ryanhal.jpgJust a day before the running of the NYC Marathon, the U.S. Olympic trials for the men's marathon were marred by an untimely death today. 28-year-old Ryan Shay died while competing in the Olympic trials in Central Park, just a few miles into the 26.2 mile race. Shay collapsed at the 5.5 mile mark of the race and was taken to Lenox Hill Hospital where he was declared dead. The cause of death has yet to be determined.

Eventual winner, Ryan Hall, was close with Shay and didn't learn of his friend's death until after he'd won the race in 2 hours, 9 minutes, and 2 seconds. According to The New York Times, Hall and Shay knew each other well in the often close community of competitive marathoners

New York Road Runners president Mary Wittenberg, who announced Shay's death, said, “Forever there will be a cloud over what would otherwise be the greatest trials we’ve seen. We all know we’ve got three guys who will run extra inspired in Beijing. It’s heart-wrenching. These things happen, but they’re not supposed to happen at the height of an athlete’s life and career and on one of the biggest days of their career. There must be a reason for it all, but it’s certainly not clear to us right now.” Last month, Wittenberg called the Chicago Marathon, where the humidity and unseasonably warm weather caused numerous heat-related injuries and one death - as well as the marathon to be canceled a few hours in - "an act-of-God kind of day."

The 2008 Olympics will take place in Beijing, China. Brian Sell, Daniel Ritzenhein, and Ryan Hall will compete on behalf of the U.S. Author Jim Fixx championed the 1970s running movement before he ironically died of a heart attack.

(Lead Pack Before 16th Mile Mark, by streetaper at flickr)