Patrick Tiernan Opens Up The ‘Bittersweet’ Departure From OTC, Joining Puma Elite

By Kyle Merber

January 19, 2022

The two-time Australian Olympian and 2016 NCAA XC Champion for Villanova, Patrick Tiernan, joined the Oregon Track Club in 2020. Since moving to Eugene he’s found great success, highlighted by a 10,000m personal best of 27:22. This weekend in Houston, Tiernan ran a half marathon personal best of 1:00:55 to finish 6th. This race was his last as a Mark Rowland-trained athlete; he even competed in a new kit.

Enjoy this short Q&A about his recent move (which has been edited lightly for space and clarity:

Before getting to the business side of things, how are you feeling about the race on Sunday and that new personal best?

I’m really happy with it. The mentality going in was just to get a good hard effort in. Ultimately we are preparing for a 10,000m in March for a World Champs qualifier. When you put a January half on the calendar that’s a good motivator to get the fall miles in.

When you’re in a fast race like Houston, there’s no hiding — that is if you want to keep up. It was a large group through 9 miles, which is rare for that race. It was cool looking around the pack and seeing all the US-based guys up there together — it’s promising to see that.

If fans missed your announcement on Instagram beforehand, they may not have recognized you out there. What prompted the change from the Oregon Track Club to the new Puma uniform?

I’d describe the whole thing as bittersweet. Coming off the Olympic year, like most athletes, I went through a contract negotiation. Generally, things can get sorted out between the sponsor and an athlete, but Nike wasn’t making an offer. With a couple of other options elsewhere, I weighed my choices and Puma stood out as a company that’s had a lot of success on the roads. Look at Molly [Seidel] — obviously, the footwear is fantastic and that’s a big deal in this day and age. Stepping on the start line, you want to be on a level playing field with everyone.

It was a good opportunity and unfortunately, I couldn’t get anything with Nike. And since they’re the group’s sponsor, it was out of our control. It’s disappointing because Mark [Rowland] and I were just getting started. The whole staff and team is really special to me — we had a great thing going.

The sweet spot is that I have been able to find myself another great situation moving forward. There’s a fantastic group setup with Amy and Alistair Cragg so I am excited to be joining the Puma Elite Running crew.

For those who maybe don’t know you on a personal level, why was this such a tough decision?

My partner, Angel [Piccirillo], just joined the group a few months ago and we had a lot of fun this fall training together. Angel staying in Eugene makes sense and me going to North Carolina also makes sense for us long-term. It’s a reality that we will work through at this time in our lives. Our wedding was moved to August this year and I am hoping my family can make it over so we can go ahead with it. But this had nothing to do with visas or anything — it was about contracts. But it’s nice to know Eugene will still be a place that I can come back to and visit regularly to spend time with Angel and our dog.

My new coaches have been very understanding of everything and that has meant a lot in the transition. There was nothing wrong with my relationship with OTC. They’re easily the most underestimated group in the country and I was happy. But Puma Elite is also a fantastic group and I am thrilled to have been given this opportunity by them.

What are you most looking forward to in this move? It’s a young group, but they’re off to a strong start. Just look at Fiona O’Keeffe and John Dressel this weekend! Is there anything you’ve learned the last couple of years that you’re hoping to take with you?

One thing that worked well under Mark is that he’s an open book. There’s always a lot of communication in regards to training, which I appreciated. That takes confidence and trust from his perspective. I’ve done sessions that I never would have thought possible, but he’s willing to turn the screw to test you. He’d propose things and would ask my take before we’d move things around together. It’s something that gave me confidence in myself, especially with how important it is to be in tune with your body.

That was a big thing that stuck out with me for my initial conversations with Alistair. He said he’d be stupid not to listen and take thoughts away from me as far as training goes — that respect and trust are key, especially so early on. Also having Amy’s involvement in my career is super appealing. She was such a successful marathoner that it’d be a wasted resource to not pick her brain constantly. That’s how you form a career — by drawing from others’ success, while also learning from their mistakes.

In the same way, I hope to bring a lot of what OTC taught me to Puma Elite. They taught me what a healthy and dynamic environment should be and I want to bring that energy to this new setup. I am going to be the oldest in the group which is a change, but new challenges are always good! (Editor: Pat is only 27!)

Photo by Johnny Zhang/@jzsnapz

Kyle Merber

After hanging up his spikes – but never his running shoes – Kyle pivoted to the media side of things, where he shares his enthusiasm, insights, and experiences with subscribers of The Lap Count newsletter, as well as viewers of CITIUS MAG live shows.