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3 half-marathoners who died described as healthy

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Three men who collapsed and died while competing in a half-marathon were healthy and experienced runners, but to varying degrees, friends and family of the men said Monday.

One of the runners died after completing the annual Detroit Free Press/Flagstar Marathon on Sunday, and the other two collapsed toward the end of the race. The Wayne County medical examiner’s office was expected to conduct autopsies on the men’s bodies on Monday.

The oldest of the men, 65-year-old Rick Brown of Marietta, Ohio, had the lung disease asbestosis but was an avid runner and had been cleared to train, his friend Joe Corra told The Detroit News.

Brown, who collapsed before finishing, had run distance races around the country, including twice running full 26.2-mile marathons in Detroit, his friend Chip Allman told The Associated Press.

“He’d had some health problems which weren’t related to running. He wasn’t in the best of shape,” said Allman, president of the River City Runners Club in Parkersburg, W. Va. “He’d run some half-marathons already this year and did well in them.”

Allman declined to give details about Brown’s health concerns, but said he wasn’t able to train for the full marathon.

“He probably could have done one, but decided he would do the half-marathon with his wife,” Allman said.

Daniel Langdon, a 36-year-old builder from Laingsburg, in central Michigan, fell between the 11- and 12-mile markers, said Rich Harshbarger, vice president of consumer marketing for the Detroit Media Partnership, which organized the race.

Langdon had run half-marathons before, but he hadn’t trained for a full marathon, said his mother-in-law, Deborah Windish.

“He was in great shape,” she said. “He was standing here at my counter at 4:30 in the morning so excited to go. He was looking forward to it.”

While Langdon ran, his wife of 11 years, Rebecca Langdon, snapped photos. The couple’s three children, ages 9, 8 and 6, were watching the race at Windish’s home.

“My daughter called and said ‘I can’t find Dan,'” Windish said. “One of the guys who was running with him took off and went to a medical tent. Finally, they told them they needed to go and talk to somebody else and were told to go to the hospital.”

Langdon died before they arrived.

Jon Fenlon, a 26-year-old from Waterford, completed the 13.1-mile race before collapsing, said his mother, Laura Fenlon. He jogged and weightlifted, was healthy and had no history of heart-related ailments, she said.

Fenlon had run shorter races than a half-marathon, including about four miles in last year’s relay portion of the Detroit marathon, and had been training with his girlfriend since June for Sunday’s race, his mother said.

“They had been running like six miles,” Laura Fenlon said. She said her son had participated in shorter races.

The temperature was about 28 degrees when the marathon started and had risen to 41 degrees by 10 a.m. Running coach Keith Hanson said he doubted the weather had anything to do with the deaths.

“The wind never kicked up,” Hanson said. “In my mind, the conditions were perfect.”

There were at least six medical stations on the race course and that emergency personnel were on the scene within seconds, Harshbarger told the Free Press.

Every runner must sign a medical release form, and they are encouraged to talk to their doctors before they run the race, he said.

“On a day when so many people bring such energy and challenge themselves to do their utmost, this news is very difficult to hear,” Free Press editor and publisher Paul Anger said. “Our deepest sympathies are with the families.”

Deaths at half marathons are relatively rare, however two runners in their mid-thirties died earlier this month while competing in a half marathon in San Jose, Calif., and a 23-year-old man died after collapsing in September during a half-marathon in Virginia Beach, Va.

The last death at the Detroit event was in 1994 when a 42-year-old man died of a heart attack after running more than 20 miles.

About 13,500 people were registered to participate in Sunday’s marathon and half-marathon.

© 2009 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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