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Despite Heat, Athletes Run into History, Hearts

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RALEIGH — Despite the sweltering heat, dozens of athletes laced up their running shoes and competed in the marathon and half-marathon for the Special Olympics World Summer Games on Sunday morning.

With the bang of the starting gun, they were off. The course began at N.C. State University and wound through historic downtown Raleigh.

The race began at 7 a.m. to help shield athletes from what would be the day's blistering heat.

Safety vehicles patrolled the course, watching for signs of fatigue or heat exhaustion.

"Is she coming yet?"

Along the race route, families waited to catch a glimpse of athletes as they ran by.

The Brown family was looking for a cousin, Stephanie Connelly, a Team USA half-marathoner from Georgia.

"She's been training to run four or five miles a day and run eight to 10 miles one day a week...so she's been running a lot. Every time we see her around town she's running and somebody different is running with her," Karen Brown said.

In the spirit of the World Games, the Browns offered words of encouragement to all of the runners. They cheered wildly when Stephanie ran by, entering her ninth mile.

"Hey Stephanie! Keep it up, girl!"

Team USA's Scott Melgis was the first marathoner to cross the finish line, running 26 miles in just under three hours. Completing a marathon is an accomplishment for any runner. This race has come to symbolize the the achievements of all Special Olympics athletes.

"You know, I think Mrs.Shriver says it best. She said 30 years ago, when she started this, there was doubt that persons with mental retardation could run 100 meters," World Games CEO Joe Freddoso recalled. "Now, they run 26 miles, and I think that really sums it up."

Organizers of the marathon and half-marathon were very concerned about how the heat might affect the runners.

No one was injured today.

Ten of the 24 marathoners ran a half-marathon instead because of the heat.

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Stephanie Hawco, Reporter
Chad Flowers, Photographer
Kay Miller, Web Editor

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