Runner’s on the cross-country road to recovery

Jan 4, 2022

Many people aim to make tracks and explore unfamiliar roads when the calendar turns to a new year and a fresh start.

But Graham Correia of Rochester is taking the idea of rejuvenation miles beyond the everyday Jan. 1 goals.

Starting on New Year’s Day, which he described as a “nice round date to begin this journey,’’ he has been running. He will travel across much of the country, leaving from the Denver, Colo. area and ending back home in Rochester, likely in late February. 

This run has a personal and public purpose. 

Correia hopes his run will raise awareness of and support for the Herren Project, a national nonprofit organization that provides free resources and support for treatment, recovery and prevention of substance abuse. The project was founded by Fall River native Chris Herren, a former basketball standout and onetime Boston Celtic who publicly battled addiction before becoming drug and alcohol-free in 2008. 

Correia also hopes the run will inspire him to reach deeper into himself and experience emotional and physical growth as he continues his recovery from alcohol and drug addiction.

“Running is a really personal thing,’’ he said. “When I get to the other side of it, I will find a very different person.’’ 

Running once served as a driving force in his life, and runs of 50, 60 and even 100 miles were not unheard of, he said.

Then the Rochester native spiraled into abuse. 

“I was hopeless,’’ Correia said. “I was going to die.’’

After numerous unsuccessful stints in recovery, he hit bottom in October and decided to seek treatment far from home. 

“I was lucky enough to have a moment where I said, I need to just leave and get myself better,’’ he said. 

Correia moved to Colorado, where he stayed with a friend, had regular treatment sessions, and rediscovered his passion for running, thanks to a question from an old friend who asked why he had stopped.

“It kind of hit me, I lost my heart,’’ he said. “He said, You need to find it, not just two miles, not just three miles, you need to really get out there and find out who you are.’’

Correia began spending hours a day in the thin air of Colorado’s high altitudes. Step by step, he worked on his recovery.

And he decided to make a physical as well as emotional journey home to Massachusetts. He would run to Rochester, accompanied by a friend in a vehicle.

He will run about 2,000 miles, from Colorado to Kansas, where he will run about eight or nine days, then head to Missouri, Illinois, Louisville, Ky., the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia to Pennsylvania into Manhattan. From there, his final route will take him into Connecticut, then home to Rochester.

“My therapist said, 'This might be exactly what you need,’” Correia said.

As Correia runs, he hopes he will inspire others.

“It’s really important that people see what I’m doing is honest, what I’m doing is positive,’’ he said. “I’m not giving up and neither should anyone else who is struggling.’’

Everyone travels a different road and faces unique obstacles but he encouraged everyone to follow a tenet similar to something seen often on road signs. 

“You can turn yourself around,” Correia said.