PITTSBURGH - A 23-year-old man running in the Pittsburgh Marathon Sunday died after going into cardiac arrest and collapsing during the race.
“We are profoundly sad to report the death of one of our participants in the half-marathon,” Pittsburgh Marathon medical director Ron Roth said.
According to Roth, Kyle Johnson collapsed in front of paramedics near the Mile 12 marker of the half-marathon.
“Resuscitation was started by our paramedics at the scene and continued during the brief 30-second transport to UPMC Mercy Hospital. The resuscitation was continued at Mercy, but, unfortunately, the runner died,” Roth said.
Dan Johnson, Kyle Johnson’s father, said, “It's probably best they said what they said because I expected the worst. They said he fell, his heart quit beating and they were having trouble resuscitating him.
“I'm unbelievably proud. I just tell people I'm going to wake up from a bad dream,” said Dan Johnson, who was at the marathon to support his son.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office ruled that Johnson died of a genetic abnormality of the coronary arteries.
Johnson, who recently ran a half-marathon in New York, died of “an inherited abnormality of the coronary artery system,” which supplies blood and oxygen to the muscles of the heart.
The rare defect is “known to be associated with sudden unexpected death,” according to a news release from medical examiner Dr. Karl Williams, who cited the 1988 death of NBA star and Aliquippa native Pete Maravich as a similar case.
"I met with the family at the hospital. It was a profoundly sad meeting. I related our condolences to them," Roth said.
“The doctor said, frankly, he was gone when he hit the pavement,” Dan Johnson said. “His heart just quit, his lungs didn’t work. They gave him CPR for over an hour,” he said.
Kyle Johnson was a graduate of North Allegheny High School and Penn State University.
His football coach at North Allegheny, Art Walker, had nothing but good things to say about him.
“Kyle played for us for three years. He was a phenomenal person,” Walker said. “He may not have been the biggest or the best, but he made a difference on our team.”
Walker said Johnson was in good shape, and had run marathons in the past.
“I didn’t want to believe it. I was in disbelief and had to hear it from three or four sources before it sunk in. He was a kid with a promising future and a love for life,” Walker said. “Kyle will be remembered as a quality person, a reliable friend and a great teammate.”
“He was a mentally tough kid. That probably hurt. He's too stubborn to quit. I'm sure he was determined to finish no matter what,” Dan Johnson said.
In all, 133 runners required some sort of medical attention Sunday. Twenty-eight of those runners were transported to local hospitals.
Roth said the medical team was fully prepared to treat runners with more than 550 medical volunteers.
He said they primarily treated sprains and strains, plus solar-related issues on a sunny day.