mixed emotions. It was just about ten miles into the race that Tom Carleo, then at Saucony asked me if I had heard what happened to Ryan Shay. I remember getting on my phone and checking with some friends on the course who saw the ambulance. The news was not good. Ryan had fallen on the course and he was in trouble.
I knew Ryan through the two Joes-Joe Piane, long time coach of Notre Dame and Joe Vigil, long time coach, friend and recently coach of Ryan Shay. I had been with Joe Piane when Ryan had a huge breakthrough at 10,000 meters at the Stanford Distance Carnival. I remember Joe's smile, and pride in one of his runners putting it all together. It reminded me of how he had been when Chuck Aragon, one of his athletes in the eighties, had been running so well.
I am not sure if I had ever met Ryan. I heard stories of him, watched him race and the community of distance runners, Ryan was, in my terms, a good egg. He ran hard, trained hard and had a great sense of humor.
Joe Vigil spoke of his potential. Ryan had tested very well, and he was handling the workouts that Joe believed would make him into a tremendous marathoner. Ryan raced frequently, and was in tremendous shape for the 2008 Trials. I had picked him in the top six.
His death, which apparently was near immediate, added a bitter taste to the event. When the top three, Ryan Hall, Dathan Ritzenhein and Bryan Sell, heard after their race, they were visibly moved. My trip home that afternoon was not restful, as I just wanted to grab my son, who was turning twenty-one the next day, and hold him. All I could think of was the preciousness of life, and how the lives of all who knew Ryan Shay would be changed forever.
Now, a year later, the feelings are still there. At a ceremony commemorating the one year anniversary of Ryan Shay's passing, the company that sponsored Ryan, Saucony, showed some class and thoughtfulness. Roses were placed at the rock noting where Ryan had fallen. A club of young runners ran the final mile to the finish, completing the run for Ryan. And finally, a bench was dedicated to Ryan with a plaque, (shown above), for all to see, and know that Ryan Shay had been there, and as Mary Wittenberg, the CEO of the New York Road Runners noted, and his spirit continued to shine.
There were some humorous stories from two of his Notre Dame classmates, who remembered his impish sense of humor, his work effort and his friendship. Many from the running community, Alicia Shay, widow of Ryan, her family, and extended family, were all there, as well as many from the Saucony team,to pay their respects to an athlete who was such a part of this popular brand.
How will I remember Ryan Shay? I shall remember him running the only way he knew-with all of his ability and all of his heart. His unfortunate death, at his young age, I do not understand. But, as my faith would suggest, I do accept.
I am not sure how much comfort that is to his family and friends. Ryan Shay lived his life with very few compromises, good runs, great races, and tough races. He lived, he loved and he was loved. His friends and family miss him terribly, and each day, somehow, go on with their lives. My guess is that would make Ryan happy.
RYAN SHAY REMEMBERED WITH BENCH DEDICATION
IN CENTRAL PARK
Family and friends return one year later in celebration of runner’s life
NEW YORK, NY (November 1, 2008) – Earlier today, amidst the spectacular foliage of Central Park, a memorial bench was dedicated in perpetuity to Ryan Shay at a private ceremony attended by family, friends and former Notre Dame teammates. Saucony, Inc., a leading global supplier of performance athletic footwear and apparel, hosted the tribute to honor Shay, a longtime friend and sponsored athlete. Shay, one of America’s top distance runners, collapsed and died 5.5 miles into the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in New York City’s Central Park last November.
“This is the first time that I’ve been back in New York, the first time that I’ve seen where Ryan fell,” said Alicia Shay, the wife of the nine-time All-American and an elite runner herself. “It was difficult, but to be surrounded by family and friends at this special place made it a healing experience for all of us. I am so grateful and blessed to have this opportunity to say thank you to all who remember Ryan. I hope everyone will be inspired every time they pass his bench,” she added.
“Today is a celebration of Ryan’s life,” said Richie Woodworth, president of Saucony. “We wanted to honor Ryan in an enduring way, in this beautiful park, surrounded by the running community he loved. We hope as runners pass this bench, they will take a moment to reflect on a life lived with strength and determination while gaining inspiration to live their own to its fullest,” he said.
The plaque that will adorn the bench is engraved with a quote from Shay, reading: “It is necessary to dig deep within oneself to discover the hidden grain of steel called will.”
Woodworth presented a rendition of the plaque to Alicia Shay, a former two-time 10,000 meter champion at Stanford and a Saucony sponsored athlete as well.
To begin the morning’s ceremony, a local group of youth runners ran Shay’s final mile down Central Park’s East Drive, carrying a wreath of red and white roses with a ribbon bearing the 2003 U.S. Marathon Champion’s name.
About Saucony, Inc.: Saucony, Inc., a subsidiary of Collective Brands and a division of The Stride Rite Corporation is a leading global supplier of performance athletic footwear and apparel with its widely recognized brands Saucony and Saucony Originals. For more information, go to www.saucony.com.
About Collective Brands, Inc.: Collective Brands, Inc. (NYSE: PSS) is a leader in bringing compelling lifestyle, fashion and performance brands for footwear and related accessories to consumers worldwide. The company operates three strategic units covering a powerful brand portfolio, as well as multiple price points and selling channels including retail, wholesale, ecommerce and licensing. Collective Brands, Inc. includes Payless ShoeSource, focused on democratizing fashion and design in footwear and accessories through its more than 4,500-store retail chain, with its brands American Eagle™, Airwalk®, Dexter®, Champion® and designer collections Abaeté for Payless, Lela Rose for Payless and alice + olivia for Payless, among others; Stride Rite, focused on lifestyle and athletic branded footwear and high-quality children’s footwear sold primarily through wholesaling, with its brands including Stride Rite®, Keds®, Sperry Top-Sider®, Robeez®, and Saucony®, among others; and Collective Licensing International, the brand development, management and global licensing unit, with such youth lifestyle brands as Airwalk®, Vision Street Wear®, Lamar®, Sims®, LTD®, genetic®, Dukes™, Rage®, Ultra-Wheels®, and Skate Attack®. Information about, and links for shopping on, each of the Collecive Brand’s units can be found at http://www.collectivebrands.com.
Runblogrun.com encourages you to check out the sites of Shooting Star Media, Inc.: American Track & Field (www.american-trackandfield.com), Athletes Only (www.atf-athlete.com), California Track & Running News (www.caltrack.com), MIssouri Runner & Triathlete (www.morunandtri.com), Latinos Corriendo(www.latinoscorriendo.com), Coaching
Athletics Quarterly (www.coachingathleticsq.com), and USATF Fast Forward (www.usatf.org). All of the above magazine websites can be found at RunningNetwork.com (www.runningnetwork.com).