St. Ann Catholic School principal hits the course for his 3rd Boston Marathon today

Mike Riley and his family at the Boston Marathon finish line. Riley is competing in his third Boston Marathon today.
Mike Riley and his family at the Boston Marathon finish line. Riley is competing in his third Boston Marathon today.

Apparently minding a building full of grade school kids is a pretty good way to build up endurance.

St. Ann Catholic School principal Mike Riley and his family are in Boston today, where Riley is running in his third consecutive Boston Marathon.

Riley has always loved running, but it wasn’t until 2014 that he started taking distance competitions seriously. He ran cross country in high school, and then, on something of a whim, decided to give a marathon a try while studying abroad in Ireland in the late 1990s. He ran a handful of additional distance races in the following years with Catholic education groups and Team in Training, efforts that benefited good causes, but that never required him to push himself to the limit.

As he watched his brother start taking on tough athletic challenges a few years ago, though, something clicked.

“I’ve always been extremely grateful that I have the gift to run, and that it was something you could use to build community and do some good,” he said. “In 2014, I kind of said, ‘Those were fun. Now what would it be like if I really tried to race a marathon?'”

Riley, a University of Notre Dame graduate who was a social studies teacher at Sumner Academy before taking the principal job at St. Ann two year’s ago, started training. In September 2014, he crossed the finish line at the Ventura Marathon with a time of 3:05:13 — good enough to qualify for his first Boston Marathon.

He’s only gotten faster since then. He qualified for this year’s Boston Marathon by putting in a 2:56:30 performance in the Sioux Falls Marathon, good enough for 9th place overall.

Of note, Riley doesn’t follow traditional marathon training programs. Wary of the wear and tear distance runners amass over the years, he tries to keep his total running volume relatively low — his long run for this training cycle was 16 miles — and supplements his distance runs with long rides on his bike and thrice-weekly walks with his wife Ellen.

“I know that might not sound like training, but 45 minutes of walking three time a week adds up,” he said.

This year, Riley is being joined on the starting line by his friend and fellow Prairie Village resident Kevin Butler, who is in the process of trying to run a marathon in all 50 states.

“It’s his first Boston,” said Riley. “It’s fun to have someone else from town out here with us.”