Police officer Ryan Halley never stops chasing his personal record.
In high school, Halley played soccer and was active on the track team, but didn’t consider himself a runner. That is, until he joined the school’s cross country team to keep his endurance up during the soccer off-season. When he turned out to be better at cross country than soccer, he focused his efforts on running and quickly grew to enjoy logging miles during long, early-morning and after-school practices.
After high school, Halley moved to Lubbock to attend college at Texas Tech University. Racing fell to the wayside until his family invited him to run in a 15K event at Germanfest in Muenster, Texas. Although it had been a long time since he competed in high school and he didn’t have experience training for competitive long-distance races, Halley won first place in his age group. The success piqued his interest in racing, and he soon signed up for several other races. He began to develop a training pattern, and soon saw improvements in his race times.
When a friend insisted he would enjoy competing in more challenging races, Halley decided to sign up for the Longhorn Half Ironman triathlon in Austin, which includes a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run.
Not wanting to commit to expensive racing equipment, Halley purchased the bare necessities needed to compete in the race—including a bike that he planned to sell shortly afterwards. When he saw his finish time though, he challenged himself to beat it in another race. “Just like in Muenster, I crossed the finish line, and I got that bug,” Halley said.
He fell in love with triathlons during that race and returned to Lubbock to discover a huge triathlon community in the area, which later spurred him to start a triathlon club at Texas Tech. Through the club, he qualified for the 2008 Collegiate Triathlon National Championship where he ran the ninth-fastest race time out of participants from Texas.
Today, Halley has competed in 32 races, logged well over 1,000 race miles, and has developed a competitive spirit that pushes him to improve at each event. “I’m not really competitive with others, and I think that’s the thing that I really like about triathlons. The majority of the competition is against yourself,” Halley said. “It’s just you and the clock.”
While his racing career accelerated, Halley took on another challenge and joined the Marine Corps. From December 2003 to December 2011, he served in the Marine Corps Reserve and was called into active duty five times—not including an extremely physically demanding boot camp, one weekend of service each month, and two weeks of service in the summers. He served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, experiences he said forced him to grow up quickly and learn how to push himself while also supporting a team.
“That was really my first exposure to team-building exercises,” Halley said. “Running in formation was a change from just running however I felt. And not only were we running, but now they wanted us to shout while we were running.”
Halley was assigned as the Company Training Non-Commissioned Officer, with duties that included coordinating daily physical training and administering the annual Physical Fitness Test and Combat Fitness Test. He participated in several on-base fun runs and joined the 100 Mile Club by running more than 100 miles while deployed in Iraq.
After serving for eight years, Halley moved to Austin with his wife, Jessica. He continued his education at Texas State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in communication studies before deciding to serve his country in yet another way—as a police officer.
While training in the police academy, his athletic abilities did not go unnoticed, as he was one of two recruits selected to instruct physical training in the absence of an instructor.
In 2014, he began work as an officer at the Bee Caves Police Department.
Halley said it was a natural transition from the Marine Corps to police officer, but while some skills can be applied to both, they are fundamentally completely different.
“It’s very challenging,” he said [of being an officer]. “There’s very little supervision, so it places a lot of responsibility on you. In the Marine Corps, you’re always going to function as a unit. You’re always going to have a minimum of a few hundred guys with you. As an officer, there’s a lot of times where it’s just you, and if there’s a question that comes up, you better make the right call.”
According to Lieutenant Vicente Montez of the Bee Caves Police Department, Halley handles the responsibilities of an officer well. Montez said he is honored to work alongside a hero who truly lives up to the Marine Corps Values of Honor, Courage and Commitment. “They’re the real first line of defense,” Montez said. “It’s people like Ryan and all the other men and women that go out there and protect this country in hostile situations that allow people like myself to enjoy freedom and be a police officer.”
Montez said he’s often seen Halley’s “humble servant’s heart” take him above and beyond to serve both the community and the department. “I never hear him say the word ‘no.’ I don’t think he knows the word,” Montez said. “He’s the only one I’ve ever worked with that can go run a full race and then come to work afterwards.”
Halley also had a role in updating the department’s physical fitness requirements. In the past, each officer was required to pass the yearly Cooper Standard, which included a 1.5–mile run, as well as a certain amount of push-ups and sit-ups. Regardless of age or gender, every officer was given the same test.
Now, the Texas Department of Public Safety has recommended more functional fitness test options. The first is a low-impact rowing exercise, designed for older officers and those with joint issues that could be made worse by running. The second is a combat fitness test based on CrossFit movements and includes wall ball, box jump, dead lift, push press, and row machine exercises.
Montez said that when it came time to select an officer to implement the DPS changes at the Bee Caves department, there was no question who he would pick.
Halley’s next goal race is the New York City Triathlon in July, where he is registered in the First Responder Division and will race on a police team against fire and EMS teams. He started training four months prior to race day and has a strict routine of swimming, biking, and running up to 20 hours per week in addition to following a nutrition regimen he’s sculpted over the years.
While he’s raced in many forms of triathlons, marathons, and Ironman competitions across the country, each race leaves him eager to set a new personal record. His last full Ironman was no different.
“I beat my goal by a lot,” Halley said of the race. “I was very, very pleased, and then I started looking at my time, and realized that my bike time was 6 hours and 6 minutes. I thought ‘Six minutes? I can shave six minutes.’ Well now I have to do another one, and I have to shave those six minutes.”
While Halley’s satisfaction with his race times may never last long, he says it only inspires him to be stronger and faster for the next event.
“Any time you have a race that’s not up to your expectations, that’s even more motivation to sign up for the next one,” he said.