Setbacks and surprises are inevitable. Weather and illness—and all sorts of other plan disrupters—are not always foreseeable or controllable. But when disappointment and disruption descends, we can regulate our reactions. Here’s a short follow up to last month’s episode about wellness and balance, including a spoiler about the big marathon (so if you missed Episode 56, check that out before you listen to this one!)
Thank you to everybody for listening. And a special thank you to this month’s underwriters: Bob Suchor, Mark Haynes, Linda Gore, John Ploch, Brian Benscoter, Ian Bittle, Finian McCluskey, Sean Carroll, Jonathan Duvick, Gerry Corr, Chris Armstrong, Ken Doyle, Rick Rubin, Irish & Celtic Music Podcast, Suezen Brown, Paul DeCamp, Emil Hauptmann, Randy Krajniak, Joel DeLashmit, David Vaughan, Susan Walsh, and Loren Bookbinder.
Episode 57-Best Laid Plans
Marathons, quarantines, and kind school nurses
This Irish Music Stories episode aired November 9, 2021
>> Shannon Heaton: flute player, singer, composer, teacher, and host of Irish Music Stories
>> Pa Sheehan: Irish language and Celtic Studies scholar and currently assistant Professor at the University of St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto
>> Nigel Heaton: young announcer for Irish Music Stories
>> Shannon: I’m Shannon Heaton. And this is a special Irish Music Stories update to last month’s episode, which centered on a fitness theme. I talked to folks about wellness, balance, and discipline in Irish music and in sport. About how results take time, and how outcomes are unpredictable.
[ Music: “Pick and Drive,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist/Composer: Matt Heaton ]
Which can be challenging.
One of my guests, Pa Sheehan was preparing to teach a course in traditional music. And he was training for the Rock n’ Roll Savannah marathon. He trained in chilly Toronto for this November race in sunny Georgia. And he hoped to finish in three hours, so he could qualify for the Boston 2022 marathon.
Well, Pa has since run the race. Now if you haven’t already heard “Episode 56-Born for Sport,” go back and give it a spin before you take in the results.
Go on. Cut to last month’s show before I spoil the story! I’ll give you a moment to get organized, while New England fiddle player Lissa Schneckenburger plays this tune that she wrote for her dad. It’s called “Go Ken Go.” That’s what her family yelled and what they wrote on the road with chalk, both of the times the her dad ran the Boston Marathon.
[ Tune: “Go Ken Go,” from the song “Lumberman in Town,” from Song
Composer/Artist: Lissa Schneckenburger ]
The second time Ken ran, he finished faster than expected. Lissa and her family missed seeing him in the crowd. And didn’t get to yell for him until they met up downtown, after he’d already finished. After that, Lissa made him a hat, with “Go Ken Go” in neon letters on it, so they could easily locate him in future races.
Welcome back. I’ll assume that by now you’ve heard the tale of Pa Sheehan. He was, of course, preparing to teach an Irish and Scottish music course at St. Michael’s College in Toronto–because growing up in County Clare, he spent evenings and weekends at hurling matches, not at Irish sessions.
[ Music: “Cofio,” from Llinyn Arian
Composer: Angharad Jenkins & Delyth Jenkins
Artist: Delyth & Angharad ]
Not too late, of course, to learn the fiddle or the pipes. And those are the instruments that are calling to Pa Sheehan.
Also calling Pa was the Boston marathon. In order to run that in 2022, he’d need to complete a qualifying marathon in under three hours. But the Savannah Georgia marathon would be the very first ever official marathon for Pa. So he had a lot of training to do to get himself ready for the race physically and mentally.
>> Pa: It’s a very individual journey that’s extremely enjoyable and rewarding, I think. Like, hypothetically, if I don’t qualify for Boston in Savannah, it’s almost irrelevant in a way. Because the journey at the moment is so enjoyable. Then anything that might happen at the end, the goal has kind of already been met.
>> Shannon: Seems like it was a really positive journey for Pa. But come on! How did he do in the race?! It was three days ago.
Well…. in a BRUTAL twist of fate, here’s what the organizers announced the morning of the race:
>> Shannon reads RocknRollSavannah UPDATE: “Good morning. Due to deteriorating weather conditions we have determined we cannot host the full marathon. We will host the half marathon and relay. All marathon participants have the option to participate in the half marathon.
Savannah is unusually COLD and WET this year. To help prevent hypothermia you should dress in layers. Your outer garment should be waterproof, and under that wear something warm, like a sweatshirt over a T-shirt…”
>> Shannon: Oof. Pa was ready for 26.2 miles. That’s a lot of physical and mental preparation. He’d travelled to Georgia. He had this big goal, and that would affect future plans. And then it rained… a lot. On 6,000 other runners who’d all come to rock the Savannah 2021 marathon.
>> Nigel: Permission to say a swear?
>> Shannon: Permission granted
>> Nigel: Aw, Sh**
>> Shannon: Hmm. Yeah. Disappointing, huh? Not the way that Pa thought it would go.
>> Nigel: Yeah. And kind of like I didn’t think I’d be staying home from school for two weeks.
>> Shannon: Yes. Hmm. Things happen. Weather happens. People make decisions that sometimes impact lots of other people.
>> Nigel: Yeah.
[ Music: “Triumph Theme,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist/Composer: Matt Heaton ]
>> Shannon: So… Pa ran the half: in an hour and 22 minutes. He was 32nd place out of over 6000 runners He was 8th place in his age group. Pretty great. Especially considering it was rainy and this was the second official race that Pa had ever run.
But it means the qualifying marathon goal for Boston hasn’t been met yet.
The best laid plans of mice and men—and fifth graders—gang aft aglee. I had to go pick up my kid from school, because he’d been sitting close to a coughing classmate who’d tested positive for Covid. Well, when I got there, the looks on the faces of the nurses and the hall monitor—oh, there was just concern, and care, and love.
[ Music: “Meaning of Life,” from Production Music Made for Irish Music Stories
Artist/Composer: Matt Heaton ]
And it helped. Because even though we had a negative test, it still felt a little scary. And we were concerned for the friend. And it’s all so inconvenient. Because the close contact situation means our kid won’t be allowed to attend school for 11 days
Setbacks and surprises are, well, always surprising. And we never know what they might lead to. We can’t control it all. But we can offer a pat on the back, or a kind look in the school hallway. And look forward to the next unexpected surprise—which might be a nice one!
>> Shannon: You’ve got a busy winter ahead of you!
>> Pa: Looking forward to it. Hahahaha!
>> Shannon: Hope you have some fun stuff to look forward to this month. And I hope you’ll come back for another episode of Irish Music Stories, which is produced by me, Shannon Heaton. For playlists, transcripts, links to videos, companion essays, and to contribute to this project, please head to IrishMusicStories.org.
Thank you so much to all of the people who believe in this project. And here’s my son Nigel (who’s here, right beside me at home, for the next bit) to thank the donors from this month.
[ Music: “月をさがして,” (Looking for the Moon) from Songs of Raindrops and Breeze
Artists: hatao & nami ]
>> Nigel: Thank you to Bob Suchor, Mark Haynes, Linda Gore, John Ploch, Brian Benscoter, Ian Bittle, Finian McCluskey, Sean Carroll, Jonathan Duvick, Gerry Corr, Chris Armstrong, Ken Doyle, Rick Rubin, Irish & Celtic Music Podcast, Suezen Brown, Paul DeCamp, Emil Hauptmann, Randy Krajniak, Joel DeLashmit, David Vaughan, Susan Walsh, and Loren Bookbinder.
>> Shannon: Thanks again. And keep going, everybody!
Episode guests in order of appearance
Irish language and Celtic Studies scholar and currently assistant Professor at the University of St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto
Maine-born, Vermont-based fiddle player and singer, specializing in Traditional New England Folk Music