Michael Riou, Medina Valley 1976 graduate, has five children who all graduated from Devine. The oldest, Mike (Class of ’99), an RN with Baptist Hospital downtown, is married to Melody Schultz Riou, Devine Intermediate music and GT teacher. They have two boys. Jesse House (stepson, ’99) works at the Shell station at 4-Corners. He is married to Rachel, and they have two boys and two girls. Heather (‘02) works as an esthetician in Castroville. She has one boy and one girl. Katherine (Katy, ’06) is a pharmaceutical tech at HEB in Lytle. Garrett (‘10) is currently serving in the Peace Corp in Armenia.
Michael works at a power plant near New Braunfels where he is a control room operator, working 12-hour shifts. His drive is two hours long, three-four days a week, a fact which makes it somewhat difficult to train for his passion, which is marathon running. However, clearly, he overcomes and finds the time, as he is quite accomplished at this feat.
In February of 2009, Michael’s work asked for a wellness representative, and that is when Michael began running. He admits, “At first I could only run a mile, then I would walk for a breather. Since then, I have run three marathons, several half-marathons, 10k races and 5k races, and five Tower of America runs and climbs….” Along the way, he says he has had a great running partner, Jackie Smyth (DHS ’99 – great-great granddaughter of Devine’s 101-year-old Tom Littleton). She has been running with him since August of 2009. Michael shares that when Jackie started running with him, she could only run two miles before her knee began to hurt her. He told her she was running wrong and that he would help her. Now, she is the head cross-country coach at Poteet ISD.
Progressing to become an accomplished runner, in October of 2015, Michael purchased a road bike and started riding along Highway 35 down to Pearsall and back to Devine for training. Then, in August of 2016, he began swimming and practicing for his first triathlon. In his second triathlon last October, he qualified to participate in the National Championship by finishing in the top 10% of his age group.
Michael has completed many impressive runs. He ran a 10K race ‘Run for Ollie’ in Ireland this past June when he was there for his niece’s wedding. Several years ago, he ran in The Mayoral 5K, a race in which Julian Castro also participated. He ran the Tower of Americas race from 2009 to 2014 where the challenge is to run one mile and then run up the stairs in the tower’s 952 steps. For this, Michael earned 1st place in his age division in the last 3 years that he ran it. He adds, “This is a yearly fundraiser for Cystic Fybrosis, which I run in memory of my daughter Katy’s best friend, Samantha Buvinghausen, who passed away from CF when she was 15.”
One of Michael’s most notable runs just occurred – August 12 – when he participated in the 2017 USA Triathlon Championships in Omaha, Nebraska. He elaborates, “My daughter Katy and I drove 957 miles each way to get there and back with my bike attached to the trunk. We left Wednesday at midnight and returned home after the competition on Sunday night.” The event was Olympic distance, which is a 1500-meter swim in Levi Carter Lake, a 25-mile bike ride, and a 10-kilometer run. He finished 96th in his division, which included the top 10% triathletes in the nation of his age group.
Looking ahead, Michael will be running in a half marathon in Armenia in October with his son, Garrett. As mentioned, Garrett – who, upon first graduating from UTA, worked with Community of Hope (a non-profit organization that helps the homeless) – is serving there in the Peace Corps. He will be in Armenia for 27 months, having earned a grant from the government to start a bicycle club for girls. Michael says, “This will be his first half-marathon, so I will pace him.”
Understandably, during his runs and while training, Michael has had some interesting – and perhaps entertaining – experiences. He admits that he has run the wrong way on several of his races, and he even swam an extra 150 meters at the National Championships due to missing a turn.
One of Michael’s training routes is on the access road along IH 35. This is a somewhat dangerous endeavor, as he explains, “At the highway department weigh station south of Devine, there is no shoulder to ride on because they needed the extra space to build it. It’s about 100 yards long, so I have to look ahead and behind me before riding thru that zone.”
On his days off, Michael usually tries to ride for 26 miles and then run for 6.2 miles; but, during work days, he rides in the evenings and has only about one hour before it gets dark. He elaborates, “I swim, bike, or run for a minimum of one hour on work days and swim, bike, or run a minimum of two hours on my days off.”
Back in 2011 when he was training for the San Antonio marathon, he would run early in the morning before work due to the heat in the evening. He recalls one Sunday morning, “I was out on the road at 1 a.m. for an 18-miler. I had planned to run for three hours and get back home by 4 a.m. to shower and get ready for work. I leave my house at 4:40 a.m. Well, a storm was blowing in with a lot of lightning. The rain wasn’t heavy at first. I was coming around the corner from the back side of the golf course when an SUV was coming from the cemetery area. I was a little concerned at first thinking it might be someone that had just left a bar because this is early Sunday morning or late Saturday night. Plus, with the rain, it was low visibility. I started running with my light on and directed at the SUV. As it got closer, it started to come towards me, and it happened to be one of our Devine police officers. She had rolled down the window and asked me if I needed a ride to get out of the rain. I told I was fine, and she went on her way to patrol around the golf course. As I kept running, the storm really got bad – severe lightning and now a heavy downpour; I really wanted a ride now. I ran back to my car, which was parked at Jackie Smyth’s house, my training partner. She was supposed to run the last nine miles of my 18 miles because she was training for the half marathon. As I approached her house, she was in her truck, headed out to find me. I told her I was done for that morning….!”
Other activities that give Michael great satisfaction include volunteer work. In part, that comes in the form of carpentry, plumbing, and electrical as he remodels bathrooms for the Mission Devine endeavor. He also participated in Operation Christian Love, building a church – Bautista de Jerusalem – with Beth Ann Noak Brundrette and her husband Alford, his brother Yves, and his son Garrett. Michael also worked with the Texas Baptist Men helping the flood victims in Jennings, Louisiana, and he works with his church, United Methodist Church of Devine. When his children were growing up, he worked closely with them in the United Methodist Youth group with food distribution. He adds that another special endeavor is working with Jo at Wings and Reins.
Michael says that he is thankful for his five “amazing” children and eight “healthy and lively” grandchildren – five boys and three girls, ages three months to 11 years old. And he is grateful for his God-given skills whereby he can do all the volunteer work and for his health to participate in his races. “I am extremely blessed to live here in Devine and for my friends and family.”