ALUMNI PROFILE Brendan Cournane (BA ’75, JD ’78)

Globe Trotter

When Brendan Cournane (BA ’75, JD ’78) began endurance running in the 1980s, it brought balance to his busy legal career working in public finance. “I found a lot of mindfulness and well-being and serenity involved in endurance running,” he says. “I made sure I trained after work, at night, to force myself to get out of the office at a certain point.”

Jump to 2019: Thirty-four years after completing his first marathon, Cournane ran his 100th. This completed a journey to run a marathon in every state and on every continent. From the top of the Great Wall of China to the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, Cournane’s endurance running has taken him all over the globe. Here are four of his most memorable races.


When Cournane first ran the Antarctica Marathon in 2007, he got hypothermic and left the course at mile 18. “I found out it’s okay to not finish a race,” he says. “You learn more about yourself if something doesn’t go right.” Six years later, he returned to complete the race. “The experience of running in Antarctica with animals like penguins and leopard seals as spectators instead of people on the course was also very rewarding,” he says.

“I made sure I trained after work, at night, to force myself to get out of the office at a certain point.”

North Dakota

From St. George, Utah, to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Cournane fondly recalls scenic courses in smaller American towns. A particular moment stands out from the starting line in Bismarck, North Dakota. “We were alongside this little creek, and I remember looking up and seeing a rainbow. And all of the sudden, I knew it was going to be a good day.”


A marathon in Australia had the most memorable “starting gun” of Cournane’s running career: a solar eclipse. “It was amazing because we could hear the way the animals in the forest all around us were responding—it got completely quiet,” says Cournane. “As the moon passed in front of the sun and it got bright again, the animals started up. They told us to get going. And we ran the marathon.”


Cournane completed his first and 100th marathons at home in Chicago. When he had a few miles left in his 100th race, he slowed down to take everything in—his friends on the course, his wife on the sidelines cheering him on. “I was laughing, I was crying, I was happy, I was sad,” he remembers. “I realized, towards the end of this, I can have a great time even if I don’t have a good time on the clock.”