Janesville man keeps vow to complete marathon before 40

JANESVILLE, Wis. — Adam Riley decided he was going to run a marathon before he turned 40 years old.

Nothing — not even the coronavirus pandemic — could stop him.

Riley had signed up to run the Milwaukee Marathon on April 11. But like almost every other sporting event around the world, the races — a half-marathon and 5K were also on the docket — were canceled.

Like many other big races, Milwaukee Marathon organizers announced runners could complete their race “virtually.” They sent participants their race numbers, shirts and medals and encouraged them to run their races any time they could near their homes or even on treadmills.

Even before any of that was announced, Riley had already determined he was still going to run his 26.2 miles.

“I was really trying to do it before I turn 40 in August,” he told The Janesville Gazette. “So I couldn’t wait until October or something for maybe a different race. I had to get it done.”

Riley, who said he has run half-marathons and other shorter distances in the past, mapped out a course. From his house, he would run east on Ruger Avenue out to Wuthering Hills Drive — a stretch of about 2.6 miles — and back. Five trips back and forth would get him to 26.2 miles.

He did not exactly make it easy on himself. The course featured a couple prominent hills that took their toll.

Riley said he told a friend or two about his plan but mostly kept it quiet.

“I was just going to do it on my own,” he said. “Because what if I didn’t finish?”

However, word traveled fast among his friends, and they rallied to root him on along his route.

Some, including his friend and business partner, Jake Bussie, of Alkali Tattoo, set up aid stations with Powerade, water and oranges. Others blared encouraging music or ran alongside him for shorter stretches.

“It was all a surprise,” Riley said. “I was expecting to do this alone, so the front stoop of my house was my aid station. But then I wound up having a few of them.”

Any remaining sting from the actual event being canceled was numbed by the support Riley got locally.

“I was bummed when I got word that they were canceling it,” Riley said. “Because I was like, when am I going to do this? I had a ticking clock.

“But because of this surprise turnout, this is 10-fold what I would’ve expected in Milwaukee. Any other marathon now would probably fall short.”

Riley said he will likely stick to half marathon races moving forward.

But on that Saturday, COVID-19 be damned, he got his 26.2 miles in the books. And long before his 40th birthday.

Wearing his green Milwaukee Marathon shirt and race number 334, Riley completed his fifth and final Ruger circuit at around 1:30 p.m. to the cheers of about a dozen socially distanced fans and neighbors. He promptly walked inside and slipped his race medal around his neck and returned to his front yard.

“This was a good sendoff to my 30s. … Tested my mettle a little bit,” Riley said. “And now it’ll probably be PBRs and ice for the rest of the day.”

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