speech. I had no intentions of actually going out for the team but the asshole kept calling me over the summer so I figured I’d go to one practice. It turned out I really enjoyed the fact that your status on the team was simply being faster than someone else so I decided I’d keep at it (I did draw the line at buying running shoes and instead trained in vans and competed in spikes my friend found after a meet that were too big).
Once you began running, how did your career develop? Take us through day one to today.
My running career actually developed pretty quickly. I was fortunate to have a bunch of fast, hard-working dudes on my high school team and my complete ignorance on how to train told me to just run as hard as I could every day and hang onto them as long as I could. It led to a lot of puke but I also improved pretty quickly and ended up going from being the slowest on my team freshman year to breaking 10 minutes in the 3200 sophomore year and eventually leading off our DMR that got 3rd at Penn Relays my senior year (they won the COA when they replaced me the following year). Sometime in there, someone told me I could run in college, so I gave up my NHL dreams and started learning more about the sport. College was sweet and I had a lot of fun on the team and moderate success. Now I’m just really bad at quitting things so I’m at the point where I’m just going to try and train as hard as I can until I get a career ending injury or a girlfriend.
Care to share any favorite stories from your days at Allegheny College?
It’s tough to share my favorite stories from my Allegheny days; we didn’t do moderation very well so I’d have to censor them heavily. I think just being on the team in general, it was an absurd collection of personalities so the situations we’d find ourselves in were hilarious.
Can you tell us about a favorite running accomplishment or moment?
I’m really good at getting 2nd place or running 20 seconds off All-American spots so I don’t have a ton of big accomplishments. I think my favorite moment was our team getting 3rd at DIII Nationals my sophomore year and then, of course, the celebrations that followed. We have a pact that photos from that night will not be released to social media until we’re all out of college/grad school.
>How about a not-so-great moment?
So my favorite moment is also my least favorite. As mentioned above, I was really good at just missing stuff and that year after running as the 5th-6th guy on the team for most of the season, I was bumped to the alternate spot thanks to a mediocre regional race, some bullshit “team politics,” and the city of Cleveland. I guess it’s cool since I still have an NCAA trophy but memories associated with that weekend will always hurt a bit; spent a lot of nights laying on my floor listening to sad music that following winter.
Regarding your running future, what are your near and long-term goals?
My running future is pretty uncertain right now. After almost 10 years of injury-free, balls-out training, I had to put running aside this past fall to deal with a really shitty work schedule. I’m currently trying to dig out from a hole of months of beer, Taco Bell, and sporadic running. I did pay to run Boston in the spring and I’d hate to spend money to run slow so I think I’ll pull it together. Long term, I just want to get fit again, eventually smoke Paul over a marathon and maybe someday finally break 15 in a 5k.
Your job seems to offer some unique benefits, like Mermaid Week. What is it you do and how would you best describe Mermaid Week?
I work as a Dive Safety Officer for the Camden Aquarium, which basically means I help oversee anything involving scuba diving over there. It’s a really diverse job, and my day can be anything from recruiting volunteers and repairing equipment to diving as Scuba Santa because Santa had a panic attack gearing up and we can’t miss a show! Mermaid week is the best and worst 15 days of the year. Apparently, aquarium guests prefer to see half-naked girls wearing fake tails swim around the exhibits over sharks and turtles so every November we hire a group to come in and do that. Since they’re in the water, it falls on us to make sure everything on that end goes flawlessly so I get to spend 4 hours at a time 20ft underwater, sitting in a corner of the exhibit making sure they don’t swim into our hammerhead shark or get bit by a turtle and occasionally sticking a hot water hose down their tail if they get cold. This can be a really exhausting day especially at the peak of marathon training. It turns out, Mermaids also love the Applebee’s Bar and that doesn’t help either.
How was it you got into scuba diving and what’s the coolest experience you’ve had underwater?
I got into diving because my dad owned a retail business and taught classes while I was growing up. It’s not as glamorous of a profession as it might sound and we were poor as shit when I was a kid, but I got to do and see things underwater as a 12-year old that most will never see in a lifetime. It’s hard to describe one “coolest” experience. I think for me, the unnatural feeling of being somewhere you shouldn’t is the best like swimming along the bottom of the St. Lawrence River while massive freighters pass overhead or visiting a ship 150ft deep in Lake Erie that few have seen since it sank in 1860. I’ve also recently gotten into Cave Diving and have loved just loading my van with all my dive gear and no itinerary and driving 15 hours to spend a few days swimming through the underground parts of northern Florida farmland.
Any non-running related hobbies, hidden skills or talents we may enjoy hearing about?
I can’t really think of anything. My friends say I’m pretty much described by my four main interests: running, diving, hockey, and shitty Emo music. I pretty much hate everything else.