UI student bikes across country, fundraises for breast cancer

By Piotr Fedczuk, Managing Editor for Reporting

Doctors repeatedly came to his house, checking on his mother’s breast cancer condition and constantly reassuring his family.

Adam Wallach, junior in Engineering, said his mother fought breast cancer even though she was frightened.

“As a high school student, that was scary for me to witness,” Wallach said. “I almost felt helpless, that there was nothing I could do about it.”

Wallach’s mother survived breast cancer, he said.

“It’s just hard to wrap your head around what cancer patients have to go through,” Wallach said. “That’s why I’m so passionate about raising money (through Illini 4000).”

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Each member of the RSO uses their community and social media to raise over $4,000, which goes toward breast cancer research, Wallach said.

According to the Illini 4000 website, they have raised over $1.3 million since 2006. For the 2023 school year, the team has raised $52,421.

Over the summer, Illini 4000 will bike 4,700 miles from New York City to San Francisco, Wallach said. The team plans to bike 60 to 70 miles each day for 77 days, with one rest day every seven to 10 days.

The path will visit Chicago; Madison, Wisconsin; and State College, Pennsylvania, the Illini 4000 website stated.

Along the way, the team will work on “The Portrait Project,” in which bikers record people’s experiences with cancer.

Wallach’s long-distance journey began at nine years old, when he ran his first 5K race. He continued running through high school and joined the Illinois Track Club at the University.

“I was kind of overdoing it,” Wallach said. “I was pushing 60 miles of running every week.”

Wallach got shin splints, which stopped him from running for five months. In that time, Wallach took up swimming and biking in preparation for the Illinois Triathlon Club.

Wallach said he did around three miles of swimming, 20 miles of running and 200 miles of biking every week.

However, once Wallach started the school year and joined Illini 4000, he said the training from both RSOs drained him.

“I’ve decided, this semester, I am not going to train for triathlon,” Wallach said. “The demands of Illini 4000, they’re just a lot.”

Every weekend, Wallach said Illini 4000 goes for a bike ride between 30 and 90 miles long. On weekdays, the RSO goes on 20-mile rides.

“Something I love about (long-distance) sports is that there’s no secret formula,” Wallach said. “If you do something over and over again, you’ll get better at it.”

Wallach said he sets ambitious goals to keep himself engaged with the process of improvement.

“The most important thing is motivation,” Wallach said. “Set the next little carrot for you to get.” 

Beyond the cycle of self-improvement, Wallach said he enjoys the bonds he makes with his teammates.

“We’ll sometimes be, like, seven plus hours, riding a bike, and you’re all going through the same thing,” he said. “It’s a struggle for everyone, and you get such camaraderie from that.”

 

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