One day, while pounding through a Glasgow park, he spotted two familiar faces jogging the other way. "He looked at them, they looked at him and there was a moment of recognition," Curran explains. "But it was not just a couple of prison officers recognising an inmate; it was three people realising they had more in common than they thought."
For once, the addict's identity was not solely predicated on drugs. In that moment, perceptions were challenged and prejudices disabused on both sides because of sport's capacity to unify hitherto disparate individuals.
Curran tells the story in relation to next month's Great Scottish Run, which will bring together around 20,000 people in Glasgow for one of Scotland's largest mass participation sporting events. Inspired by the parable of the addict, the 60-year-old race veteran has amassed a team of over 150 users dealing with drug and alcohol abuse, who will take part under the banner of Glasgow's GRAND Recovery Runners as part of an annual city-wide initiative – Getting Real about Alcohol 'N' Drugs – to support community responses to alcohol and drug issues.
Having lobbied for funding to cover the £28 entry fee, Curran has held open training sessions at Glasgow Green in recent weeks as the race nears and can already divine a difference in the behaviour and self-esteem of those taking part. "It's given them a sense of purpose," explains the project leader of New Horizons, a training and employment scheme based in Queenslie. "And it's brought together people from different projects, which doesn't happen too often. The stumbling block was the entry fee because, for someone who is on a giro, that is a lot of money, but now I imagine we'll be the biggest team there on the day even if we're realistic to know that not all of them will turn up."
For those who do, it carries the potential to be a life-altering experience. Previously characterised only by their addiction, they will soon be able to call themselves runners, their entire identities changing and moving towards something more positive. "A lot of these guys couldn't look in a mirror before because they didn't like what they saw," says Curran. "Once you get them clean, they start to remember all the things they did and some of it is not very nice so when they're running towards the finishing line and all these people are cheering, what a huge self-esteem boost that will be, even though the noise is not necessarily for them."
Curran speaks from experience. Although never an addict himself, he has savoured the feeling of crossing the line on several occasions since taking up running a few years ago, recording a best time of just over 90 minutes despite being well into his 50s and completing a marathon in under three-and-a-half hours just four years after he first wheezed his way through 16 minutes on a treadmill at New Horizon's headquarters.
Working on the premise that you have to practice what you preach, he was soon dragging himself round 10k circuits before the project set up Team Horizon and began training. "I just got the bug. I don't do anything for fun so I began taking it really seriously but I've got a foot condition so I've not been able to train for this one. I'll get around, though," he vows, determined not to be shown up by the people he describes as his "clients".
That term chimes with the approach that New Horizon takes to helping those who want to kick their habit. Open to addicts over the age of 16, they currently have 68 in their programme which has run since 2000, with 10 of those completely drug-free and a further nine weaned off their dependency on alcohol. Although based on referrals, the onus is on the clients to not only get themselves clean – "we ask them what they are going to change" – but also to develop a life after addiction, through either education or employment.
Although realistic enough to know that not every member of the programme will succeed, Curran remains unrelentingly positive about the prospects of those under his guidance. "I love coming to my work because this is a unique place and people feel something when they come through the door," he says. "Sure, I sometimes get pissed off by some of the things in the press or that politicians come away with about addiction because of a lack of knowledge or understanding but I never get frustrated, because there is always a solution. When people come in here they speak to people just like them who are clean and realise they can do it too. Nine times out of 10 they know the person; in fact, there is one guy who is clean and they all know him because he used to deal to them.
"But then they'll maybe say, 'okay, you can get clean but you won't get a job' but that's blown out of the water because we have a guy here with a criminal record four-pages long – serious stuff, too – and he's now been working for 18-months. They might think 'who's going to give a job to a former junkie with a criminal record?' But how do they know that the person interviewing them has not got a similar background? You just never know what you have in common with people."
n For more details on the Great Scottish Run, or to enter, visit
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