On Saturday, I was sharing with friends the story of a young man who had died a few years previous. He was a distance-runner with incredible talent. We were in CC together, but I never saw much of him because he was always that small figure in the distance running away from me. That’s probably what most of his competition saw.

Chris died when he was 25 – a self-inflicted death. I had just told my husband about him; about this guy in school who was really sweet. I had a slight crush on him at one point and then my husband came home the following day and asked for his last name again. It was my husband who gave me the news.

After lunch on Saturday, I came home to do more sorting and came across some articles I had saved on another distnace-runner, Ryan Shay. He was once a neighbor of mine and was up there with the likes and talents of Chris Vranich – always ahead of the others. I didn’t know in that moment, reading over the articles on Ryan, that he had died that morning. He fell during the Olympic trials in New York at the 5 1/2 mile point. It’s suspected his heart gave out.

This morning, while processing, I realized both Chris and Ryan seemed super-human to me.  They were incredible athletes, students, people and to lose both of them represents a huge loss to the sport, to our state, to our communities and in our hearts individually.

My favorite memory of Ryan: I was collecting the mail at the mailbox and I heard a swish and turned in time to see Ryan pass. He nodded a hello, but his focus was clear. His body glided over the road in long strides; it was supernatural. When I discovered those articles, I thought to myself, Ryan will make it to the Olympics some day.

It doesn’t matter that he didn’t, he would have. The beautiful thing of it is that he was living his life until the very last fraction of a second. And he likely died flying, the way he ran; a sort of miraculous leap from the hard ground into endless blue sky. Each step appearing at once the last. Each leap infinite. And this last race won.

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