By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

When Tom O’Leary decides to run a marathon, he goes an extra mile. Make that extra miles.

On Sunday, April 10, O’Leary, a religion teacher at Archbishop Ryan High School, ran 40 miles solo, 14 miles longer than the standard marathon, weaving his way in and out of the various neighborhoods of Northeast Philadelphia, along with detours through neighboring Bucks and Montgomery Counties.

His “ultramarathon” took him past the churches and schools of 25 parishes that account for 90 percent of the students who attend Ryan. The parishes included St. Ephrem, St. Charles Borromeo and Our Lady of Fatima in Bucks County and Presentation B.V.M. and St. Albert the Great in Montgomery County. Add to this the Philadelphia feeders of St. Anselm, St. Christopher, Maternity B.V.M., St. Cecilia, Resurrection of Our Lord, St. William, St. Martin of Tours, St. Timothy, Our Lady of Ransom, St. Matthew, St. Josaphat (Ukrainian), Our Lady of Consolation, St. Bernard, St. Jerome, St. Dominic, St. Katherine of Siena, Nazareth Academy, Christ the King, St. Martha and his own parish, Our Lady of Calvary. {{more}}

Not bad for less than seven hours, considering his age (47) and the pit stops along the way at Wawa and Dunkin Donuts.

O’Leary, a married father of three, is a former lawyer who turned teacher 11 years ago. He had several reasons for running the ultramarathon. O’Leary did it partly because he enjoys running; he has six full marathons under his belt. This also was a great way to combine his favorite exercise with raising money to help parents with children attending Ryan. Finally, he is a great admirer of Archbishop Patrick J. Ryan for whom the school is named.

Like Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop Ryan came to Philadelphia by way of St. Louis, where he was a bishop for 12 years.

“During his almost three decades in Philadelphia, Archbishop Ryan came to be respected and loved by citizens of every faith,” O’Leary said. “Due to his wit and humor, he was frequently called upon to preside at many public events, banquets, political dinners and funerals. He presided at the Mass at which St. Katharine Drexel took her vows. His fearless vision and tireless efforts resulted in the dramatic growth of the Catholic school system, from 59 schools with 22,000 students when he arrived in 1884, to 141 schools with 66,000 students when he died in 1911.”

To raise funds, O’Leary solicited donations of $100, $40 and $25. He chose those donation amounts because this year happens to be the 100th anniversary of the death of the Archbishop; 40 corresponds with the number of years he was a bishop; and 25 is the number of parishes and schools O’Leary passed.

“So far the ultramarathon raised $3,800,” he said. “In this economy a lot of families need tuition assistance, and it was absolutely worth it. It brings awareness of the good that is going on in our schools and promotes awareness of healthy exercise.”

Those who wish to make further donations to Archbishop Ryan through O’Leary’s ultramarathon may do so online through

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.