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Aaron Schoonmaker

Love of sport, loss of life

Posted April 13
Updated April 15

Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in downtown Raleigh, N.C. on April13, 2014. 12,500 runners made it to the capital city for a day of music and running. Paul Himberger won the men's marathon with a time of 2:38:57 and Heidi Bretscher won the women's marathon with 2:49:46. Both runners from Durham, N.C. (Chris Baird / WRAL Contributor).

— I was on a street corner in downtown Raleigh Sunday, cheering my wife on in the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon and Half-Marathon. I have done this for countless races in the past, each time rooting for a personal best, or in the worst case, a positive result out of her before we head to brunch.

Moments after spotting and encouraging her mid-race, an ambulance went racing through the intersection. The sights and sounds of urgency are unmistakable. While, not uncommon at many marathons, this one was different – the police officer stationed under the stoplight told me so.

In less than two hours, word had spread that not one, but two runners had died during the inaugural race in Raleigh. Each was in their 30’s and each had worked so hard for this day – if not just for themselves, for their friends, family and loved ones.

On Friday, a 12-year-old boy in Wilmington was hit in the head with a baseball and died.

Everybody deals with death differently. I am not trying to change how the healing process works. What I will say, is that I can find a little comfort in knowing that sometimes the most untimely of incidents can occur when the people are the happiest.

When Alex Newsome was tragically killed on the baseball field Friday, he was throwing batting practice to his teammates. Better said: playing around with his classmates.

Witnesses described to me Sunday that one of the two perished runners at the Raleigh race was pushing his wife to cross the finish line – undoubtedly a once-unthinkable personal goal she had been striving for. The other was in his final mile of the challenge he had taken on.

Life is not always fair. Life doesn’t come with an expiration date. But sometimes, the best way to know that people have accomplished what they were set on this earth to do, is when they go out doing what they love.

I lost my grandfather to cancer when he was far too young. I have had friends murdered and lost to suicide. My mother works at a funeral home and I find a certain solace in trying to make stories out of the dates on headstones.

The fact remains that nothing can replace the loss of a loved one. Questions of ‘why?’ ‘how?’ and ‘what next?’ will linger for a long time. That’s both natural and acceptable

With life comes death, but with life endless memories are also created.

I did not know the young pitcher who suffered an unthinkable injury Friday with a full life ahead of him. I did not know the two young men who didn’t cross the finish line Sunday on account of unforeseen circumstances.

We cannot dictate our fate. It would be unfair to do so. What we can all hope for is that those that are lost, go doing what they love.

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  • bonnieleebee Apr 16, 10:55 a.m.

    Thank you for this piece. This is by far the best article about life and dealth, thank you Aaron! I ran the race on Sunday and it was my first half. I give thanks to God for giving me the strength to meet my goal. I have three children and one angel in heaven, I pray that they too have the strength and fearlessness to go after any goal. God bless these families and I pray they find peace in their hearts.

  • vt94hokies Apr 14, 4:37 p.m.

    A well written article. Saying prayers for the family members and loved ones of these two great people.

  • GunnyGoesArrrgh Apr 14, 1:53 p.m.

    The two runners and the little boy playing baseball may have all died doing what they love, and hopefully are in a better place, but the loved ones left behind are the ones who are really hurting. These young people died too soon, and my heart goes out to their loved ones. We never know when tragedy will strike, and if it teaches us anything, it should be that life is precious, and short.

  • Amomoftwo Apr 14, 6:43 a.m.

    Beautifully written for such a sad time.....prayers to all families involved in this tragic set of events.

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