Ryan Shay

Ryan Shay, one of the top distance runners in the US over the past decade, died during the U.S. men’s Olympic marathon trials Saturday in New York. According to an article entitled “Star Runner Dies During Marathon Trials” by Rachel Cohen, Mr. Shay collapsed at about the 5.5 mile mark during the trials this morning.

Top distance runner Ryan Shay died during the U.S. men’s Olympic marathon trials Saturday after collapsing about 5 1/2 miles into the race. He was 28.

Shay was taken to Lenox Hill Hospital and was pronounced dead at 8:46 a.m., New York Road Runners president Mary Wittenberg said.

Runners in the U.S. Olympic team trials men’s marathon run past New York’s Time Square, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2007.

“It cuts a knife through everybody’s hearts,” said Wittenberg, whose group organized the race.

She said Shay received immediate medical attention. The medical examiner’s office said an autopsy will be performed Sunday.

“There were several layers of medical response. It was very quick,” said Wittenberg, who would not elaborate on what steps were taken.

The USATF reacted quickly to Mr. Shay’s death. It issued a statement that included this comment:

“We all are devastated over Ryan’s death,” said USATF CEO Craig Masback. “He was a tremendous champion who was here today to pursue his dreams. The Olympic Trials is traditionally a day of celebration, but we are heartbroken. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ryan’s wife, Alicia, and all of his family. His death is a tremendous loss for the sport and the long-distance running community.”

Shay had a fabulous career. After he won the 2001 NCAA 10K, running for Notre Dame, he took up running marathons and halfathons. He won a place on the USA marathon team in 2003 (I think) and was a favorite for the 2004 US marathon championships when he was side-tracked by a hamstring problem.

People will probably read a lot into this sad story. However, that a top-class distance runner would die during an event is far more unusual than a weekend warrior dying while racing. Writing in the New York Times, Lynn Zinser reported that Joe Vigil, Mr. Shay’s coach, said Mr. Shay had no health problems prior to the race.

Read Ms. Cohen’s article as it appeared in the Washington Post and the US ATF comment. Here’s a link to Google’s aggregation of articles on this story. Link to Ms. Zinser’s article.

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