Coach Bill Leach: Running could stop school violence


By Mary Schmich
Chicago Tribune
Bill Leach has an uncommon answer to the violence that lately — or maybe always — pulses through Chicago as palpably as blood.

Running.

Leach thinks it’s time to tell what he calls “the story of running” in neighborhoods where recreational running is as rare as stock portfolios and Paris vacations.

He wants parents, kids and teachers to hear about running not just as an outlet for physical aggression, not just as a way to build muscle and lose fat, but as a way to activate the brain.

Running, as he sees it, is a path to learning.

Once the track coach at the University of Illinois at Chicago and then at DePaul University, Leach is now a freelance running guru who trains doctors, lawyers and accountants; in other words, runners with professions, ambitions and the best of shoes.

In the warm months, you can spot him out on the lakefront trail putting marathon trainees through their paces. I often see him in a North Side coffeehouse, counseling his clients over espresso.

But Coach Leach, as he’s widely called, pays attention to the news of neighborhoods where runners seldom go. Another kid shot or shooting, another family weeps.

He had stories like that in mind when he made a pitch a few days ago to World Sport Chicago, an organization that grew out of Chicago’s Olympic bid and lives on to spread grass-roots sports to kids all over town.

His pitch: Now is the time to “grow running” in Chicago’s public schools and toughest neighborhoods.

“I believe in how transformational running can be in individual lives,” he says.

Since he arrived in Chicago in 1969, fresh out of grad school, Leach has watched running turn into a way of life for many Chicagoans. Full story.

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