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Son's Boot Camp is Dad's Motivation
The patriotic atmosphere and the promise of a finish in the shadow of the Marine Corps War Memorial motivated Scott Cooney, 48, to run his third consecutive Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) in October 2011. In this particular year, the U.S. Marine presence along the course held even greater meaning for Cooney. As Cooney trained for the MCM, his son, Brendan, 18, departed from their hometown of Danbury, CT for boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC.
Brendan’s graduation date of December 16, 2011, also his nineteenth birthday, marks his successful completion of recruit training. Throughout his time at boot camp, Brendan provided inspiration and motivation for his father, who would dedicate the run to his son.
“I told him in a letter to him after I finished [the MCM] that it was my thoughts of him and how hard he is working that kept me training every day and pushed me to run hard,” says Cooney.
Through letters, Cooney was able to provide support for his son as well. Parallels between marathon and Marine Corps training allowed him to offer advice to Brendan on getting through the tougher moments with Drill Instructors (DI’s). In an excerpt from a letter to his son Cooney writes:
“Your last letter you wrote, ‘The DI’s are getting more vicious and it’s feeling more and more like Hell.’ I’m sure that it’s by design. They know you are getting stronger both mentally and physically and because of that you can handle more and more. All I can say is just push harder. I know this is nothing like you are going through but maybe this will help: When I’m running a long distance like a marathon or if it’s very hilly or a hot run and I start to fade, I push the pace harder. The reason is that it helps me mentally and it forces me to dig deeper and that brings on additional resources by my body and mental state needs. Your body and mind will rise to the challenge. Try it. If you’re on a hump or a run and you are getting tired--PUSH HARDER!! Your body will always hold on to energy for reserves. By pushing, it will be released to get you through that tough time. Once your body reacts positively, your brain will begin to talk more positively to you. Run harder, stand straighter, yell louder, hit harder and just move FASTER!!”
Cooney says taking one day or step at a time, whether it be in marathon training, at boot camp, on race day or in any other challenge in life is what gets us through. While preparing for the MCM and during event day, he achieved what he calls “mini victories,” or smaller goals that carried him to the finish.
“This is how I live my life and in my training I use it all the time. For example, in a marathon, I have to play a lot of mental games with myself. I will break the race down into the first 10K, then half marathon then to 20 miles,” Cooney explains. “After that depending how I feel, it’s one mile at a time all the way down to one step at a time. On a long hill, I will take it one mailbox at a time.”
Cooney acknowledges that the mental and physical rigor Marine recruits endure during boot camp is unique. Establishing a goal and taking the steps to achieving that goal regardless of the challenge, however, is universal. He believes that often it is our own mind that presents the toughest obstacle to overcome on our journey to fulfill our purpose, and he has conveyed this to his son to encourage him to complete boot camp successfully.
“It’s amazing what the human body can handle when pushed,” Cooney says. “But that can only happen when you learn how to control the negative self-talk we all get once our bodies begin to push back. Once you learn how to control the mind’s attempt to get you to quit, you will push through and past what you thought was your limit.”
For Cooney, running has become symbolic of life. Every runner at a marathon start line has been motivated to run for different reasons and each competitor has their own personal goal, whether it be to just finish or to go for the win in their age group or overall. With his son at Parris Island, Cooney appreciates the “race” each individual Marine has run to achieve their place in the Corps.
“There is nothing like crossing the finish line of the Marine Corps Marathon and having that medal placed around your neck by a Marine,” says Cooney. “I don’t see how any other marathon can compare. It’s this that has brought me back three times in a row. I will run this marathon as long as I am able to.”