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Riley Thorburn’s ‘Longest Run of Their Life’ benefits Faith in Action

Courtesy photo. Riley Thorburn with the sign that says she completed 26.2 miles, which is a marathon distance.

Chelsea teen Riley Thorburn combined her long-distance running skill with her passion for giving and raised more than $1,877 last weekend for Faith in Action.

“I got frustrated watching the news every night and seeing the need for food we have in this country,” said Thorburn, who was looking for a way to help. “I thought pairing the marathon with the FIA fundraiser would be a perfect way to help make a difference locally.”

Thorburn’s family and friends came out to support her, and she finished the marathon in 3 hours 55 minute, attaining her goal to finish under the 4-hour mark.

“We were overwhelmed to say the least with the number of community members and her friends that followed in cars the whole race ringing cowbells and holding signs,” said Riley’s mom, Tara Thorburn. “She said it made quite a difference to see and hear the encouragement.”

Thorburn’s dad and brothers ran part of the race with her, as well as friends Emily Chizek and Myranda Montoye. Coaches Jen McPherson and Kim Gabrielson joined the middle portion, and family friend and Chelsea teacher Brian Boos assisted the last 8 miles.

The marathon route Riley ran started at North Creek Elementary School and ended on Main Street, close to her home.

Thorburn, who is a junior at Chelsea High School, has been running since she was in fifth grade, and she has competed in cross country and track since middle school.

Courtesy photo. Riley Thorburn in action during her marathon run.

“I come from a running family,” she said referring to her dad (Loren Thorburn), who is the head girls track coach at CHS, her older brother Foster, who runs for Grand Valley State University, and her younger brother, Owen.

Thorburn injured her ankle during cross country season last year and was unable to run all winter.

“When I found out that track would be canceled, I was really upset,” she said. “I worked hard cross training and doing physical therapy so I would be able to race again this spring. When Covid 19 happened, I knew I had to shift my focus and motivation to another goal.”

When her distance coach Eric Swager, who also coaches the Chelsea’s boys cross country team, found out that Thorburn wanted to try a long distance run, he virtually offered her a plan — and implementing it was totally up to her.

“When the lockdown started, I continued to communicate virtually with the runners, giving them guidance and suggested workouts,” said Swager. “Shortly thereafter, I suggested that runners could train for ‘the longest run of their life,’ and created the marathon for the weekend of May 16.”

Swager offered those interested a virtual six-week marathon training plan and those who chose to do it on their own,  ran on May 16. (See related story here.)

“The fundraising angle was completely Riley’s idea,” said Swager. “What a great project. She is one of the high school’s shining stars, very involved in all sorts of community and leadership roles. I am proud of her diligence and attitude.”

Thorburn credits Swager along with an “amazing support crew” for making the marathon possible. She credits her parents for raising money and inspiring her.

Tara and Loren Thorburn say they are proud of Riley for taking on the challenge and grateful to the community for supporting her and making financial donations to Faith in Action.

It’s not too late to donate to FIA in support of Thorburn’s run. Just go to for information.

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2 thoughts on “Riley Thorburn’s ‘Longest Run of Their Life’ benefits Faith in Action”

  1. Congratulations Riley for a job well done! You are a dedicated, caring and inspiring young lady ! ! ! Hats off, again, to the teachers and coaches who give of their time and talents to encourage, support and educate our young people. Riley you are a lucky girl to have such a great family and great friends! I hope this world gets back to normal soon so you can return to doing things you want to do !


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