Ultramarathoner Patrick Sweeney Tears up Roads but Is Happiest Barefoot on the South Bay Sand

The long run.

Lifelong Manhattan Beach resident Patrick Sweeney has created a unique niche for himself as a professional runner. With a laid-back approach to life and his running, he might not be getting rich but he enjoys an unconventional, nonmaterialistic lifestyle.

“I’m pretty successful at living a life I enjoy,” Patrick explains. “I am getting rich off of opportunities, travel and experiences.”

Marathons (26.2 miles) were once considered the ultimate test of human endurance. But in the last few decades, ultramarathons (any distance longer than a marathon) have become the new endurance test. Patrick, an ultramarathoner, prefers the 50-mile races.

A self-proclaimed “chubby child,” he took up running later in life. Most novices would start with a 5k or 10k race. He started with a marathon. While attending El Camino College, he trained hard with friends and finished his first race in approximately 3.5 hours.

More and more he found himself running barefoot on the beach. Soon he ran another marathon—this one in just under three hours. He officially became hooked on running after his first ultra on Catalina Island. He remembers discovering, “instead of going faster, I’ll go farther.” Trails and longer distances were actually easier for him than shorter-distance races.

“I bought the cheapest trail shoe at the time from Sportmart for about $40,” he says, but soon he was having issues with injuries. Eventually he discovered a huarache by LUNA Sandals that gave him the same feeling as running barefoot.

According to Patrick, the benefit of running barefoot is the ability to strike the ground the way the body is intended to. “In a cushioned shoe you tend to land with more force, which will catch up with you—usually in injuries to your knees,” he explains. “Running barefoot or in a minimalist shoe, you instantly feel the feedback of how you land. Unless you like pain, you will learn to land softer and more efficiently.”

While home in Manhattan Beach he trains on his own, but he also runs for Trail Racing Over Texas, a race management company that puts on trail races all over Texas. The area offers beautiful flat trail runs through the Texas state park system and in the mountains.

As much as Patrick runs, cramping can be an issue. He’s a big proponent of pickle juice to reduce cramping. “The acidic vinegar component is a neurological inhibitor, and muscle cramps are a neurological response to being deficient on different electrolytes,” he explains. “So as soon as the vinegar hits your tongue, your brain stops sending the signal to spasm and the salts help fix the problem.”

“The older I get, the more I realize it’s pretty easy to push myself past my body’s limits.”

Patrick participates in races all over the country, but he does not consider himself “just a racer.” He runs for the love of running. He once ran from coast to coast in the late 2000s—about 3,200 miles—racking up about 52 miles a day on his path from Los Angeles to Boston.

“Know that discomfort is temporary,” he explains. “Just push through it, as hard as you can, and very soon you’re going to have a big smile on your face and the pain will be gone.”

One time after running the Chicago Marathon, he ran to New York City in 22 days then raced the New York City Marathon. “The older I get, the more I realize it’s pretty easy to push myself past my body’s limits,” Patrick offers.

His favorite short-distance race is the Bare Burro 5K race held at Olive Dell Ranch—a nudist resort in Colton. He loves it so much that he just bought a piece of land there with his girlfriend. Locally you may encounter him at a “Sweeney Swap Meet” booth at an event. On a limited budget, he sometimes hosts these swap meets to help fund his running lifestyle.

One of his proudest accomplishments was setting the Guinness World Record for running 94.08 miles on soft sand in a 24-hour period at the Hermosa 24, an ultramarathon fundraiser benefiting the Hermosa school system.

Patrick gives back to the community with the 100 Mile Club, a nonprofit organization. Their mission is to engage and empower kids to achieve a healthy lifestyle through physical activity and to help prevent childhood obesity—“one child, one school and one community at a time.” If kids run 100 miles throughout an entire school year—a little bit each day or each week—it adds up to an ultramarathon.

On weeks when he’s not racing, Patrick spends anywhere from 14 to 24 hours running barefoot on the beach. In the early morning or evening, he finds shovels and toys washed up on the shore or left behind. It keeps him entertained while running, and he now wears a mini-shovel around his neck.

Often he’ll turn some of his beach finds into amulet awards at annual beer runs. A beer run is where each person chugs a beer then runs a lap; four laps and four beers equal a mile. “The event is shared misery for a short period of time followed by shared debauchery and celebration,” says Patrick.

PATRICK’S YEAR IN HEALTH

WEEKLY ROUTINE:

I thoroughly believe in a good night’s sleep. I average nine hours of sleep and get up between 7 and 8 a.m. I’m usually home until about 10 or 11 a.m., getting business done on the computer over a full pot of the darkest coffee you have ever seen. Hopefully the sun is shining, and I’ll go for a two- to four-hour soft sand run. I pretty much do this every day I’m in the South Bay. My biggest meal of the day is a late lunch; almost every meal I eat, I cook. I only eat out a couple times a month, if that.

DAILY NUTRITION:

I eat a plant-based diet. My body really does not crave a whole lot of protein. Instead I focus on healthy fats and leafy greens—40% fat/40% carbs/20% protein.

HOW DO YOU BALANCE FITNESS WITH FUN?

If you are not having fun while you train, or if you are not training while you have fun, you are missing out!

GUILTY PLEASURES:

A post-run afternoon beer or two is usually in the cards.

WHERE DO YOU STAY FIT?

That’s an easy question. The soft sand of the South Bay.

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