The Joyful Anthology

Q&A with Sean Fortune


If you’re a runner and you have goals, there is no question that hiring a coach might be one of the best investments you can make. Regardless of whether your goals entail a performance time, or simply for staying fit, the guidance of a good running coach will give you the structure to get you to your fullest potential.
Sean Fortune of Central Park Coaching is one of NY’ s best coaches. His ethics, education, experiences and holistic philosophies attribute to his success in coaching athletes from youth and novice levels to highly competitive elites.
I’ve known Sean for many years going back to my days at Equinox when he was a personal trainer. Today, I see him almost daily while training diligently himself or coaching others in Central Park. It’ s nice to be able to witness his athletes’ sense of gratification while training with Sean, and the value of their coach/client relationship.
I have referred runners of various levels to Sean based on his dedication to helping each individual with a personalized and tailored regime. It’ s so obvious that he goes above and beyond his job and puts 101 percent in.
He is a mentor, he hones in and he genuinely wants his athletes to love the sport and succeed in all areas in which running is complimentary and empowering for them.

Here is a Q&A with Sean that will better explain the science behind his magic:

Questions for Running coach and elite master runner, Sean Fortune of Central Park Coaching:

Coaching Certifications from: USA Track and Field Level I & II (Endurance)

Personal Training certification? Past certifications include: National Council on Strength and Conditioning | Equinox Tier II Trainer

How many years have you been coaching? Eight years

How many years has Central Park Coaching been established? Eight years

What types of athletes do you coach? Youth, High School, College, Open, Masters | All Levels – Beginner, Competitive, Elite

What do you hope to offer to your client/athlete when taking them on?
1. Achievement of their goals 2. A deeper understanding of the sport 3. An education of proper training from the basics to elite level
4. A lifelong love of the sport – having it become a true “ lifestyle” for them

Can you explain the emotional components (the reward) when your athlete is satisfied with their results? For you and them?
It’ s an incredibly powerful effect for both the runner and myself. For the runner: elation, self-confidence — including increase in self-reliance/self-realization, greater capacity for larger goals (running and non- running), greater determination (running and non-running) and empathy.

For me: very similar effects. I experience the same joy and satisfaction as the runner, as well as a boost in confidence and determination, and self-realization that what I’ m doing is working and working well. It makes me recommit to being a better coach and person.


Tell us about your personal achievements?
Personal Records? Greatest accomplishments? Can you highlight moments in your running career?

1. 3x NYRR Race Winner: 5th Ave Mile (30-34), Henry Isola Cross Country 4 miler, Norway Run, USATF Northeast Regional Track 5K Champion 2. PRs: 800m – 2:03, Mile – 4:31, 3K – 8:57, 5K – 15:47, 4 mile – 20:47, 10K – 33:08, HM – 1:15:05, Marathon – 2:45 in 1998, when I was a senior in college.
Of myPR’s I’m most proud of is my 3K and 5K times. 3K because it’s my highest performing PR and I learned something about myself and racing that will always stay with me that I impart to my runners.
My 5K because I worked very hard in training for the time and I work extremely hard in the race to achieve that time. Again, I also learned a few things due to that race as well.
Overall highlights include my first marathon, my steeplechase races on the track (maybe the most difficult event there is) and the overall amount of races I have done – over 150 races and counting.

How do you manage to get your own training in while coaching with such a full schedule?
I wake up most days between 4 and 5am to fit in my training. I take care of myself first so I can then take care of my runners and athletes.
Training before I see my clients allows me to be fresh, wide-eyed, and excited when I see them afterwards – I’m riding high and feeling good from my workout!

Do you stress to your clients the value in nutrition, essential for training?
Yes! Absolutely. I take a holistic approach to training and always address how important diet, life-stress, sleep, recovery,is to the overall success to training. It all falls under the umbrella of“ training” and should be thought of as such. When you’re eating well, that’s “ training.” When you’re making sleep a priority, that’ s “ training.”_MG_8106

How important is strength work for runners and can you give a brief explanation why?
This is a complicated question in terms of its implementation. Meaning, it’s highly dependent of the profile of the runner and the importance of its implementation varies based on that. In other words – it’ s more important for some, less important for others.
Without having a profile case example, generally speaking, strength training can be a useful supplement to running training for improving performance and running form, as well as enhancing injury-prevention and increasing resistance to fatigue.

How does holistic lifestyle apply for coaching your athletes, and for your own regime?
I would say that it has to be an integral part of any training program to increase your chances to meet your goals and have long-term success. Can runners and athletes have success without applying a holistic lifestyle to their training? Yes, it’s possible, but not tenable for long-term success. It’ s my opinion, and I hope to impart this to my runners – training has to become a ‘ lifestyle.’ But, that doesn’ t mean you have to be perfect all the time, or not have balance in your life. It means that the greater trend – the emphasis of your way of being, is focused on ensuring (as best as you can) that you can meet your training goals and not self-sabotage them by doing things under your control. When you become highly self-aware of the effects of diet, sleep, stress, etc, it only makes sense that one would want to cultivate them to maximize the benefits. The nice side benefit of embarking on a fitness or running program, is that the body naturally starts to desire those things, so all I have todo as a coach is encourage them tolisten to their bodies and let them know it’ s OK to do so.

Whats the secret to staying in the game and the longevity of running optimally?

Great question, I’ m glad you asked. To me, that’s the thousand-dollar question. I love it because it’ s at crux of what running should “ be about.” It’ s really never about PRs, how many marathons you’ve done, or who’ s better than who. It’ s about realizing the benefits of it – which are numerous and extremely powerful, the community it fosters and mobilizes, and the greater good it nurtures. In order to be a part of all that, you have to stay in the game and run optimally. Easier said then done.

Making it a ‘ lifestyle’ is key. How does one make it a style of life? It’s finding the motivation to become a part of it and then immersing oneself over time. Finding the motivation can be a very personal choice, but I do believe at first, for most, is a decision, a mental idea (and emotional one) to say “ Hey, I’m going to try this and I’m going to stick with it, even though I know at first it isn’t going to be easy.” I think patience, a long time-horizon, and a dose of humility, are all required to get it to stick. If someone is committed and willing to keep going with it when it gets hard, eventually, it will become a habit. Now, they’re in the game. Once in the game, it’ s about immersing oneself in the community (can be slowly, over time) so there’ s a real sense of being a part of something bigger, and getting the benefits of being a part of a deeply passionate community, which may include new friends, ideas, training and recovery tips, a built- in support group, perhaps a new direction in life. All of these things can facilitate running optimally over time and have directly contributed to my own running success.

More specific things include:
1. Consistent training – continuity of training over long stretches of time demands a holistic approach.
2. Motivation torealize the benefits of running. I greatly desire to be physically fit, mentally sharp, emotionally stable, access tomy creative side, etc.
3. My enjoyment of cross-training activities – cycling, swimming, strength-training, yoga, all sports and activities.

This article features Sean with two of his impressive athletes:

Walter Rodriguez – Sr. Hunter College, 21, PRs – 4:34 mile, 16:08 5K, 26:51 8K XC, 2016 CUNY Conference XC champion, 2015-16 CUNY Conference Indoor and Outdoor Track MVP

Carolina Pena – 42, mother of 4, 24th overall Berlin Marathon 2016, 2:51:31 PB by 8 minutes!

Bring more Joy to your inbox

Subscribe to receive The Joyful Approach updates, event invites, musings, playlists & more.