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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Patrick O'Hagan, interim director for Chattanooga State's Kimball Site, poses in the Center for Business, Industry & Health, on the campus of Chattanooga State on Wednesday, May 19, 2021 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Patrick O'Hagan, 29, has learned that success in one's professional life is like running a marathon. It takes training, perseverance and a sacrificial mindset.

O'Hagan, a South Pittsburg, Tennessee, native, practices what he preaches. He's gone from a casual, recreational runner to a hard-core ultra-marathoner in just a handful of years.

"I'm addicted (to running)," he admits, noting that he trains by running about 60 miles per week.

Remembering his first half-marathon, he laments, "I ran it. It killed me. I was miserable. I hated it, but as soon as I crossed the finish line I thought, 'Yeah, I can do better.'"

Meanwhile, O'Hagan, the son of a journalist-turned-attorney father and a Cuban immigrant mother, applies the same passion and preparation to career success as a college administrator as he does to his running hobby.

Just 14 years ago, he was a kid from Marion County with a "hardship" driver's license driving to Chattanooga every day in his dad's Buick Park Avenue sedan for school, first at Chattanooga Christian School for ninth and 10th grades and later at Chattanooga State Middle College.

"I was fortunate to have mom and dad at home," O'Hagan says. "That was a guiding light for me, a strong foundation. They pushed academics and the importance of education."

Now he is manager of contract training at Chattanooga State, working with local employers to develop customized skills training for workers. Meanwhile, he is also director of Chattanooga State's Kimball, Tennessee, instructional site.

If you see him running in downtown South Pittsburg at 10 p.m. he might be training for a 100-mile ultra marathon, but he's also probably thinking about how to prepare folks in his hometown for career-quality jobs.

"My experience at Chattanooga State was amazing," he says. "It's funny coming full circle and seeing the same community (Marion County) and students (Chattanooga State).

After graduating from Chattanooga State, O'Hagan attended Martin College in Pulaski, Tennessee, and then got a master's degree in curriculum and instruction at Tennessee Tech University. With an advanced degree in hand, the then-22-year-old landed a job teaching seventh-grade biology at Tyner Academy in Chattanooga.

After a year, he got a job with a federal workforce development program in South Pittsburg, and grew the office from one half-time position to a three-person operation plus a part-timer in a short span of years.

"My job was seeing individual job seekers that were unemployed or underemployed," he says. "And my goal was to get them full-time, self-sufficient employment.

"The workforce doesn't always have the necessary skill set to fill open positions. I also learned how soft skills for individuals are often lacking."

Recently, O'Hagan was named to to the 2021 class of Leadership Tennessee, a professional-development initiative of Lipscomb University in Nashville for mid-career professionals.

O'Hagan says working in his hometown community in Marion County has earned him the trust of employers, workers and students there. His personal story resonates.

"Small towns can be incredulous of outsiders," he says. "(But) being somebody from the community that has personally taken advantage of opportunities, and then being able to come back has been incredibly important. It builds relatability and trust."

O'Hagan resides in South Pittsburg with his wife, Lindsey, who introduced him to running. He has run the New York and Chicago marathons and plans to compete in the Berlin marathon this fall.

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