Tim Riley has camped on the small Hawaiian island of Lanai and taken short ferry rides over to Maui to run along picturesque beaches in competitive half marathons the last few years.
So the 13.1 miles Riley expects to cover Sunday morning through downtown Wichita and points east in his first Prairie Fire half marathon may not compare in terms of scenic beauty.
It will, however, be a wonderful stroll down Memory Lane.
“I’m going to just enjoy this race,” said Riley, a 61-year-old Wichita native who has lived his adult years in Norman, Okla. “I’m not going to run for time. I’ll just take in the sights and sounds.”
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Riley and his daughter, Lisa Braden, who also lives in Norman, will be among approximately 1,500 competitors in the Prairie Fire half marathon. Race director Bob Hanson said Thursday roughly 3,000 runners from 39 states and four other countries have registered for the marathon, half marathon, Mayor’s 5K Challenge, youth marathon and fun run and walk.
Riley, a retired Federal Aviation Administration engineer, offered vivid boyhood memories of meaningful landmarks along the half-marathon route in a Facebook post on Monday.
The race will take him down Douglas Avenue past the Garvey Center, where he attended East High’s prom as a senior in 1974. It will continue eastward toward his alma mater, where he and his older brother, Steve, ran cross country and excelled in the pole vault for the Blue Aces track team under the late J.D. Edmiston. It then stretches beyond College Hill Park before turning back west toward downtown.
“I’ve run hundreds of miles along that course,” said Riley, who also competed in cross country at Mead Middle School. “I’ve been up there a couple times this past month and run part of the race course.
“I always go to College Hill Park and run through there every time I’m up to visit my parents (Gerald and Donna).”
In high school, Riley’s personal-best pole vault of 16 feet, 3/4 inch stood as a City League record for 38 years. It helped him earn a scholarship at Oklahoma, where he lettered all four years.
In recent years, Riley’s competitive outlet has been distance racing. While his older brother won the Wichita Marathon in 2000, Riley overcame health issues in his mid-30s before increasing his participation in road races.
“I definitely get it from him,” said Braden, who ran in the Oklahoma City Memorial half marathon with her father in April. “We share the same love of exercise and running.
“There are three of us kids, and I think I’m the one who got the bug from him.”
Riley finished eighth in the men’s 60-64 group in Oklahoma City with a time of 1 hour, 45 minutes, 47 seconds. Braden was 20th in the women’s 35-39 division in 1:50:47.
While Braden sees a challenge in keeping up with her father on Sunday, Riley sees it differently.
“I think the torch will pass in this race,” Riley said. “She’s getting fast and I’m getting old.
“She has young children, but she’s getting where she can train a little more consistently.”
Riley’s pacesetter role may be challenged by nostalgia this weekend. When the course turns south on Grove for a short distance before returning to Douglas, it will be on the streets where Riley drove to school on a Kawasaki motorcycle or a 1963 Volkswagen.
Any familiar faces along the route might receive a brief visit, he said.
“I am going to enjoy this ‘run back thru time’ and the memories it will bring,” Riley wrote in his Facebook post.