Feature Friday: Riley Turns Tough Times Into Fast Times

The life of a distance runner is full of physical and mental challenges. But it can also can be lonely at times.

Colin Riley know all about that, and it nearly caused him to stop running a year ago because he just wasn't enjoying the sport as much as he once was.

"Last year around this time, I was actually thinking about quitting running as a whole,'' said Riley, who said running consumed his life and he wasn't enjoying it as much. "I went as far as telling my coach I didn't want to run anymore. But I became closer with my team and coach, and started to enjoy it again.''

Riley should a lot of resilience as grinded through those difficult days of the past and turned those tough times into very fast times as he put together an electrifying junior season last year for Dayton!!!

How fast??

Last fall, Riley won the state Group 1 title, ran 15:54 to place 12th at the Meet of Champions, and went 15:44 to finish 14th at the Eastbay Northeast Regional Championships.

Then after winning the State Group 1 titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 indoors, Riley won the 1,600 at the Union County Outdoor Championships, and ran PR's of 1:54.15 for 800, 4:09.63 for 1,600, and 9:16.38 for 3,200, which are all school records.

Now a rejuvenated Riley is stoked for the upcoming XC season, where he returns as the second fastest runner in the state at Holmdel Park.

NJ MileSplit recently caught up with Riley in between training and hanging out with his friends for an in depth Q and A. We learned a lot about him, including his great sense of humor, his resiliency, how he got involved in running, his training, and a whole lot more.  

So lean back in your recliner or beach chair and enjoy our latest installment of Feature Friday as we shine the spotlight on Dayton senior star Colin Riley. 

NJM: First of all, congrats on all your remarkable accomplishments on the trails and on the track last year. What you did last year was just amazing. With all of your great accomplishments so far, most notably your Group 1 XC title and your 15:54 to place 12th at the Meet of Champions and your big PR's on the track last spring, what would you say has been the greatest personal achievement in your career so far and why?

Thank you! I think the race I'm most proud of is the county 1600-meter race. Mentally I was out of it during the race, but eventually dug deep to out kick 4 people in the last 150. Hearing the announcer say "Union Catholic is going to go 1,2,3" and then go "oh" after I ran by truly warmed my heart.

Take me through what summer training has been like for you? How many miles a week have you been running, where have you been doing your long runs, who have you been running with, and did you go to any XC camps etc?

Summer has definitely been an interesting one. I had an ankle injury, so my first 5 weeks of training were very inconsistent. I was doing 25-30 miles a week, now I am doing 40-45. I run by myself everyday, except one Saturday I did an LR with the Westfield team at Holmdel.

What's been the biggest difference in your training this summer compared to last summer? Increased mileage? More quality stuff in terms of faster pace etc?

The biggest difference this summer has definitely been my mindset. Last year around this time I was actually thinking about quitting running as a whole, and I went as far as telling my coach I didn't want to run anymore. This year, I have gained a deeper relationship and trust with my coach, and my fitness is coming back very fast.

What is your favorite long run (distance, place, and time) during the summer, and what is your favorite workout during the XC season?

I like a morning long run in Holmdel. For me it only happens once a year, but the vibes are always solid. During the season I think my favorite workout is either a fast long run, or threshold miles around the track.

What do you feel are your greatest strengths as a distance runner? What do you feel has enabled you to run so fast on the trails and on the track? What is the biggest key to all your success?

 I think my greatest strength is my kick, and my drive to not embarrass myself. Thinking of people being disappointed in me makes me want to run faster. The biggest key to my success is never taking short cuts. I gain lots of inspiration from Rock Lee, where if I don't do something I compensate by doing something more extreme.

When is your first race of the season, and what's your goal for that race? 

I believe my first race will be Shore Coaches, and I think the goal is just to get a solid first race and win.

How do you feel heading into this season? Is this the most fit you've ever been heading into an XC season? Answer: I feel very good heading into the season, seeing my fitness come back so fast is very encouraging and i feel very fit. What are your biggest goals as far as times you'd like to run at Holmdel, Warinanco, Oak Ridge etc., and some of the other courses you'll race on? 

I definitely want to challenge for the win in the MOC as well as the Eastbay Northeast Regional. I think with the competition this year, low 15, sub 15 will be possible. For Warinanco and Oak Ridge, I think just putting up top 3 times for the course will do. I want to really put up my best times in November.

As the second fastest returning finisher from the Meet of Champions, how much would it mean to you to win your first individual M of C title this season, and what do you feel your chances are of accomplishing that goal? 

If I won the Meet of Champions I would 100% cry at the line. Running sucks sometimes, so to see it pay off would mean a lot to me. I like my chances to do it. I can close hard, so I just need to keep my mental fortitude after the bowl.

What are your thoughts on how much talent there is in Union County? With you and Jimmy Wischusen of Union Catholic, there is a chance you two could finish 1-2 at the Meet of Champions and push each other to some crazy fast times.

I strongly dislike the county meets, they are midway through the season, and winning is 100x harder than winning a Group title. I am usually more nervous going into the county meet than Group. Me and Run Gum extraordinaire Jimmy Wischusen are for sure going to drop some nasty times on Holmdel, and ride off into the sunset on a horse and buggy together.

Last year, Shane Brosnan ran a course record 15:28 at Warinanco. What are your thoughts on you and Jimmy pushing each other to breaking that record at the county meet? What kind of time do you think it will take to win that race?

I think Warinanco is my least favorite course I've run on (sorry Elizabeth kids), but it's flat, so it definitely warrants some fast times. I think low 15 is definitely possible there and it would be exciting to be the one to have it.

NJ is loaded with so much distance running talent? How much does the amount of talent in the state push you to work even harder?

Having so many fast people to run against all the time has definitely kept my training standards high, and without all the others to run against, I don't think I would be nearly as fast as I am now.

Let's rewind the clock. How and why did you get involved in running? You probably played other sports before high school.

I did gymnastics on and off from Pre-K to 6th grade, after that all I did was school and Fortnite most days. My brother ran XC and T&F., and my parents made me do a sport in high school, so I chose those.

Every runner has a breakthrough performance when they reach a huge goal or win a big race, which elevates their confidence level and leads to much bigger things. When was your first big breakthrough race, when you realized you had the potential to be one of the best distance runners in the state?

My first breakthrough race was probably sophomore year when I ran a solo 9:26 3200 for a school record. Most people had no idea who I was during that time. It was a 26 second PR, and that is when I realized I was only going up from there.

Can you list the school records you now own, and which ones you still don't have if any?

5000m 15:44, old one was 17:18
3200m 9:16, old one was 9:28
1600m(c) 4:09.63, old one was 4:15
800m 1:55.15, old one was 1:55.5

I want to get the 400m record (49.8) for fun. My coach has a poster of the records on his wall, and it would be hilarious if my name was on it 5 times.

What does it mean to you to be the greatest runner in Dayton history? How surprised are you by what you've accomplished in your high school career? 

It means a lot to be the greatest Dayton runner. It used to be a very good track and field school when it was Dayton Regional, and I've worked hard to get here. I never would've imagined I would be here after being forced to do cross-country.

Who is your favorite distance runner of all-time and why? 

My favorite distance runner is Mo Farah. He was able to win a race from the back when it was slow, or win when it was fast.

What do you love the most about running XC? 

The chicken tenders at Shore Coaches.

If you could go for a long run with any four pro runners (past or present) who would it be and why? 

Eliud Kipchoge. I enjoy listening to him speak, and he has been a constant inspiration to me during my running career. Galen Rupp because he has gone through a lot in his career and his stride is so beautiful. Then I would choose Morgan McDonald and Ollie Hoare because they are fast and very funny.

What is the most impressive NJ XC/T&F accomplishment you've ever witnessed, and what made it stand out so much to you?

Watching Ridge beat UC in the NBNI DMR and drop a national record was so impressive to me. I've never actually spoken to any of the Ridge guys, but watching that in person was insane.

Running shoes: What type of shoes do you train in and race in and why are they your shoes of choice?

During spring, I was wearing Nike Invincibles, but since then I have switched to Adidas Adios 7's. I had the 6's and I really liked how light and fast they were. They also have good foot support, so I decided to get a new pair.

Favorite running season and why? 

Outdoor track. Spectating 4x4's is so fun, and my races feel shorter on a 400m track.

Favorite subject in school and why? 

Any kind of math, when you know what you are actually doing it is pretty fun.

What did you do this summer when you weren't out there training?

I spent lots of time with my girlfriend because she was leaving for college (GBO!:tangerine:), so I made sure to prioritize time with her. I also spent lots of time getting food with my friends. I went to the Broadway diner in Summit 20+ times this summer-their pancakes smack.

If you weren't a runner, what sport would you be playing?

I would probably not be doing any sports. I was deep in my couch potato phase at the beginning of freshman year. I enjoyed calisthenics though, so maybe I'd join my school's weight room.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 

Making my way up in the world. Making money.

What advice would you give to younger runners who are first starting out in the sport? 

Start off slow. Running is supposed to hurt, deal with it!

What about the future, Colin? Have you planned any official college visits yet? What are you looking for in a college and what do you plan to study?

I have planned some official visits. I haven't decided what I want to study. I originally wanted to go to med school, but I think I have decided it's too much school. Maybe business.