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Three men died this morning during the 32nd Detroit Free Press/Flagstar Marathon, police and race officials have confirmed.

One of the men, 26, collapsed at the finish line and later died, at about 9:20 a.m.

Another man, who was in his 30s, collapsed at Michigan Avenue and 1st at about 9 a.m. He was taken to Detroit Receiving Hospital where he was pronounced dead, said Detroit police spokesman John Roach. And at about 9:05 a.m., another man, 65, fell and hit his head at Michigan and 3rd. He was also taken to Detroit Receiving, where he was pronounced dead.

“It’s not clear if he experienced any medical condition prior to falling,” Roach said.

The fatalities were the first in the race since 1994, when 42-year-old Samuel Grafton of Troy, a veteran runner who had completed the San Francisco Marathon three months earlier, dropped dead of a heart attack at the 22-mile mark. Grafton’s death was the only other recorded death in the race’s history.

“On a day when so many people bring such energy and challenge themselves to do their utmost, this news is very difficult to hear,” Free Press editor and publisher Paul Anger said. “Our deepest sympathies are with the families.”

Rich Harshbarger, vice president of consumer marketing for the Detroit Media Partnership, said it is unknown if the men were running the full or half-marathon.

There are at least six medical stations on the course, Harshbarger said, and emergency personnel were on the scene within seconds.

Harshbarger said every entrant signs a medical release form and runners are encouraged to talk to their doctors about the race.

Deaths at marathons are relatively rare, occurring in about one in roughly 67,000 participants or 1 in 100,000 participants, according to various studies. About half of all deaths happen in the last mile.

The Chicago marathon has had three deaths since 1998 and there are approximately four to six deaths nationwide in marathons annually.

The most recent death at a marathon happened Oct. 10, when a 23-year-old man collapsed and later died at the 25 mile marker.

The deadliest day of long-distance running occurred during the 2008 Great North Run half marathon (13.1 miles) in England in 2005, when four male runners died on an unusually warm and humid September day. That event has seen seven runners die since it was started in 1981. It typically draws about 35,000 runners.

More than 19,000 were to participate in today’s event in Detroit.


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