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Two die in inaugural Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in Raleigh

Posted April 13
Updated April 14

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— Two men died running the 1/2 marathon Sunday during Raleigh's inaugural Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, race organizers said.

A 31-year-old man collapsed between the 10- and 11-mile markers, and a 35-year-old man collapsed just before the finish line on Fayetteville Street. Their names and hometowns were not released, but organizers described them as "local."

Both men were treated by medical personnel and taken to area hospitals, where they were pronounced dead.

"We are greatly saddened by these tragic losses and our prayers go out to the each of the runner's family and friends," Dr. P.Z. Pearce, medical director of the event, said in a statement. "We have spoken with each of the families and they have asked everyone to kindly respect their privacy during this most difficult of times."

Pearce said the family has requested the names of the men not be released until the causes of death are determined.

Brenda Truman of Seattle wasn’t far from the Dorothea Dix campus when she saw one of the fallen runners.

“At that point, you could see there was an unresponsive man on the ground. They were using paddles and he was intubated. He didn’t look good,” she said.

Truman said she kept running as officers directed everyone to the sidewalk.

WRAL News reporter Amanda Lamb passed the same man as she ran the marathon.

“You’re stunned for a moment. Your brain can’t even wrap around it,” she said. Minutes later, she passed another man, also on the ground and unresponsive, swarmed by medics.

“And it was in eyesight of the finish line,” Lamb said. “I just put my hands over my face because at that point, it was very emotional.”

The deaths darkened an otherwise successful event that drew more than 12,500 registered runners 49 states and a number of foreign countries.

Local flavor dominated with the winners of both the men's and women's marathon hailing from Durham. Paul Himberger finished in 2:38: 57, almost 10 minutes ahead of his closest challenger. Heidi Bretscher was the first woman to cross the finish line and was in third place overall. She set a personal best with the 2:49:46.

The event, which included both the 13.1-mile 1/2 and the 26.2-mile full marathon along with bands sprinkled along the route for motivation, was making its debut in the City of Oaks after more than a decade of similar races across the country.

Runners began their trek at Salisbury and Davie streets then wound to the east through Chavis Park and the Oakwood neighborhood before turning back toward downtown. They passed William Peace University and Cameron Village, then the 1/2 marathon course returned to the Fayetteville Street finish line by way of Western Boulevard.

Race course

Weather conditions for the race were almost ideal. At the 7 a.m. start, temperatures were in the mid-50s under mostly sunny skies with a slight breeze. Temperatures Sunday topped out at 80 degrees.

Dr. Rob Jones, local medical director, said his team had taken extra precautions to help runners who were not prepared for the heat. The course was hilly, but there were aid stations every other mile to provide ice, cool towels and cold-water immersion baths if necessary.

“Everyone I talked to at each of the stations was very concerned, double-checking, (asking) how are you doing, can I get you a water?” runner Charles Copello said.

Cheryl Parker, a runner from Bahama, said, "There were times I was hot and tired. I think you need to know your body and your temperature, and you've got to stop."

Truman said the weather was hotter than what she had trained for, but it was nothing extreme.

“Other people could construe running as dangerous, or that it was too hot for a race, (but) that really wouldn’t have been the case in this particular instance,” she said.

Wake County EMS, which provided support to the marathon's medical staff, reported checking on 29 runners and a couple of spectators. Of those, 10 needed to be taken to hospitals.

EMS officials said they could not provide more information about specific patients because of medical privacy laws.

There was no indication that heat was a factor in either of the deaths.

60 Comments

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  • Super Hans Apr 14, 7:53 p.m.

    Time to ban this kind of activity. It has no useful benefit.

    — Posted by Super Hans

    Neither does smoking, consuming alcohol, gambling, sun bathing, etc, etc, etc...

    Let's all just... View More

    — Posted by DURHAMBULL

    Good advice.

  • rescuefan Apr 14, 7:26 p.m.

    Earlier today I was talking to someone who worked in the medical tent at the marathon. He was... View More

    — Posted by Karp

    So all of these people with life threatening conditions were just treated in a tent and sent on their way and not sent to the hospital? I think that's a lawsuit in the making!

  • UNC_fan4eva Apr 14, 4:43 p.m.

    Running is inherently good for you and I recommend incorporating a few miles of into any regular fitness routine. However, a half marathon and full marathon are distances recommended only for those who have trained extensively for them.

    My big problem with yesterday's race is the number of charitable causes attached to the race who may lure people who are not in good shape to participate in an extreme test of physical endurance, just because they want to support a cause.

    Marathons are for trained conditioned athletes - casual good-hearted supporters should find other ways to support their cause.

  • Red Sox Nation Apr 14, 4:41 p.m.

    I AM NOT WHO YOU THINK I AM - 12500 runners will not fit on the greenways. Besides, actually running through the city streets is a great way to showcase said city.

    Those are two reasons this event wasn't held on greenways.

  • kdbmoore Apr 14, 4:38 p.m.

    As a Runner of this race, it completely saddens me to read the negative comments on this page. Everyone who ran this race did it because they wanted to! Its so very sad that two people passed but anyone of us could die in a car or freak accident anywhere so why say ban these events. For those of you that don't know the RACE raised lots of money for the Jimmy V foundation for Cancer Research...its for a great cause. Don't make negative comments or any comments if you don't know all the information...instead pray for the families who lost a loved one.

  • unclegrits Apr 14, 4:31 p.m.

    "Time to ban this kind of activity. It has no useful benefit."

    The thousands that finished the race yesterday disagree.

  • DURHAMBULL Apr 14, 4:30 p.m.

    Time to ban this kind of activity. It has no useful benefit.

    — Posted by Super Hans

    Neither does smoking, consuming alcohol, gambling, sun bathing, etc, etc, etc...

    Let's all just walk on treadmills for 30 minutes a day.

  • I am not who you think I am Apr 14, 4:26 p.m.

    Why weren't the greenways used...I have yet to hear an answer to that

    Because the greenways can't handle a race with 12,500 runners. As it was, I was in the last... View More

    — Posted by geoherb1

    the city of raleigh took that property for just an event like the marathon. My guess is the sponsors didn't like that proposed route

    It would have inconvenienced fewer folks that's for sure....but oh well

  • DURHAMBULL Apr 14, 4:21 p.m.

    I wonder how many smokers, heavy drinkers, people with type 2 diabetes, obese people died on Saturday? I'll take my chances with running.

    I am a woman of average height and weight (probably plus a few lbs.), I have asthma and run with an inhaler just in case. I trained about average for the race anf finished the half marathon with a time of 2:45 ish. This race wasn't anymore or less strenuous than any other race I've done (this was my 4th this year).

    What happened Saturday were 2 very unfortunate events but it sit here and try and place blame or day that running is dangerous is completely stupid. Move along people.....nothing to see here.......

  • Super Hans Apr 14, 4:21 p.m.

    Time to ban this kind of activity. It has no useful benefit.

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