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From The Troubled Teen Industry to 7 Years Sober: Brian Passenti

From The Troubled Teen Industry to 7 Years Sober: Brian Passenti How It All Started for Run Tri Bike
Brian Passenti
Year started: 1983
Next race: hmm… gotta wait till Lottery day to secure the 24’ race calendar!!
Favorite gear:

My watch! And maps on my phone! I sometimes get a little stressed out about being on course and having a good reliable map ( Gaia) and my trusty Suunto Vertical always help!

Brian Passenti still remembers the first time he laced up his sneakers in middle school and headed out on a training run with the cross country team. He instantly fell in love with the rhythm of his feet hitting the pavement and the clarity he found zoning out on miles of trails. “My mom was so concerned she asked what I was thinking about during the runs,” Brian laughed. Running quickly became his refuge amidst a turbulent adolescence in the troubled teen industry. Running would remain a constant in Brian Passenti’s journey from the troubled teen industry to 7 years sober.

In and Out of Rehab Centers

Throughout his teenage years, Brian leaned on running to provide stability and sanity amidst the chaos. He found himself in and out of rehab centers during this tough time. “I was always hanging out with the wrong crowds.” Brian traded the rehab centers of his teenage years for the military. “I would outrun everyone and running became a priority.” However, in his years following the service, he lost himself and his way. He stopped appreciating what running gave him and doubled down on alcohol. During this time, Brian got into the world of triathlons for the better part of a decade, before finding the book Born to Run in the late 2000s and falling in love with ultramarathons.  In 2010, Brian ran his first 100 mile race, the Leadville 100. Despite finding ultramarathons, the journey was anything but smooth.

A Drunken Bike Crash

In late 2016, Brian’s relationship with alcohol came to a breaking point. After drinking until he blacked out, Brian found himself on the side of a wintery road, his face crushed and frozen to the icy pavement after a drunken bike crash. “My eyeball was dislodged and I need reconstructive face surgery.” It was then that Brian finally embraced sobriety and began piecing his life back together. But living sober and facing the wreckage of his past proved difficult. His first year clean, he isolated himself from the world. “I have struggled the most with the social aspect of drinking. I was a shut in during my first year,” Brian stated. In 2017, Brian found a deeper community within ultramarathons when he met Destination Trails Owner Candice Burt during the Desert Rats Ultra. That same year, he went on to pace Michael McKnight at the inaugural Moab 240 mile endurance run. Brian would then volunteer at the event, before racing it himself in 2020. 

One Day At A Time 

Now over 7 years sober, Brian has learned many lessons along the way. The biggest lesson he imparts on to others: take it one day at a time. Even if embracing sobriety has its bad days, Brian emphasized that it can’t be worse than drinking and drugging. The endurance athlete also noted that everyone has a different path. “I have had some conversations with other sober individuals and when I tell them I’m not going to AA meetings, they get confused,” Brian laughed. For Brian, a 12-step program did not pave his way to sobriety. It was the combination of his experiences, the ultrarunning community, and his own journey that forged the way. 

I Plan to Run Another 49 Years 

These days, Brian laces up with gratitude every single morning, thankful not just for the gift of movement, but for the personal growth that running facilitates. It isn’t the physical act itself that empowers change, but rather the self-reflection during all those long quiet miles. “I’ve ran more years than I can remember not running. I was 9 when I started and now I’m 49,” Brian told us. He recalls running on his wedding day with his dog, a 5 mile run in the rain. Through his business, Altitude Endurance Coaching, Brian carries over his philosophy that running is a lifestyle that has many benefits. “Running is good for your mental health, but it is not mental health” Brian clarified. The ultrarunner plans to be in this space for a very long time. “I plan to run another 49 years.”