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Sonia O’Sullivan: A podcast can make light work of the daily run, and much more

Podcast with Jarlath Regan lets me share my thoughts with runners everywhere

Every Monday for the last 18 months, no matter where in the world I happen to be, I've been planning part of my day around when to record the Irishman Running Abroad podcast with Jarlath Regan.

Sometimes it might be a seven in the morning, if dialling in from the west coast of America, other times it might be seven in the evening, if dialling from Australia. Other times, too, we might be in the same time zone, so whenever suits on a Monday morning works for us both.

We actually got to meet in person a few times last summer and record during the Tokyo Olympics, then follow up with another in-person Irishman Running Abroad pop-up run on the morning Kellie Harrington won another boxing gold for Ireland.

This is just one branch of the popular Irishman Abroad podcast, where each week Jarlath finds a different Irish person to interview, each coming from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, with their own story to share.

Listening to podcasts can make the challenge less daunting and help you to settle into the run

They come from all walks of life, the common thread being that so many Irish people at one period in their life were either forced or chose to live and work abroad. The opening credits start off “no blacks, no Irish, no dogs’... and now we have the presidency... ” reflecting some of the changes along the way too.

There was a time when Irish immigrants were not always so welcome on foreign shores, most, however, have now established themselves and are celebrated beyond the annual St Patrick’s Day parades and other Irish activities showcased worldwide.

There is an estimated 100 million Irish diaspora scattered all around the world, many making a living beyond anything they could ever achieve in Ireland at the time of their departure. The other common theme is the connectedness that every Irish person living abroad feels to their home, no matter where they live or how long they have been away.

I’ve been a big fan of listening to podcasts for a while now, and not just when out running, but also walking, cycling, hiking, wherever. It’s a bit like meeting a new friend, and can make the challenge less daunting and help you to settle into the run; a slow start, a nice warm-up, then gradually you get moving and feel that bit lighter while out and about on the tracks and trails.

A bit like finding a good book or movie, a podcast can make light work of the daily run, where you come back feeling energised and enthusiastic about the day ahead.

My library of podcasts takes in a number of sporting and running related themes and subjects, insights into the body and mind and following the stories of athletes all over the world.

Each week we reflect back on the previous week's running activities, and also try to acknowledge some of the listeners and other virtual running partners

I also like to escape from that intensity and fall into a crime investigation or true crime reflection. These can be so addictive you sometimes stay out longer than planned, or else have to replay later on, as you can drift off while running with just the sound of voices for company along the way.

Like a Netflix recommendation, when you hit a good one you just can’t wait to get out the door each day: Death in Ice Valley, The Missing Cryptoqueen, Dr Death, The Nobody Zone, from Documentary on One – just a few that have kept me company. It’s strange too how you clearly remember what you were listening to when back on the same paths again later.

I first met Jarlath after listening to a few of his podcasts way back in 2014, actually my first introduction to the world of podcasts at the time, and soon after that he asked me to sit down and do an interview on the eve of the Great Ireland Run.

At the time I was staying in a lovely gate cottage not far from Malahide Park. Running was so far from Jarlath’s life back then (basketball was his game) that he probably wondered why I would stay there, and not closer to town, as he trekked out one afternoon to meet me.

That's actually one of the big things for me, wherever I travel and stay in the world. It's all about location, and the closeness to a park or trail or just nice place to run. At the time Malahide Castle and grounds was one of my favourite spots, influenced by Dublin Track Club coach Feidhlim Kelly, being a local and big fan of the park for running too.

Roll on eight years or so and now I’m coaching Jarlath each week to one day run a marathon. That’s the big plan, only for now it’s about guiding him to a sub-20 minute 5km, and also trying to keep up with his newfound love and enthusiasm for running.

Each week we reflect back on the previous week’s running activities, and also try to acknowledge some of the listeners and other virtual running partners. That often means we’re delving into some deeper running topics, and take some listener questions.

It can be quite infectious to see the impact this has, not just in running terms but the connection and warmth that is shared, the common bond and link that runners of all abilities often share with each other.

When you are connected to a community there's more purpose to what you do, the ups and downs can be shared, and easy to see as just part of the journey

I feel lucky to have aligned with Jarlath and got to share in this, starting with his already successful one-on-one interview style podcast and branching out and sharing my thoughts and experiences with runners all over the world. It’s not all just nuts and bolts and splits and times; we share some of the laughs, the thoughts and other experiences that become part of the daily run each day and also shared by the listeners.

Maybe there is something about the repetitive addictive nature that keeps us all coming back, working through the ups and downs and the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with daily life, but can often be sorted out when you lace up the shoes and head out the door.

When you are connected to a community there’s more purpose to what you do, the ups and downs can be shared, and easy to see as just part of the journey. It’s also about looking forward to when you might connect up again in Ireland, or at some park run now dotted all around the world.

Running is a metaphor for so much of what we do in life, a calming force when one needs it most, already known by many, still to be discovered by many more.

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