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The Aquilian

Mr. Sullivan: always training, finds God in running

Mr. Patrick Sullivan teaches freshmen and sophomores as a member of the religion department. (Photo submitted by Mr. Patrick Sullivan)
By Patrick Donnelly–

Do you think your teacher could run a mile faster than you? Well, if your teacher is Mr. Patrick Sullivan, religion teacher, bad news: he can. Mr. Sullivan is currently training for a marathon and keeping running in his life, even though the very difficult COVID-19-dominated period.

Mr. Patrick Sullivan gunning for a new personal best. (Photo submitted by Mr. Patrick Sullivan)

Growing up on Long Island, New York, young Mr. Sullivan knew that he was likely not going to pursue a sport that involved a ball. 

“I played soccer growing up, but that was rec-league. I enjoyed it, but I was never good enough that I knew I was going to go somewhere with it,” Mr. Sullivan said.

However, his time to shine came when his middle school, St. Patrick’s, launched a track team.

“We went to race at other middle schools, and I was quick; I did well. So when I went to high school and did cross country, I loved it,” Mr. Sullivan said.

His love for the sport grew throughout high school, as he competed in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track all four years. Mr. Sullivan went on to run at Loyola University in Maryland for two years before suffering from a serious hamstring injury. 

At the time this was a massive setback; however, it brought back the fire Mr. Sullivan had for running, and he decided to run a marathon as a senior.

“I just decided for kicks to try and do a marathon, and my goal was to do it without walking. And I did it,” Mr. Sullivan said.

As he progressed through graduate school at the University of Notre Dame, running faded away in Mr. Sullivan’s life again. Soon after, he realized that he wanted to come back to the sport, and just like that, he was in love again. He was hired by Gonzaga right out of college, so most of his training was done in the Washington, D.C. area, which he still loves to this day.

“Especially here in D.C., you know, there are mornings when I get up and I’m running up and down the mall, past the Lincoln Memorial, and the sun’s coming up over the Capitol building, and I’m reminded of how cool it is to live, work and train here,” Mr. Sullivan said.

Running is a sport of numbers. A runner’s time is what he’s measured by. Similarly, in school a student’s grades and score often identify that student. However, Mr. Sullivan doesn’t think this isn’t entirely true. It’s important not to let one bad race define a runner or bad test define a student.

Mr. Sullivan watches from the sideline of a freshman soccer game. (Photo submitted by Mr. Patrick Sullivan)

“It’s so hard to look at one day and be like ‘I did everything and it didn’t happen.’ And what I’ve tried to remind myself is that even though it didn’t happen on that one day, every other day was a success, and when we think about how we teach and how we grade, it’s all about one day. Did I get lucky on that test, or is it a reflection of how well I prepared?” Mr. Sullivan said.

Running has also found a place in Mr. Sullivan’s faith life through reflection and prayer. He also said it is important not to swap the two, but he can use running to enhance his prayer.

“Running has enhanced my time to process my prayer. But if I only run, and I’m not reflecting, then there’s not much to reflect on,” Mr. Sullivan said.

As a soccer coach here at Gonzaga, Mr. Sullivan has also drawn lessons from his time on the pitch. 

“I don’t really focus on winning, I focus on excellence, and that translates to wins. I do the same in the classroom, reminding myself and my students that we’re after success and excellence, and the numbers will back it up. It doesn’t always translate, but that doesn’t matter,” Mr. Sullivan said. 

Mr. Sullivan hopes to qualify for the Boston Marathon at some point this year, which means running under three hours in the 26.2 mile race. He will continue to do what he loves— teach and run. 

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