Death Casts a Pall Over Trials

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By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 4, 2007

NEW YORK, Nov. 3 -- One of the nation's top distance runners collapsed during the U.S. Olympic marathon trials Saturday and died after being rushed to the hospital, muting a celebration of one of the most impressive finishes in the event's history and bringing deep sadness to the close-knit field of athletes who competed in the brutal, hilly race that looped five times through Central Park.

Medical personnel used CPR to attempt to revive Ryan Shay, 28, after he dropped to the ground just past the five-mile point of the 26.2-mile race, race officials said. Shay, a Notre Dame graduate whose widow also is a professional runner, was pronounced dead at a Manhattan hospital at 8:46 a.m.

Shay, who had an enlarged heart, died of an apparent massive heart attack, Shay's father, Joe, said in a telephone interview from his home in East Jordan, Mich.

Ryan Hall, a former training partner of Shay's who attended his July wedding, won in 2 hours 9 minutes 2 seconds, completing the latter half of only his second marathon in a stunning 1:02:45 to stake a claim as an early medal contender for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing next August.

Hall, 25, will be joined on the Olympic team by second-place finisher Dathan Ritzenhein, a 10,000-meter specialist who like Hall was competing in just his second marathon, and Brian Sell, who had vowed to go to dental school if he did not win one of the three Olympic berths. Ritzenhein, 24, finished in 2:11:07, and Sell, 29, claimed third place in 2:11:40.

Hall, a Stanford graduate who grew up in the mountains of California, pumped his fist and wagged his index finger as he sprinted through the last mile, then draped himself in an American flag and accepted high-fives, back slaps and congratulations from fans lining the course.

Only later did he, Ritzenhein and Sell learn through race officials of the death of Shay, among the 131 who started the race on Fifth Avenue at 7:35 a.m.

"I can't think about my race right now," Hall said about an hour after his finish. "I've trained with Ryan. He's inspired me. I'm sure I will dedicate my race in Beijing to him and his family and [his wife] Alicia. It definitely gives you a different perspective on the day. . . . To lose a friend today, it changes things."

Hall's wife, Sara, was a teammate at Stanford of Alicia Craig Shay, Ryan Shay's widow, and a bridesmaid in the Shays' July 7 wedding in Jackson Hole, Wyo. The two couples, Sara Hall said, jogged together Friday through Central Park to give Ryan Hall and Ryan Shay a bit of a warmup for Saturday's race. Ryan Shay, she said, seemed fine.

"Ryan [Shay] had an incredible ability to tolerate pain and to push himself," Sara Hall said. He is "Alicia's whole life. I'm just blown away. I don't know where to begin."

Shay veered off the course near the Central Park boathouse before falling to the ground, competitor Marc Jeuland told the Associated Press, adding that he did not see Shay fall. The cardiologist who examined Shay said he likely died instantly, Joe Shay said.

One of eight children, Shay was coached by his father in high school. He met Alicia Craig Shay, who is expected to compete in the 10,000 meters at next summer's U.S. Olympic team trials, at the 2005 New York City Marathon. Joe Shay said Alicia was "devastated," and that Shay's mother, two sisters and a brother had arrived in New York on Saturday night.


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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