Adam Bleakney has been the head coach of the University of Illinois Wheelchair Track and Road Racing team for seven years. During that time, his athletes have won 14 Paralympic medals, broken four world records, and won the Chicago, NY City, London and Paris Marathons. He was named the 2007 USOC Paralympic Coach of the Year. As an athlete, Adam is a 3-time Paralympian, and won a silver medal in the 800 meters at the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games. A father of two, he will race in the wheelchair half-marathon event of the Illinois Marathon.
See why we think Adam Bleakney is a Chambana dad to know.
Q: You have raced in several major marathons, and you have a Chicago Marathon championship trophy on your resume. Where does the Illinois Marathon stack up?
The Illinois Marathon is a great opportunity for the team to get out in front of the community and connect with the runners and spectators. Most of our competitions are not local (Boston, New York, London), so this offers a terrific chance to compete in C-U and raise awareness of who we are. We’re incredibly fortunate to be in such a supportive community.
Q: If you were a spectator for the race, where would you want to watch it?
I’d get a coffee from Art Mart and hang out at the corner of E Main and Vine St for a bit and then head over to Pennsylvania and Lincoln – I love that wooded stretch on Pennsylvania from Lincoln to Race St.
Q: I understand your 5-year-old son is running in the 5K. How did he get started running and how has he trained?
He ran his first 5K when he was three years old at the Savoy Orchard Days. It was pretty funny – he ran in baseball cleats and a wrestling singlet. For the past two years, he’s staged a 1K run and bike race at his birthday party for all of his friends, complete with race t-shirts. So he really seems to enjoy it. And he doesn’t train beyond normal running and biking around, playing baseball, soccer or whatever other sport he makes up that day.
Q: What is your race day routine?
Above all, I want to make sure I run ahead of schedule and allow for things to go wrong (forgetting something in my hotel room, running into unforeseen mechanical problems) – that takes a lot of stress out of the morning. I eat a normal breakfast – bagel w/ peanut butter or cream cheese and coffee – nothing out of the ordinary. Most races I’m doubling as coach and athlete, so I make sure everyone else is ready and take care of any last-minutes issues that pop up and then get myself situated, though I always try to have myself and racing chair ready to race the night before so that it’s just a matter of hopping in and going. I prefer easing into the warm-up and gradually picking up the intensity, with some longer accels at race pace. Most of the time, our races go out hard off the gun so it’s important to have the body and brain ready to jump off the line. And through this entire routine, I make sure to enjoy myself and appreciate the opportunity to be competing.
Q: The University of Illinois is a powerhouse in the world of wheelchair athletics. What do you want people to know about your program and your athletes?
I always tell people (biased though it may be) that there is no better place to train in the world than here at the University of Illinois. It provides all the essentials of success: skilled support staff, weight room infrastructure designed specifically for the wheelchair athlete (modified training equipment that addresses sport-specific needs), great training locations (the Armory, outdoor track and hundreds of miles of country roads) and a tradition of excellence. Match all of that with the fact that we have a core of very talented athletes — four world record holders, five Paralympic medalists and eight US National team members — and you have a daily training environment that lends itself to creating successful athletes.
Q: How is coaching like parenting and how is it different?
That’s a good question that I’ve never thought about. Parenting is different in that it is infinitely more challenging with greater responsibilities and greater rewards than coaching — really, there’s no comparison in so far as that is concerned. I suppose there’s a similarity in my philosophical approach to coaching and parenting, that is, to never impose my own goals on my athletes or kids. I firmly believe my role is to assist and guide toward good decisions. Obviously, I do a lot more assisting and guiding with my kids at this age (5 and 2) because it’s necessary.
Adam Bleakney was nominated to be a dad to know. Nominate a mom or day today –contact us!