We sat down with Tim Bradley, the director of training at the Chicago Area Runners Association. Bradley joined the team in late summer, and is eager to kick off 2019 as his first full year in the role.
Chicago Athlete: When did you first get involved in running? What inspired you to join the sport?
Tim Bradley: Basically I started in seventh grade through the track program at my school in St. Louis; it was just one meet, so it was not a lot of training but was still involved. In terms of training and really getting into running, I joined my high school cross country team in 1997. I was always athletic and I played every other sport, but the main thing was trying to get in shape for the basketball season and I didn’t have a fall sport. I knew there was something in the fall that was similar to track but involved more running, and I wanted to do that.
CA: When did your coaching career take off?
TB: Well, I had an interesting college career; I spent four years at Murray State University in Kentucky, but the program got cut my senior year. I still had eligibility hours but had to finish my degree, so I floated around the program a little bit and helped coach the women’s program. I got my Master’s at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and I started coaching at St. Louis University after. Then, June 2008 is when I started personal adult coaching through Big River Running. I did that for a long time, so eventually I was coaching year round and all different abilities.
CA: You moved from St. Louis to Chicago in August to join CARA. How have your first few months been?
TB: They’ve been really good; I came in at the middle of the program so that allowed me to really see what it’s like and take it in. I literally saw the finish line to the program, and gained a lot of experienced. It’s very similar to the programs in St Louis just on a larger scale. During the summer I made it out to nine of the 11 marathon training sites, which was cool.
CA: After seeing how the program works, do you have any ideas you want to implement next year?
TB: Mostly I just want to work on the speedwork program and give members more guidance and support in that area. I don’t see too much changing in terms of mileage though. I just want to bring a general narrative and excitement to training. We’re going over a few new ideas in terms of training tips and helping people understand where they’re at in the process. It took me awhile in St. Louis to connect people’s training throughout the year, but I want to teach them that it’s not just the 18-week program, it’s looking at the entire year and learning when to take a break.
CA: What is your favorite part about the Chicago running community?
TB: The passion and history for both the organization and the marathon. They both were part of the first running movement in the country and I’m a big follower of the history. Especially with CARA’s 40thanniversary this year, it’s been interesting to see the history of the program and how it is today. A lot of the things I did in St. Louis we were doing it for the first time, which was cool, but when you have history and tradition in a program it’s unique because not a lot of programs have that.
CA: Obviously CARA is well-known for its marathon training programs, but what is your favorite race distance to coach?
TB: I feel most comfortable on the track because that’s where I spent most of my time. But I do really enjoy getting people to understand the stepping stones to the marathon; we have a lot of people who are pretty well-versed in the distance, but helping them learn other aspects and approaches that might work better for them is exciting. I like to open people’s eyes and look at what they’ve already done to help them reach their next goal with different approaches. There’s other distances out there too that are great to coach, but the marathon is one of the more popular ones.
CA: What are you looking forward to in the training programs?
TB: We have our winter half marathon and marathon programs coming up so I’m really looking forward to those in terms of writing the schedule and being there from beginning to end. Again, I just want people to connect their training programs to their training throughout the year. CARA is here all year long.
Follow Tim Bradley on Twitter at @coachtbradley for training tips and other CARA updates!