This story has been archived from the Monday, August 22, 2005

Runner dies during 1st half of mountain run


A veteran marathon runner with no history of heart problems collapsed and died Sunday while competing in the Pikes Peak Marathon.

Gary P. Williams, 59, of Norman, Okla., died of a suspected heart attack despite attempts by fellow competitors to save him shortly after he collapsed a little more than two miles from the 14,115-foot summit.

Williams was competing in the 50th running of the event, a 26.21-mile race up and down the mountain. Pikes Peak was Williams’ 45th career marathon, said his son, Steve, who ran Saturday’s Ascent, a 13.32-mile race up the mountain.

Williams’ death is believed to be the second in the history of the Pikes Peak races. Bob Love, 57, of Earlham, Iowa, died during the 1992 Ascent.

“It’s really sad,” said a shaken Ron Ilgen, the race director.

About four hours into the race that started at 7 a.m., Williams was going up the mountain when he collapsed. Among the runners to give CPR and aid were Mark Mc-Caulley, a Steamboat Springs physician; 1979 marathon champion Chris Reveley, a former ranger from Salt Lake City; Jill Hudson, a registered nurse; and Ed Corley, a CPR instructor.

“They were compressing him like crazy,” said runner Ryan Frazer, of Littleton, who came upon the scene about 11:20 a.m.

Williams was competing in his first Pikes Peak Marathon after running the Ascent four years with his son.

After severe weather disrupted Saturday’s Ascent, stranding runners atop Pikes Peak, Williams decided to carry a cell phone and promised to call his son at a Manitou motel when he reached the summit, the marathon’s halfway point. Steve never got the call.

“We were two, two and a half hours past when he was supposed to be up there,” Steve Williams, 31, said by phone late Sunday. “I assumed the phone wasn’t working at the top.”

Williams said his father had no heart problems, family history of heart trouble or hint of any illness in the days leading up to the race.

“He’s had high blood pressure as long as I can remember,” he said. “It’s always been controlled by medicine. . . . He was in really great shape.”

Staff from El Paso County Search and Rescue arrived on the scene within 10 to 12 minutes after a course volunteer called 911, said Larry Lewis, search and rescue incident commander.

A rescue helicopter arrived about 11:55 a.m., Lewis said, and Williams was carried about a half-mile to the chopper on a stretcher. A paramedic declared him dead shortly after noon, before the flight. Lewis said Williams likely died of a heart attack.

Steve Williams said his father was self-employed, a manager of medical practices who in the past 10 years began an oil and gas partnership. But running was his father’s passion.

Father and son had run the Boston Marathon twice with a sponsor’s exemption, meaning they didn’t have to qualify. Williams said his father was aiming to qualify for next year’s Boston Marathon.

“He loved running with me,” said Williams, a Securities and Exchange Commission accountant from Washington, D.C. “He had a passion for it. He loved it. It was his release, his hobby. He ran all the time.”

Pikes Peak was a favorite.

“We just loved coming up here and doing the race,” Williams said.

“He was very excited that I had made it to the top, and I think he was very excited about doing his thing today.”


Copyright 2005, The Gazette, a division of Freedom Colorado Information. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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