The best half-marathon for runners in recovery
By Hayley Grgurich
Coach Brendan Cournane has mantras. He has rules and he sticks with his program, one day at a time.
Sound familiar? It should. Cournane is a recovering alcoholic – sober 23 years – but he’s also an endurance runner and coach who uses the lessons of his recovery to help runners at every speed and skill level achieve their goals.
This year, for the first time in a career marked by running more than 80 marathons across 50 states and five continents, Cournane is organizing a training program and destination run to bring runners in recovery together.
Technically, it’s three races – and they’re in January. Hang on – it gets better: You can run them in Bermuda.
Here’s how it works: Beginning Oct. 27, Cournane is offering a 13-week training program with the option to run with a group in Chicago, or to get virtual coaching and training tips from Cournane to use at home.
Runs are tailored into six schedules: three for people interested in a run/walk approach and three for continuous running. In each case, schedules are for beginning, intermediate and advanced runners so you can tailor your program to your needs.
At the end of the 13 weeks, you will be prepared to run a half-marathon on your own close to home or with Cournane and the other runners in his program who will travel together to Hamilton, Bermuda, for the Bermuda Triangle Challenge (so called for its race-a-day format leading up to the half- and full marathon) January 18 to 20.
Made for Recovery
“Any time you’re training for a race, you have to think what is the reward, what is the carrot on the stick?” says Cournane. “I see training for a destination race not only as a carrot, but as an outlet to help us deal with situations that can be triggers—especially over the holidays.”
If drinking or drugging were previously your go-to responses to stress, running can take their place. Thirty minutes out in the crisp air is just enough to get away from the situation, regroup and reset.
While you may not relish the idea of running over the winter months when days are short and chilly, Cournane says it’s ideal timing for people looking to support and maintain their recovery.
“Running this time of year can bridge the gap from the Thanksgiving season through Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s, while still giving us that healthy routine into the new year.”
You’re Never Far from Support
Cournane’s programs and the Bermuda Triangle Challenge are open to everyone, but in running destination races he’s found he’s never far from recovery.
One of the first days on the boat to Antarctica for a marathon, Cournane says he noticed a fellow passenger wearing a familiar ring and struck up a conversation. They soon realized they were both in recovery and they weren't alone. “We had a meeting every single day on the trip to Antarctica,” Cournane says. “We held small meetings on the boat and on the continent when we arrived.”
It’s this kind of camaraderie, support and commitment to healthy goals that Cournane hopes to share with others who train with him and join him on the Bermuda trip.
“Over the course of a 12- or 16-week training period you learn things about each other that you don’t often share,” says Cournane. “When you travel to a destination, you share the experience of going on an adventure. It’s a common bond that you have and if you’re doing it with others in recovery, you have someone there to support you.”
To sign up for Coach Brendan Cournane’s Chicago-based or virtual training programs, go to CoachBrendan.com. Renew readers get a discount on training program registration when you enter the code Renew2012.