Thursday, January 2, 2014

In Memory of James Reily, 100 Miles Strong

On the way home from my Ringing In Hope 10K on New Year's Eve, I received a very disturbing email from my former boss, informing me that that my former colleague and friend, James Reily, had passed away of cancer.

I worked closely with James for about a year at my previous company before leaving in July. He led the inside sales team and I led the marketing programs team. Together, we were responsible for filling the sales pipeline with new opportunities that would grow the business. We had a great mutual respect for each other and held each other accountable for our roles. I committed to generating "x" amount of leads, and he committed to having his team follow up on them within a defined timeframe, so that we would function as a well-oiled machine. We created dashboards to track our progress and we were both data junkies.

I've worked with many sales people throughout my career and he was definitely one of the most passionate and hard-working ones I have encountered. In many organizations, sales and marketing have a somewhat adverse relationship. But at my previous company, James and I were fully aligned and it made for a positive working environment.

My endorsement of James on LinkedIn


In addition to being an inspiring leader and sharp businessman, James was also a highly accomplished runner. Most recently, he completed a 100-mile race, where I tracked his progress on Facebook through the posts his family was making. He also had countless marathons under his belt and at age 39, was still getting faster and stronger.  Last spring, we both decided to run the Chicago marathon because the
James at an aid station during a 100-mile race
inside sales team was located there, and I figured I would make a business trip out of it. We registered at the same time, both experiencing the registration glitches that arose from a high demand of limited slots. We kept IMing back and forth to each other: "Are you in?" "Not yet, still getting this error message".  Eventually we both got into the race and were very much looking forward to it.

"What corral are you in?" I asked. "Corral F," he replied. "Why all the way back there? You should be up in B or something!" I exclaimed over IM. "I figure with Corral F I won't go out too fast," he explained. I thought it was admirable that he was trying something new in an effort to improve. Most runners, myself included, want to be in the fastest corral possible to ensure they don't get stuck behind a bunch of slow people. But not James. He was perfectly fine chilling in corral F and working his way up once he started running. He was also planning on running it with his identical twin brother, Matthew, so that probably played into his decision as well.

I left the company in July but maintained communication with James over Facebook. As the race got closer, he asked me how my training was going. I said it was okay, but I wasn't expecting a great race because I had been injured for 4+ weeks during training. He mentioned that he was just going to take it easy too, and focus on enjoying it. I didn't ask him why-- I just figured that maybe he had gotten injured or maybe didn't have enough time to train as much as he wanted. Chicago came and went and I noticed that James didn't run it. I really wish I had communicated with him about this, but I just assumed he was injured. I had no idea that he had cancer or that anything was wrong with him.  He wished me a happy birthday on Facebook in November and I thanked him and wished him well. That was the last communication I had with him.

Needless to say, I was shocked to learn that he died of cancer so suddenly. He wasn't diagnosed until after I left the company, and I guess he wasn't the type of person to post his struggles on Facebook.

James was 39 years old, and is survived by his wife and two beautiful daughters.

I have decided that I will run the "Ringing In Hope" 10K in honor of him next New Year's eve, and every New Year's eve after that. The race benefits a variety of charities, and I will make a donation each year to a cancer charity in his memory.

To make a donation to benefit Sarcoma Research, visit this site.

James Reily, 1974-2013



5 comments:

  1. Sorry for the loss of your friend. You are doing a beautiful thing to honor his memory.

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  2. Oh I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. I like the idea of you running the 10K in his memory.

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  3. Oh, what a sad story :( I guess it just goes to show what a great, giving guy he was to continue to reach out even when he was struggling and not mention it. Sorry for your loss :(

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  4. I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of James! He sounds like a wonderful person. Running for James is a way to honor his memory - I love it!

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  5. There are no words :( except that I am so sorry for the loss of James. Most have said it already, but what a touching way to honor what he clearly stood for.

    Be well.

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