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Austin runner remembers her brother as she trains for marathon

Pam LeBlanc

Two years ago, long-distance runner Ryan Shay collapsed and died of a heart attack five miles into the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in New York City. He was 28 years old.

Now Sarah Shay, his older sister, is training for her first marathon with two goals in mind — to honor her brother's memory and to raise money for the Wounded Warriors Project.

Sarah, a single mom and military veteran who moved to Austin last year, is blogging about her preparation for the Austin Marathon at . The marathon is Feb. 14.

Like lots of folks training for marathons, she's facing challenges at every step. Last week, she did her longest run yet — 15 miles.

"My butt hurt," she says. She also had a close encounter with an overexuberant dog.

Even though he's gone, Ryan is helping Sarah get through the training. She thinks about him whenever she runs.

"In the beginning, I couldn't not cry," she says. "When you have a brother pass away because he was running in an Olympic marathon trial, it's impossible to not think about him when you're running."

She also thinks about soldiers, and the recent tragedy at Fort Hood.

Sarah hopes to raise $10,000 for the Wounded Warriors Project, which offers programs to heal soldiers physically and mentally. It's a cause she thinks her brother would be proud to support.

One night, she dreamed he was watching her run. Her legs felt like lead, but he smiled at her and asked if she was going to make it to the finish line.

I think she will.

She's running five or six days a week. Most of her mileage is either around Lady Bird Lake or in the neighborhood where she lives. Usually she pushes her son, Max, in a stroller.

To donate, follow the link on If you're interested in running or raising money, send an e-mail to

Are slow runners ruining marathons?

A recent New York Times article raised the question, pointing out that some hardcore runners say slowpokes are zapping the marathon of its prestige. Once, only the best runners finished marathons; now scores of mediocre athletes (and non-athletes) are getting out there and pounding out 26.2 miles.

I say fast runners should just get over it.

At a time when 34 percent of U.S. adults ages 20 and older are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, encouraging regular folks to exercise is a good thing.

I'm not condoning getting off the couch on a Friday and running a marathon on a Saturday. Proper training is crucial to prevent injury. But making an effort to lead a healthy lifestyle is important, and having a goal like a marathon — whether you run it all or walk part of it — can help.

Do ultra-slow marathon runners really interfere with the speedy folks? No, they're in the back, out of the way. The fast runners are done with their race long before the slowpokes.

Besides, without all the slower folks signing up and paying registration fees, some marathons couldn't afford the costs associated with putting on a race. The regular folks are keeping them in business.

Sure, the median finishing time for completing a marathon has dropped significantly. In 1980, according to the Times article, that time was three hours, 32 minutes and 17 seconds for men and four hours, three minutes and 39 seconds for women. In 2008, it was four hours, 16 minutes for men and four hours, 43 minutes, 32 seconds for women.

I should point out here that I ran my first marathon last year in four hours, 42 minutes. Pretty average!

It's not that elite runners are running slower, it's that more slow runners are tackling the 26.2 miles. And I think it's a good thing.

Have you noticed the cyclist icons appearing on streets around Austin lately?

The new sharrows, or shared lane markings — representations of cyclists painted on the pavement — are designed to help motorists and bicyclists safely share roadways. They've gone in on stretches of Guadalupe, Cesar Chavez, 51st and Dean Keeton streets.

The special lane markings are being installed as part of a joint study by the City of Austin Bicycle Pedestrian Program and the University of Texas' Center for Transportation Research. They're only temporary, although the test period may be extended if the markings are well-received.

Crews also have put up signage and painted colored lanes and boxes on the streets to remind motorists to look out for cyclists.

"Bicycles may take full lane" signs have been installed on stretches of Lamar Boulevard and Pleasant Valley Road. Blue-painted bike boxes, which permit cyclists to move in front of cars at an intersection, have been put in on Shoal Creek Boulevard at Anderson Lane and Speedway at 38th Street. Colored lanes, to alert motorists to watch for crossing bikes, have been painted on San Jacinto Boulevard at Duval Street and on Dean Keeton Street at Interstate 35.; 445-3994