Comedian Pat Regan Is Running’s Funniest Superfan
The ‘Hacks’ writer and podcaster has a moonlighting obsession with all things running
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The cult-favorite podcast Seek Treatment is, according to its theme song, about “boys, sex, fucking, dating, and love.”
Sometimes, that’s true. The co-hosts, comedians, and best friends Catherine Cohen and Pat Regan, love to ask guests if they “hooked in highsk” (had hookups in high school) and occasionally recount their own sex lives in great detail. More often, though, you’ll find them debating the merits of various brands of chipotle mayonnaise, reliving childhood nostalgia, or unpacking a weird conversation they had last week.
But about once an episode, Cohen will excuse herself to use the bathroom, or to retrieve her delivery order, and Regan, who is a stand-up comedian and a writer on the hit HBO show Hacks, gets the mic to himself. That’s when Seek Treatment becomes the world’s funniest running podcast.
For a brief few minutes, Regan monologues on recent races he’s seen, how his own training is going, and the running world’s latest controversies. What makes Regan such a singular comedic voice—his obsessive, encyclopedic mind; his penchant for intense parasocial relationships; his ability to make the mundane profound or hilarious—also makes him a fascinating cataloguer of running history, with an uncanny ability to recall exact race results from a decade ago and precisely how watching that race made him feel.
An Accidental Runner
But Regan almost wasn’t a runner at all: Growing up on Long Island, New York, Regan, 34, wasn’t interested in sports. Worried he wouldn’t make friends in high school, his mom encouraged him to try out for cross country, “famously the sport that doesn’t make cuts,” says Regan. At a time trial, Regan was 39th out of 40, only beating someone who walked the whole time. “I was really bad, and I hated every second of it,” he says.
Regan skipped spring track but returned to cross country his sophomore year. Slowly, he began to see improvement. “I started paying attention to my times and seeing them get faster,” he says. “It made me feel powerful that I could get good at something that no one expected me to be good at.” The summer before his junior year, he got serious about his training. “I didn’t know anything about training—I just ran as hard as I could every day,” he says. It paid off: Regan entered his junior year as one of the top runners at his school.
Regan’s growing obsession with his own finishing times also fueled his interest in the wider running world. “I think I had low self-esteem,” he says, “and I loved to have this measurable thing where in this one small, arbitrary aspect, I’m numerically better than I was six months ago.” He began scouring DyeStat, comparing himself to other high school runners across the country.
Injuries sidelined Regan for most of his college career at Loyola University Maryland, which only gave him more time to spend on LetsRun.com and FloTrack, checking in on how his high school competitors were doing and deepening his obsession with professional track.
“All of a sudden, you have all these names in your head of people you’ve never met, and you know when they’re racing, and you’re rooting for some of them, and you don’t care about others, and some of them you are randomly rooting against, and you don’t even know why,” he says.
Watching Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher battle it out at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials was formative, as was following Jenny Simpson’s epic 2009 season and seeing Chris Solinksy break 27 minutes in the 10,000. “No running coverage has ever made me feel how I felt at the Payton Jordan Invitational in 2010 where Galen Rupp was supposed to break the American record and Solinsky stayed on him,” says Regan. “I’ll always remember the full-body chills when Ryan Fenton said, ‘When is it going to creep into Chris Solinksy’s mind that he has a shot at this American record?’”
Running and Addiction
After college, Regan moved to Brooklyn to pursue stand-up and improv comedy and would run occasional races. But by his late twenties, running had largely disappeared from his life as he struggled with alcoholism and Adderall addiction.
In his now six-and-a-half years of sobriety, “there have been different bouts where I’ve been like, I’m gonna give running one last go,” he says. “I want to run a good marathon, I want to see what’s there.” One of those bouts came earlier this year, when he was determined to PR in the half. “I don’t have the ability to manage myself and prescribe appropriate training, so all of a sudden I’m running 90 miles a week,” he says. “I run myself down and addiction is part of that.” To break this cycle of overtraining, Regan has decided—at least for now—to focus on lifting instead of running.
From Runner to Superfan
What’s never wavered, though, is Regan’s love of the sport. Current favorites include Krissy Gear, who he picked to medal last week at World Championships. “I remember watching her steeple opener this year and thinking, if she is within 300 meters of someone going into the final 800, she will beat that person,” he says. He’s also a longtime Bowerman Track Club fan, which he jokes is a “hot, cancelable take,” and has been rooting for Elise Cranny since she was in high school. “I always like the stalwarts to have a comeback, so I want to see Emma Coburn run well, too,” he says. Outside of Team USA, “it really feels like the summer of Faith Kipyegon,” he says. “I love her so much—there’s something about her energy that feels so likable and pure.”
If Regan sounds like someone with a future in calling races, that’s on his radar, too. (He’d love an intro to Olympic medalist and Real Housewife of Atlanta, Sanya Richards-Ross, who often calls races for Peacock.) For now, adjusting to a new relationship to running, where he is just a fan, can feel strange.
“I feel guilty talking about it when I don’t do it,” he says. “But I don’t know that I’ll ever not follow it. The people who are good at it—I understand why they love it and it’s so important to me that they run well. When they have a breakthrough, it feels so good for me, and when they have a rough patch, I feel for them. I just get what it’s like to want it so badly.”