NEW YORK (AP) - Stephan Shay honored older brother Ryan by running the New York City Marathon for the first time.
He did it in impressive fashion, finishing 16th on Sunday in 2 hours, 19 minutes, 47 seconds.
“The time doesn’t mean anything because of the difficult conditions, but the place I’m psyched about,” Shay said.
The race was about more than a time or place for Stephan Shay. It was nearly seven years ago to the day that Ryan was running in the Olympic qualifier in New York and died just a few miles into the race in Central Park. An autopsy revealed he died of natural causes after developing an irregular heartbeat that stemmed from an enlarged and scarred heart.
Stephan Shay said that it was tough Sunday when he passed that spot near the end of the race.
“I got pretty emotional and got teary eyed,” said Shay, an East Jordan, Michigan, native who ran for Michigan State and now lives in Huntington Beach, California. “I never had that in a race before where the emotion came over me. For a few moments there it was tough, but I knew I had to regain my composure.”
It helped Stephan that brother Nathan and a few family members were waiting at that spot to cheer him on. Also, not far away was a bench dedicated to Ryan with his words: “It is necessary to dig deep within oneself to discover the hidden grain of steel called will.”
Stephan heeded Ryan’s advice and dug deep. He picked off two guys along the way to become the fourth American to cross the finish line.
“To be the fourth American in a pretty solid field was awesome,” Shay said. “If you told me that beforehand I’d be pretty pleased.”
This wasn’t Stephan’s first time running in New York since his brother died. He did a half marathon in the city in 2011, but this one was more difficult.
“I knew when I decided to enter the race in July that this was going to be tough,” Stephan said.
Stephan’s father, Joe, couldn’t make the race, but was thrilled with his son’s effort. Joe Shay said that it was tough when Stephan had told him a few weeks earlier that he was going to run New York.
“He knew I’d have a difficult time with it,” the elder Shay said, choking up in a phone conversation. “I’m so proud of him and grateful he’s making an effort. One day I’ll come to New York and watch it. Maybe next time he runs, we’ll show up and get to see him. It would be a great joy to see that.”
Joe Shay said he spent the day honoring Ryan. He watched the beginning of his son’s race before heading to church to attend a mass dedicated to Ryan. He was still able to follow the race on the marathon’s mobile tracker.
“We’re going over to Ryan’s grave site later,” Joe Shay said. “I’m sure he’ll be happy to hear how well his brother did.”
Stephan hopes to run in the Olympic qualifiers in 2016 and make it to the Rio Games. He qualified for the 2012 trials when he ran the Houston Half Marathon in 1:02.26 in 2010. But a foot injury cropped up soon after that and hindered his rise. Two years ago he had surgery on his left foot to remove a fibroma that kept him from running for months.
Soon after the foot healed he started to run again. He decided if he was going to run the NYC Marathon in his brother’s honor he was going to run fast.
Boy did he.
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