PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A runner in his early 20s died Sunday in the half-marathon. A month ago, he ran a similar event in New York City.

The unfortunate news put a damper on what was shaping up as a perfect day.

“We were very sad to hear and to know that there was a fatality, and we want to extend our most comforting thoughts and prayers to the family in this difficult time,” Race Director Patrice Matamoros said during a press conference.

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The man who died has been identified as Kyle Johnson — a former football player at North Allegheny High School and recent graduate of Penn State.

“Kyle did everything with a smile on his face, with determination, was an overachiever,” North Allegheny High School Head Football Coach Art Walker said.

He had just moved into a new apartment downtown and started a new job.

“The runner was a 23-year-old who collapsed right in front of our paramedics about mile 12 of our half-marathon. Resuscitation was started by our paramedics at the scene and continued during the very brief 30-second transport to UPMC Mercy Hospital. The resuscitation was continued at Mercy. But unfortunately, the runner died,” Pittsburgh Marathon Medical Director Dr. Ron Roth said.

“Typically it is an abnormality in the heart resulting in an abnormal heartbeat,” Allegheny County Medical Examiner Dr. Karl Williams said.

A total of 27,000 runners took to the streets of Pittsburgh for the marathon, half-marathon and marathon relay. It was the first death since the marathon came back five years ago.

“Out of respect the family, I am not going to discuss the details of the patient or the specific event. I did meet with the family. It was a profoundly sad meeting with the family and I related our condolences to them from me and the marathon staff,” Dr. Roth said.

An autopsy determined that Johnson “had an inherited abnormality of the coronary artery system.” In a statement, Dr. Williams said “Defects of this nature, although rare, are known to be associated with sudden unexpected death.”

The medical examiner said because of the rarity of his condition, it’s unlikely that he could have been saved.

Visitation and funeral arrangements for Johnson have also been made.

The visitation will be held Wednesday at H.P. Brandt Funeral Home on Perry Highway in the North Hills.

The funeral is scheduled for 11 p.m. Thursday at the St. John Neumann Catholic Church.


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