UA junior Shirley Reilly hopes to build on a 2012 résumé that included the Boston and L.A. marathon titles and a gold medal at the Paralympics.


Maybe once a week, Shirley Reilly and Sean Eres will be rolling their wheelchairs side by side - in a grocery store aisle, on the sidewalk, or at the mall - and encounter, almost verbatim, the same quip from a passerby: "No racing, you two!"

The two decided long ago the strangers' comments were tired jokes: patronizing, perhaps, but not intended to be mean.

But it is annoying.

It would be fantastic, one day, for Reilly to answer with a serious statement of her own: that she is, in actuality, one of the world's great wheelchair racers.

That the Tucsonan has a gold, a silver and a bronze from the 2012 Paralympics next to the television at the place she shares with Eres, her boyfriend and training partner.

And, on a nearby cabinet, the Tiffany trophy given to the Boston Marathon winner.

Reilly, a UA junior, will look to defend her title Monday in Boston, one year after finishing 26.2 miles in 1 hour 37 minutes 36 seconds to edge five-time champ Wakako Tsuchida.

"There's more pressure now," she said.

Reilly, 27, is coming off the best year of her racing life.

In 2012, she won marathons in Boston and Los Angeles, and a gold medal in the event at the London Paralympics.

She took home a silver in the 5,000 meters and bronze in the 1,500.

The attention earned her a partial sponsorship with a wheelchair company. It's given her a boost of confidence, too, something she struggles with during practice and training.

Reilly knows she's good but only feels that way in the middle of a race.

"I want to be at the top," she said. "If you're the best, you want to be the best again."

She's working hard to get there, training four hours a day, six days a week.

Between schoolwork as a UA public management and policy major - Reilly doesn't have a job, making her living off race earnings - she trains on the street and the track, lifts weights and swims.

"It's just her drive - she's always wanting to get better, and she focuses everything around the sport," said Eres, 28, who leads her through workouts written by Texas-based coach Wendy Gumbert.

"When we go to the gym, sometimes we'll play basketball. She'll throw you into the wall, or to the ground. She don't care."

Reilly, half-Irish and half-Eskimo, was born six weeks premature. The lack of oxygen in the incubator damaged her spine and hearing.

At age 2, she and her family moved to Los Gatos, Calif., to be closer to medical care.

One of four kids in a hard-core sports family, Reilly discovered racing at 10 through a disabled-outreach program called Wheels on Fire in nearby San Jose.

Not long later, she met Eres, who played for a rival club in Berkeley.

Eres moved to Tucson at 12 and encouraged Reilly to do the same for college.

Both were members of the UA's Adaptive Athletics track team for a while, before Reilly left to work out on with her own coach.

Eres, a UA physical education major, sometimes regrets his decision to leave the sport as a handcycle racer "so she can go for her dreams," but admits Reilly is the faster of the two.

He's also the chef, the alarm clock and the one who suggests an early bedtime the night before a brutal workout.

"He's my right-hand man," Reilly said. "My strength and conditioning coach. My only training partner."

They'll travel to the London Marathon - held one week from today - after Boston.

The Boston Marathon, which has a $10,000 prize for the winner, has joined with London to offer bonus money for those who shine in the two events.

In May, she'll participate in a track meet and a marathon in Switzerland.

Reilly already has her eye on the 2016 Olympics, and on breaking the 1,500-meter world record, among others.

But first, she has a Boston Marathon title to defend.

"I don't know if I can do this forever," she said. "My shoulders get worn down after a while. I'd like to go to Rio in 2016.

"Forever? No. I'd like to have a family one day, and get a regular job.

"This is not something I'll do till I'm 50."

The Shirley Reilly file

• 27-year-old UA junior

• Won gold (marathon), silver (5,000 meters) and bronze (1,500 meters) medals in the 2012 Paralympics

• Participated in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Paralympics

• Won the female wheelchair division of the 2012 Boston Marathon

• Won the female wheelchair division of 2011 and 2012 L.A. Marathons

• Finished first in the 2010, 2011 and 2012 Bolder Boulder 10K

Locals running in boston marathon

Alec Briones, 60, Sahuarita; Morey Brown, 48, Tucson; Doreen Castillo,, 46, Tucson; Hazel Chase, 39, Tucson; Valorie Colson, 45, Tucson; Norm Crawford, 52, Oro Valley; Ginger Cross, 40, Tucson; Robert Cross, 52, Oro Valley; Taylor Curry, 20 Tucson; Roger Dahlgran, 60, Tucson; Patricia Deguzman, 46, Vail; Dari Duval, 29, Tucson; Katie Eklund, 35, Tucson; Andrew Erly, 21, Tucson; Jenny Flynn, 43, Tucson; Gary Fordham, 70, Tucson; Robin Gerard, 54, Tucson; Jennifer Gillaspie, 60, Oro Valley; Kevin Gilmartin, 63, Tucson; Katie Green, 30, Tucson; Rusty Jerew, 55, Tucson; Chia-Chi Kuo-Speck, 37, Tucson; Luis Leon Jr., 43, Tucson; Diane Manzini, 29, Tucson; Amy Mattox, 36, Oro Valley; Jeff May-Stahl, 34, Oro Valley; Ryan McGuigan, 39, Tucson; Phil McNamee, 59, Tucson; Alison Meadow, 39, Tucson; Michele O'Brien, 49, Oro Valley; Alisa Rathbun, 45, Vail; Shirley Reilly, 27, Tucson; Melania Riabokin, 25, Tucson; Leo Richard, 60, Tucson; Jennifer Rischard, 41, Tucson; Mary Roberts, 55, Tucson; Keith Schlottman, 48, Tucson; Linnley Scott, 24, Tucson; Christy Sorbe, 39, Tucson; Kathy Stoehr, 54, Tucson; Sara Sullivan, 25, Tucson; Laura Swenson, 40, Tucson; Ginger Unwin, 37, Tucson; Charlie Ware, 27, Tucson; Brian Watson, 41, Oro Valley; Sandy White, 50, Tucson, Doug Williams, 45, Tucson; Marvin Woods, 66, Tucson

Contact reporter Patrick Finley at or 573-4145. On Twitter @PatrickFinley