Photo courtesy of Amber Leckenby.
Hoover runner Ieden Leckenby Mercedes
Hoover runner Ieden Leckenby will be participating in the Mercedes Marathon for the first time this year.
The Mercedes-Benz Marathon Weekend of events has helped raise more than $4 million for local charities throughout its 12-year history. This year’s schedule includes:
Feb. 14, noon-7 p.m. St. Vincent’s Health Systems Health and Fitness Expo, Boutwell Auditorium.
Feb. 15, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. St. Vincent’s Health Systems Health and Fitness Expo.
Feb. 15, 8 a.m. Regions Superhero 5K, Linn Park
Feb. 15, 10 a.m. The Bell Center EIP Children’s Run, Linn Park
Feb. 15, 11 a.m. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama Kids Mercedes Marathon, Linn Park
Feb. 16, 7 a.m. The Mercedes Marathon, Linn Park
In the sea of faces at the starting line of this year’s Mercedes Marathon, one will stand out to hundreds in the community for his tenacity, his dedication and his competitive racing history. Hoover runners, parents and coaches will cheer wildly for one of their own — Ieden Leckenby.
Leckenby discovered the Bucs’ cross-country program by way of football his freshman year.
Despite cognitive disabilities and being deaf in his right ear, Leckenby has overcome developmental odds, learned to walk by t3, and entered the football team as he’d done all other endeavors — giving it his best.
Still, it was an uphill battle.
“[Though] he went to practice every day and gave it his best, the football coach pulled me aside, legitimately concerned that Ieden was going to get hurt; I agreed,” said Ieden’s mother, Amber. “With a broken heart, Ieden decided to try running, since he was pretty good at that part of football.”
That next day, Leckenby showed up for cross-country practice.
“It was the day we were doing an 18-hour relay [all night event] at the Hoover track,” coach Devon Hind said. “Ieden’s first day of cross-country practice was 18 hours long, and he stayed for the entire thing and has been a part of our program ever since.”
During Leckenby’s four years with the team, he and Hind developed a close bond. Shortly after his graduation in May, Leckenby expressed interest in staying involved with the Hoover running program.
Hind agreed to take him on as an assistant coach, leading Leckenby to obtain his Alabama High School Athletic Assocation coach’s card and CPR card. He can be found with the team most any given day, running alongside them and providing encouragement.
As much time as he spends there, Leckenby’s devotion to the sport extends well beyond the campus of Hoover High School.
“We had to beg him to let his body rest after his first marathon [Huntsville’s Rocket City marathon],” Amber said. “But he only rested for one day afterward and was right back out there.”
True to form, his Mercedes training has included a grueling six-day-a-week workout, with little downtime between training sessions. Leading up to the Mercedes, Leckenby has incorporated two-hour runs, sprints, hill sprints (a favorite training exercise), abdominal strength and plyometrics. With the exception of rest on Sundays, he’s been intensely training for weeks.
“I’m so proud of Ieden,” Hind said. “He is not afraid of any challenge, including the grueling marathon.”
Leckenby has already amassed considerable success as a long-distance runner. While this is his first time participating in the Mercedes, he successfully qualified for the 2015 Boston Marathon in December, after a 2:59 finish in Huntsville’s Rocket City Marathon (qualifiers are 3:05 or less).
“I am amazed at his passion and determination,” Amber said. His ultimate dream is to become a professional runner. He wants to run in the Olympics marathon in 2020. He knows that he will have to run many marathons before then to fully develop his race strategy.”
Amber credits much of Leckenby’s running success to Hind’s positive influence.
“The ‘Don’t Quit’ poem, introduced to him by coach Hind in ninth grade, which he was made to memorize, has been the overall key motto for Ieden in his running career,” Amber said. “Coach Hind is the classiest guy you could ever meet and is such an awesome mentor for Ieden.”
It appears the feeling is mutual. Hind, in the process of writing a book about all his cross-country letters from the past 20 years, has chosen a picture of Leckenby for the book’s cover.