PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Pittsburgh Half-Marathon is a grueling 13 miles.
But Mary Beth Deal did not run alone. She crossed the line bearing a photo of her son.
Kyle Johnson, 23, was one mile from the finish in last year’s half-marathon, when he collapsed. He died of cardiac arrest.
“I was hearing him with me. He was carrying me,” she says. “It felt way too easy. So I felt like, ‘You have to be with me because this is too easy.'”
Kyle’s father, Dan Johnson, will also run in his honor.
“I’m really not a runner,” he says, “so I’m going to run the last mile, the mile he wasn’t able to finish last year. And a bunch of friends are going to run with me.”
Six weeks before last year’s half-marathon, Kyle ran the New York Half-Marathon. He said as he crossed the finish line, he had a craving for pancakes. His parents had promised him a pancake breakfast after the Pittsburgh run. One year later, they kept that promise, with a pancake and sausage breakfast for more than 100 friends and family.
His father’s law firm, Williams Coulson, sponsored the breakfast. Among the guests were Kyle’s classmates, Lion Ambassadors from Penn State University.
“It took everything I had,” says classmate T. J. Masteller. “I’d never run like that before. But I was thinking about him. He’s a hell of a guy. I know he’s looking down on us, too.”
Kurt Gingrich ran with Kyle’s younger brother, Seth.
“He had so much life,” Kurt recalls. “It was incredible to watch him live, and it’s incredible to be able to do this for him.”
The Run for Kyle not only raised the spirits of family and friends, but donations for his alma mater.
“We would like to make a contribution of $2,500 this year on behalf of the Marathon.”
The crowd cheers as Marathon Board President Skip Grinberg tops off the donations.
Meanwhile, Mary Gingrich and other close friends have a special “contribution” for Kyle’s mother.
“Tomorrow we’re whisking Mary Beth off to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for a week in the sun,” she promises. “She needs it.”
No one would argue.