"I'll Always Be A Runner"
Patrick Shea ’96 completes a marathon on every continent.
Patrick Shea ’96 has long loved both running and traveling. But it wasn’t until his father died in 2016 that he was inspired to combine his passions.
“I had an epiphany,” says Shea, a former Stonehill cross-country and track runner. “Life is short. My two greatest passions are running and traveling, and I got this grand idea to combine them.” He set out to run a marathon on every continent.
Shea, who now lives in Austin, Texas, and works remotely as a financial analyst for Golden Gate University, officially achieved that goal by finishing the Blackmores Sydney Marathon in Australia on September 18. He is now one of an estimated 900 people who have run a marathon on every continent, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Crossing the Sydney finish-line “was bittersweet,” says Shea. ”It was a special feeling knowing the hard work I put in was finally paying off—but I was sad that the journey was ending.”
It was quite a journey: Stockholm Marathon and New York City Marathon in 2017, the Singapore Sundown Marathon and the Patagonia International Marathon in Chile in 2018, the Cape Town Marathon in South Africa in 2019, and the Antarctica Marathon in 2022.
Growing up in Albany, N.Y., a young Shea started running because, he recalls, he was scared to learn how to ride a bike. “The only way I could keep up with my friends was to run.”
He joined cross-country his sophomore year at Shaker High School in Latham, N.Y., when a friend told him that it involved a trip to New York City—which appealed to his early interest in travel.
Shea fell in love with the sport, finding that in cross-country, “you're part of a team, but you're also just doing your own thing,” he says.
Also a high school-miler and two-miler (4:39; 9:59), Shea applied to Stonehill, in part, because his uncle Rev. Thomas Shea ‘64 was an alum. “Plus Stonehill was then Division II in cross-country, so I knew I could run with them,” he says. “It was a good fit.”
The former accounting major ran cross-country for Coach Dana Boardman his first three years, and track his first year and sophomore year. His 10K personal record was 34:20. By senior year, feeling burnt out, he took a break from running.
Shea later trained for and ran five marathons between 2000 and 2004 and then didn't run again for nine years. In 2012, “I was at a crossroads in my life,” Shea says. “I did some soul-searching and realized I was happiest when running, so I made a point to get going again in January 2013.”
Shea wrote about the “rollercoaster” of his running career in The Resilient Runner, a book he’ll self-publish soon via Amazon.
In 2013, a few months after he re-started running, the Boston Marathon bombing occurred. “That day, I felt so much closer to the running community than I had for nine years,” Shea says, who ran Boston in 2001 and 2003. “I had to somehow get back to Boston again.”
He did, racing in 2015. The globe-trotting years came next.
The Patagonia Marathon in the Torres del Paine National Park “was easily the most beautiful” of his races.
Worst weather? “Singapore. It was 82 degrees with 90 percent humidity—and I ran that one in the middle of the night. Otherwise, it would’ve probably been 90 degrees,” he recalls, adding that the race traditionally kicks off at 1 a.m.
The hardest conditions, though, go to Antarctica. While it was a mild day temperature-wise for Antarctica at 35 degrees, “it was 26 miles of mud, streams and hills. That was brutal,” Shea says. “It was the coolest experience, but the most miserable in terms of the overall run.” Despite these challenges, Shea placed second (4:09:43).
His favorite marathon, though, is closer to home. “Boston. Because the fans are so incredible," Shea says. "The pageantry, the tradition, it's just special."
While his Sydney performance qualified him for Boston ’24, his “marathon career ended in front of the Sydney Opera House,” he says.
Shea continues to run just for the love of it. “I still run about 30 miles a week,” he notes. “I'll always be a runner.”