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The tragedy in Detroit

It seemed too unusual to be true at first. Three men died at the Detroit Marathon last weekend. Three? And to make it even more of a horror-film premise they all collapsed within 16 minutes of each other -- two of them in roughly the same spot on the course.

Message board condolences were being posted on Facebook and other sites yesterday. And the question of "why?" still hangs in the air.

Daniel Langdon, 36, RIck Brown, 65, and Jon Fenlon, 26, all collapsed and died while running the half-marathon in downtown Detroit on Sunday.

According to a report in the Detroit Free Press, Landgon was the first to go down, at 9:02 a.m., between the 11th and 12th mile of the course. Brown went down around the same spot at 9:17. One minute later, Fenlon collapsed in the finisher's chute after running the 13.1-mile course in 1:53:37.

Published reports of the event indicate that the event was adequately staffed by medical personal and each received treatment immediately. Temperatures were in the 30s and 40s, negating the affect of heat. Autopsy reports were inconclusive and toxicology tests were ordered on all three in hopes of determining a cause of death.

Deaths associated with marathon and half marathons have grabbed some attention this year, including two athletes in their 30s running a half marathon in San Jose earlier this month.

Statistically speaking, it is rare for people to die during a marathon or other distance event. The percentages remain low even as more occurrences hit the news in part because the total number of participants in endurance events continues to increase. The Detroit Marathon, for example, had 19,000 runners.

Among the younger men who end up in tragic circumstances, the result is often cardiomyopathy -- an inherited condition where the heart grows too large. It's a rare condition but one explored in a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Runners World got on board immediately, posting a Q&A with Dr. Paul Thompson, director of cardiology at Hartford Hospital in response to the recent deaths.

There is risk involved in anything. There's risk involved in running a marathon or running a 5K. And there's risk to sitting home, eating Ho-Hos and potato chips, even if they are baked and not fried. 

Today on my run, I'll remember those men and their friends and families. They took a risk by trying something big, by living life fully, and while a tragic end, I'll take some inspiration from that and offer another round of gratitude for my health and space in which to run, to bike and to swim.

--- Amy Moritz
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