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Ric Hanna Award winner dreams of running a half marathon again at 80

Each year Brainsport presents the Ric Hanna Award to a runner who demonstrates leadership and makes running more meaningful for fellow run club members. This year’s Ric Hanna Award winner is Don Cochrane, who has been a part of Brainsport’s run clubs since the run club’s first meeting in July 1991.

Prior to accepting the award on Dec. 22, Cochrane spoke with the Brainsport Times about his journey in running and what the Brainsport run club has meant to him.

Don Cochrane’s fascination with running began in his early teens.

He remembers growing up in Ontario and being captivated by stories of the great athletes who raced the Boston Marathon.

“I thought ‘Nobody in their right mind could ever run 26 miles,’ ” recalls Cochrane, now 78. “This just caught the imagination of a 13 year old. But way down deep, I said ‘One day, one day I’m going to do that.’ ”

Cochrane didn’t start running right away though. He played hockey in high school and was a boxer at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. where he did his undergraduate degree in English and Philosophy. It wasn’t until he moved to California to teach that he started running at age 36.

“I realized, possibly, that the 30s were for getting on with dreams you had when you were a teenager that you didn’t get to in your 20s,” Cochrane said. “So I started running at night because I was afraid that somebody would ask me what I was doing. And the answer would be I was preparing for Boston Marathon. And I could run one mile. And I didn’t want the embarrassment of being asked what I was doing.”

Cochrane started running farther and eventually enlisted the help of track coach Laszlo Tabori, a Hungarian middle- and long-distance runner who defected to the United States at the close of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Tabori taught Cochrane how to structure a workout and how to recover from one.

“If I ever became a runner, Laszlo made me a runner. I’m indebted to him,” Cochrane said.

Cochrane moved to Vancouver in 1976 and ran the Vancouver Marathon in May 1977, in his second year of running. He clocked a 2:39:16, which punched his ticket to Boston. It remains his personal best to this day.

Cochrane moved to Saskatoon in 1980 to become department head of educational foundations for the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Education. He joined the Saskatoon Road Runners Association and trained with other members of the group. He also coached young track athletes, including Brian Michasiw, who would go on to open Brainsport in 1991.

Cochrane attended Brainsport’s first run club when the initiative launched less than a week after the store opened and has been a consistent presence ever since. His longest absence from the club was from December 2002 to March 2003 when he was recovering from a quadruple bypass surgery necessitated by the narrowing of the arteries supplying blood to his heart.

Cochrane is often a group leader for Brainsport’s run clubs and, for the past few years, has overseen a nine-and-one group where participants run nine minutes and walk one minute.

“People come to trust me. If they run with me they know the pace will be steady and no one will be left behind and we help each other through,” Cochrane said.

“I couldn’t train alone now. So if I’m going to run at all, I have to be running most of the time with a group. And they see me as helping them through and I see them as helping me through. We don’t articulate, but we know full well what’s going on.”

Ric Hanna, for whom the Ric Hanna Award is named, was one of Saskatchewan’s best marathon runners and led Brainsport run club groups for many years before Huntington’s Disease took its toll on his body. He died in 2016.

Cochrane ran with Hanna at Brainsport and said he remembers his late friend as “an amazing runner, but also a very decent human being and a fine educator.”

“It’s an honour to receive an award established for someone that I knew and respected and admired,” he said.

Cochrane’s next running goal is to run a half marathon at age 80. He last raced a half marathon four years in Vancouver where he ran a 2:07. He hopes the half marathon he runs at 80 will not be slower than his 2:39 personal best marathon.

— Andrea Hill (Editor, Brainsport Times)