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Near-Death Experience Inspires Raleigh Marathon

Kaz Yahyapour suffered a heart attack several years ago. He said that's the reason he worked so hard to bring back the Sony Ericsson City of Oaks Marathon, which takes place Sunday.

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WAKE — A near-death experience turned into a race for a Raleigh man to change his life.

When nearly 4,000 runners take off in Raleigh's new marathon Sunday morning, that event will be proof to Kaz Yahyapour that he has passed his test of endurance and stamina.

Yahyapour, one of the marathon's co-founders, suffered a heart attack several years ago. He said that's the reason he worked so hard to bring back the Sony Ericsson City of Oaks Marathon to Raleigh.

“Sunday morning is going to be the greatest day of my life,” he said.

A total of 2,730 people registered for the half marathon and 1,098 for the full marathon. The runners will start off at the State Fairground and make their way down Fayetteville Street before finishing near the Fairgrounds.

Yahyapour said running has become a lifeline for him. At age 52, he runs about 50 miles a week and hopes his healthy milestone will help him reach a milestone that neither his father or one brother saw: his 60th birthday.

“I’m passionate about running, because it’s about my health,” he said.

He said his family has a history of heart disease, and he suffered a near-fatal heart attack five years ago.

“I had a 95 percent blockage. I almost died in Atlanta’s airport,” Yahyapour said. “I came home and put a stent in it, and my doctor said, ‘From here on, this life is in your hands.’”

After hearing the doctor’s words, he lost 35 pounds and started running. Three months later, Yahyapour ran his first marathon at age 49.

“The last four years I’ve run eight marathons – three of them the Boston Marathon. So, I have a lot of passion about running,” he said.

As of Friday, close to 4,000 runners from at least 35 states had signed up for the race. All of the proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

“To me, it says the city is healthy. It’s active. It’s vibrant, and it’s more about a quality of life in the community,” said Scott Dupree, with the Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau.

City leaders hope the new marathon will become a tradition, much like the Richmond Marathon. It has been around for 30 years and brings in an estimated $8.5 million for the city.

Yahyapour said on Sunday, he will again be grateful for just the chance to run just over 26 miles in the race he co-founded.

“Exactly 13 months ago, we said we were going to do it,” he said. “We brought it. This is great. It’s going to be a success.”


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