Christy Hellman Richbourg’s smile belies the fierce competitor in her 46-year-old wiry, athletic frame.
Friends and family call her an inspiration, while those who go elbow to elbow with her during a road race find her a force with which to be reckoned.
In the past 14 years, the graphic artist and mother of two boys has logged countless 5Ks, half-marathons and marathons — including Boston twice. She also has competed in triathlons and even a half Iron Man, all while raising her sons, Bradley, 10, and Ryan, 7. She and her husband, Greg, have been married 12 years.
The Tyler resident finished last year’s Boston Marathon just 25 minutes before a deadly explosion turned the finish line into a scene of blood and chaos.
On a recent Saturday morning, Christy ran up to the FRESH by Brookshire’s parking lot on Old Jacksonville. Sweat poured into her eyes, and she seemed out of breath.
But she was smiling.
“She is always smiling,” said Rebecca Dickson, a fellow runner and triathlete. “She is an inspiration to me and to everyone she comes into contact with in our sport.”
Christy started her journey into running 14 years ago, when a program at work offered $50 to everyone who completed a certain number of miles walking each month.
“About a year into the program, I began to think that I could get them done faster if I ran, so I started running,” she said. “It was purely reward-driven at that time.”
She said laughing the $50 being easy money.
Her motivation soon turned to a desire to compete with her father, a runner who had several races under his belt.
“I trained to run with him as a father-daughter type deal at the German Fest Fun Run in Muenster,” she said. “And, well, you know after you run one, you want to run another. I have run that race for 14 consecutive years now.”
For 10 years, Christy ran by herself, but then a friend convinced her to join the East Texas Striders group run and meet other runners.
“I was worried they would be too fast for me, but there were different paces,” she said. “After awhile, some of them started talking about marathons, and I thought, ‘Well, I won’t ever do that.’
“I have since learned not to say never.”
For the challenge of training for triathlons, Christy rises early in the morning before her boys awake.
“It can be challenging at times, but I have tried to make my training painless to my family, so most of it happens before they get out of bed,” she said. “Now my boys are wanting to do a tri themselves, and that makes me proud. I would never force them to do this or that, but I can instill in them how to make good choices.”
Greg Richbourg said his wife is a multi-tasker who always finds time for her family and do things for others.
“She balances it all better than anyone I know,” he said “She is a very caring and big-hearted person, and the running, cycling and swimming is not only something she strives to excel in, but she helps others by cheering them on.”
Greg said his wife has always been active, but running and triathlons give her avenues to bond with other athletes.
“That’s just her,” he said. “I’m blessed just to know her and secondly to be married to her and have her in my life. She’s an inspiration to me.”
Rebecca Dickson said being a mother and an athlete herself, she has benefited from watching Christy’s attitude, drive and how she lives.
“It’s more of her lifestyle and how she is able to juggle everything,” she said. “She gets in her training but never lets her family down while she is still accomplishing her goals.
“Her lifestyle speaks volumes about her as a mom, as an athlete, but more importantly as a person.”
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