The YMCA, Ensuring a Brighter Future

Theresa Riley

Y Member Keeps on Racing Marathons, Triathlons, and More at Age 67

People frequently ask YMCA member Theresa Riley why she continually pushes herself to run full- and half-marathons and complete triathlons. "My answer always is, 'Because I can,'" says Theresa, age 67, with a confident smile. "I'm grateful that I can participate. I do it for all of the people who cannot do this, but wish that they could."


Theresa's athletic achievements are amazing: She has completed about 175 marathons, 350 half-marathons, 50 triathlons, and hundreds of 10K and 5K races. "Doing these races, there's a chance to be extraordinary, to fight through the pain and suffering, to test my emotional limits and boundaries, and to feel like a completely different person," Theresa says. "I have a passion for the events. It's about the times I hear the voice that tells me, 'I can't,' and I hear the stronger voice that says, 'I can.'"


While she's running, Theresa says she's "in her own special world, where no one can reach me or touch me. It gives me a chance to break my own personal barriers. It's a chance to feel pain, determination, and tenacity." Theresa's main goal is "to simply finish," she says. "It's about those few moments of glory, and I can't help but smile because I know that I gave it my absolute best. It's never about winning."


She brings the same determination and commitment to her full-time job as a health unit coordinator, working in the intensive care unit/coronary care unit at Mayo Clinic. She also enjoys instructing water exercise classes at the Y. "The Y has given me so many great connections," Theresa says. "There is definitely a bond among the people at the Y."


Theresa has participated in the Y's triathlon in June about five times. "I like that it's close to home and most participants are Y members," she says. "The Y staff work hard to make this event safe for everyone, and it's a great event."


Theresa formerly lived in California until about 10 years ago. Her husband of 42 years Bob, who passed away last year, always supported her athletic efforts and cheered her on. Theresa also has a son, Eric. She has two granddaughters, ages 16 and 11, who have participated in races since they were toddlers. She's proud of her family.


She keeps in touch with her running and tri friends in California, and plans events with them throughout the year. She has run about a dozen 50- and 32-mile races around the mountains in California. She loves the challenging, hillier terrain and the unexpected scenery when she reaches the top, such as valleys and waterfalls. One memorable race with her California running club was The Great Wall Marathon in China. They also ran the Athens Marathon in Greece. She plans to run the Dublin Marathon in Ireland. One of her goals is to run a marathon in each of the 50 states.


She credits her son for planting the idea to begin exercising in the first place. It began with riding her bike to school with him. "When I started working out in 1983, it opened up a whole new world to me," Theresa says. "The first race that I ever ran, I placed second in Santa Monica, California, and I could not have been happier. I haven't stopped since."


- By Kim Seidel, Seidel Ink LLC. 2013