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Tragedy Over Triumph

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Yesterday’s Philadelphia Marathon is/was an incredible athletic, physical, and mental achievement to complete. Unfortunately, the celebration for participating or enjoying the event took a devastating turn yesterday morning.

As a first time participant — I ran the Half Marathon for Best Buddies charity — the emotions when crossing the finish line are hard to describe. The obvious — soreness, exhaustion, elation, pride, hunger, amazement — are easy to understand. I image those are enhanced by the amazing athletes who were able and willing to run the full 26.2 miles.

What I didn’t know at the time I crossed the finish line yesterday morning around 9:35 a.m. was that a competitor who crossed just minutes before me — I finished at 2:07:20, he at 1:58:06 — collapsed and later died at Hahnemann University Hospital. Jefferey Lee was his name. He was just 21 years old — four years younger than me and undoubtedly in better running shape — and a University of Penn student from California.

In an almost unreal twist of cruelty, another competitor — his identity unknown as of last night — a 40-year old full marathon runner, also collapsed and died. According to police, he crumpled and died a quarter-mile from the finish line.

While this is extremely rare — fewer than 1 percent of every 100,000 marathoners die from sudden cardiac arrest during training or racing — it’s also extremely scary and hard to believe.

Did I interact with either of these people? Did I share a look, a water break, and nod with the half-marathoner who was only about a 40 second pace ahead of me over the course of 13.1 miles?

I thought about many risks yesterday morning when I awoke in Philaelphia at 5 a.m. Torn ACL’s, hamstring strains, and re-breaking a creaky ankle. I wondered if I could actually pull off running for that long. But I never, ever thought about my life being in jeopardy.

On behalf of the 105.7  The Hawk family, and for every one who competed out there yesterday, my condolences go out to the victims and their families.

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