Behind The Scenes with Ciaran O’Lionaird

Ciaran O’Lionaird (@gociaran) is a man with nothing left to prove. A decorated collegiate career has since been followed by an appearance on the world’s biggest stage representing Ireland at the London Olympics in 2012.

At 3:52.10 he currently holds the in-house record as the fastest miler hydrated by SOS.

Having run for both the Oregon Project and Oregon TC Elite, O’Lionaird is now back in Portland where his professional career began, but this time with a very different kind of project.

You left Ireland as a teenager and haven’t looked back. It’s obvious what the States has over Ireland, but what did Florida State offer that you weren’t getting at Michigan? Better looking girls?

Florida State gave me a team dynamic that was rooted in merging positivity with productivity. We trained hard, competed hard but also had a great time. It gave me a town with some of the best trails in the United States or perhaps anywhere in the world. It gave me an athletic departmentand campus community that   supported our team’s efforts 100%. It gave me a coach in Bob Braman that I now consider family.

There is not a better resourced athletic department in the country than Florida State. As for the girls, no complaints on that front either. I’ll not get myself in trouble by expanding on that any further!

Your accent is beginning to merge into an Irish-American hybrid, but when the two of us went for dinner your plate was loaded with potatoes. What else about your day-to-day life will always be rooted in your upbringing?

Besides that fact I do probably eat potatoes almost every night, I’ll say that nothing beats getting to engage and interact with other Irish people regularly. It’s something I get to do often now as we have a large Irish community at Portland and at Nike. We do get out for pints and some good chat and banter regularly and nothing beats the sharp wit Irish people bring to the table.

I’m fairly tuned into Ireland, I usually listen to Irish radio everyday and watch the Irish news in the evening and such. Even though it may seem I’m totally removed, I still feel a strong connection to Ireland and likely always will. I’m extremely close with my Mum and two brothers and they keep me tuned into things also as we talk almost every day. 

You’ve now left Eugene and are back in Portland where your professional career first began. How does your current training compare to when you were with the Nike Oregon Project? Do you prefer being back in Portland and basing your running from campus?

The reality about being back in Portland is it is not comparable to when I was with the Oregon Project. Back then, my life was structured around training at the very highest level I could to achieve my goals on the track. Now, my primary goal has switched to the work space and to help Nike build great shoes for Young Athletes. We have a great team and we work together like a sports team would. Everyone contributes towards the larger goal.

In terms of my running, I hesitated to ever use the word retirement when I was stepping away. I have been able to get out and jog some, Nike encourages exercise and sport on campus for it’s employees but my goals have shifted away from running and into Product Creation. Running, however it proliferates itself, will be a fun, enjoyable escape for me now. I’m really happy I’ve arrived at a place where I can embrace the sport again and see it positively. And who knows, maybe it will yield that no expectations/no limitations vibe I had back in college. But either way, I’ll be fine. 

Although my pro running career started with The Oregon Project, I do want to say that Mark Rowland, who took me on at a very volatile time for me in my running career, has been an incredible mentor, motivator and coach on the track and in life. Some people measure success solely by times and wins. I will say that since joining OTC and Coach Row in 2012, I’ve learned and matured as a person and don’t think I could have made the transition from running to work as easily if it wasn’t for his influence. I’m still proud every time I put on an OTC jacket, shirt or jersey. Like FSU, I’ll always feel a part of Team Rowland and being able to still link in with the crew is something that holds great value to me. 

For the Love of the Game #tbt

A photo posted by Ciaran O’Lionaird (@gociaran) on

You’re now in a position where running has to fit within a day-job. How has that adjustment been? What does your day-to-day look like now compared to the last couple of years?

My day is structured much differently. I probably wake at around 6:15-30 and have a coffee and head to campus for 7-7:30. I’ll occasionally get out at lunch to run if I don’t have meetings but usually my day is rather stacked until around 4:30-5. The beauty about Nike is the gym is 2 min walk from my desk so I can stroll over there, change and be on the trails in 5 minutes.

Traffic back into Portland is rough from 4-7pm and I live in the city so I usually take from 5-7:30pm to run or lift. It’s nice, I feel like when I leave campus, I go home with my day fully complete on all fronts and can go for a nice dinner and a few beers and just relax. Sometimes I’ll do some more work and answer emails at night depending on deadlines and such. I don’t pay attention to the small details anymore. I eat what I feel like, I sleep when I’m ready and I just enjoy life and that is helping me enjoy my running now too. 

A photo posted by Ciaran O’Lionaird (@gociaran) on

Do you love anything more than fresh sneakers?

Good banter and conversation/debate will always trump any material good. Cars, sneakers, whatever mean nothing when compared to good company. Your first question is correct, the United States has given me a lot, but the most important thing I’ve gained in 10 years being here is an amazing group of friends and a solid squad that I’m thankful for everyday.

As for sneakers, who knows me knows I am a sneaker head and love to obsess product. I’m grateful to be able to go to work everyday and build with other motivated individuals who share that investment in the product.


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