ShareThis Page
Family, friends compete in half-marathon to honor fallen runner |

Family, friends compete in half-marathon to honor fallen runner

| Sunday, May 4, 2014 7:30 p.m
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Clara Santucci, 27, of Dilliner, Greene County, celebrates being the first woman to cross the finish line on Sunday, May 4, 2014, at the Pittsburgh Marathon.

Dan Johnson stood under the white tent covering a patch of green amid some Downtown high-rises. Around him, folks chatted and laughed and chowed down on pancakes, sausages and applesauce. It was at once a pleasant gathering on a chilly spring morning, and something else.

“It’s been a rough day,” Johnson said. “I’m just staying busy.”

A year ago, Johnson’s son, Kyle, died while running in the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon. He was 23, a Penn State graduate who had just started working for a prestigious accounting firm. He collapsed just before the 12-mile mark, about 1.1 miles from the finish line, and died of cardiac arrest caused by a rare abnormality. He had no known heart conditions.

Sunday was another Pittsburgh Marathon. It also was Run4Kyle Day, a day in which the people close to Kyle Johnson would finish the race for him. His mother, Mary Beth Deal, ran the half-marathon. His father ran a relay leg. Both were among the more than 100 friends and family members who ran for Kyle.

“One thing I’ve learned from this is that Kyle had great friends, and I have great friends,” said Johnson, a founding partner of a law firm located close by that helped set up the breakfast. “It’s been a lousy year, but we have a lot of support.”

Deal said she ran her first half-marathon in about 10 years. She described it as “surprisingly not hard,” largely because of the cheers and encouragement that helped “carry” her to the finish.

“It felt good,” she said. At 12 miles lurked the trouble spot, the reminder of why all this was happening. She said she resolved to run through it “because if I let it come out it was never going to stop,” and because of what the occasion really was about.

“This whole year we’ve been trying to focus on his life, not his death,” she said. “He loved Pittsburgh. He loved. … I guess that’s what I was thinking about while I was running. I was thinking how he loved running through the city. You see a lot of neat views of the city, and I can’t help thinking how much he must have enjoyed that day.”

Alex Calder, who shared a Downtown apartment with Johnson, and Meghan Prucnal, another close friend, helped organize Run4Kyle. Both completed their first half-marathons.

“It was a long training experience but it was definitely worth it,” said Prucnal, who fought through sore knees late in the race. “Everyone you see here, we were all in this together. It’s good to cross the finish line for Kyle. Onward and upward. … Kyle wouldn’t want us sitting around crying. He’d want pancakes and friends and smiles.”

The significance of the 12-mile mark briefly knocked Prucnal and Calder off their strides.

“I got a little emotional,” said Calder, who last year was preparing a post-race pancake (and Margarita) breakfast for Johnson and others. “It was hard. I lost control of my breathing a little bit.”

But Calder said preparing for the race helped him cope with his loss.

“I can’t help but think about him every day,” he said. “Today I thought how lucky I was to have an outlet like that. It’s been a brutal year. Finishing this race was really important.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.