While reading the 605 Running Blog a few days ago I had an idea that it would be fun to periodically write some “west river” running commentary to share with my Sioux Falls area counterparts. I pitched this idea to Greg and he said he’d be happy to welcome some guest posts. My goal with these blog posts will be to keep the rest of the South Dakota running community a little more informed of what is happening in the Black Hills running scene. Hopefully at some point you can plan a vacation or make a trip out west to join us on a run or in a race!
I’ll start with an introduction. My name is Chris Riley and I was born and raised in the southeast part of Sioux Falls – in fact, I first met 605 Running’s own Greg Koch in middle school as we only lived a few blocks apart. In those days the only “racing” that we did together was Nascar video games on N64 J. I enjoyed running at an early age and found success in things like the mile run in elementary school and ran the Avera Race Against Breast Cancer 5K a few times while in middle school. It was my Washington High School coaches, Matt Kiesow and Lenae Harrison, that I credit with actually making me a runner.
I played football throughout middle school and into my first couple years of high school. In high school we were “strongly encouraged” (required) to run track as well. I quickly found out that I was going to be a much better runner than football player and Coaches Kiesow and Harrison patiently let me figure that out on my own when I eventually joined the Washington Cross Country team. I was certainly not a star runner by any means but I was able to run varsity throughout high school and loved finding a sport that I could succeed at.
Following a short break after high school, I competed on the cross country and track teams at both Dakota State University and Mount Marty college, where I eventually earned my history and education degrees. At those schools I was coached by Buzz Stevenson (DSU) and Randy Fischer (Mt. Marty). I credit those two coaches for even further developing my passion for running. Furthermore, Coach Fischer was an elite marathoner (sub 2:20) after college so I eventually started picking his brain a little bit at a time about marathons and what went into the training and racing aspect of a 26.2 mile footrace.
Armed with my shiny new teaching certificate in 2013, I knew that I wanted to find a job somewhere in or near the Black Hills. Luckily I landed in the fantastic community of Belle Fourche, just 10 miles north of Spearfish, as a middle school social studies teacher. I am now in my fourth year of teaching in Belle and residing in Spearfish. Along with teaching I am blessed to be the head cross country coach and assistant track coach which are pretty much the two best jobs on the planet if you enjoy running and trying to encourage and develop that same passion in young people.
Spending the past three years living in the Black Hills has been a fantastic experience from an outdoor activity standpoint. I thought that I knew many of the trails in the Black Hills but I had no clue as to just how many miles of trails are developed throughout the region! In future posts I will highlight some of my favorite trails to run and/or race on. One of my goals through these posts will be to encourage you to come out west and try one of the Black Hills’ unique races, either trail or road, or at the very least to join one of our local running club’s many group runs.
Next post I will try to explain where I am at as a runner and what some of my future goals are, both in the next six-plus months and also more long term. Until then, stay warm and keep putting those miles in throughout the holiday season. A 15 minute run or walk is still better than nothing so don’t get discouraged if you feel your routine slipping away this holiday season – just keep coming back to finding time for yourself and eventually you will get back in your groove!
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