But even before the national titles, Ryan Shay had developed himself as a running marvel in his school days at Central Lake High School. Before winning 11 state high school titles, he entered the sport in junior high by following in the footsteps of his four older siblings. Shay not only lived in a household of runners, but was surrounded by a running community of Central Lake friends.
Shay collapsed and died during the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials in
New York last November due to an enlarged heart. News of Shays death spread internationally throughout the running community and hit home in Northern Michigan.
A RACE IS BORN
This January, Ryans father, Joe Shay, met at a local restaurant with family friends Matt Peterson, Doug Drenth and Douglas Bergmann. The three ran track for Charlevoix High School and continued their running careers together at Central Michigan University. They told Joe they wanted to do something for Ryan. Their idea was to create a memorial run that would coincide with another memorial race set during the Charlevoix Venetian Festival.
Drenths brother, Jeff, an elite runner himself, passed away in 1986 from an irregular heartbeat. The Drenth Memorial Foot Race is in its 30th consecutive year. Joining it this year will be the first annual Ryan Shay Mile set for July 26.
The idea for the race came to Peterson, Drenth and Bergmann when they were out on one of their runs. At first, the three werent sure if Joe would agree to have a race in his sons name.
When we contacted the Shays, we really didnt know what they would say. Theyve turned down other offers to have memorial races named in their sons honor, Bergmann said.
However, on that January day in that local restaurant, Joe Shay said yes.
It really means a lot to us, Bergmann added. Theres been a lot of human interest around Ryans story. Were trying to do something that will be unique and long lasting.
The race, itself, wont last too long just one mile. However, The Ryan Shay Mile is not just an ordinary foot race. It will invite just a handful of men and women to compete for a purse of $4,000, provided by Bergmann Marina. Runners from around the country were formally invited earlier this year. Runners also responded to a posting on Runmichigan.com asking them to submit proof of their personal bests. They are some of the best in their sport. Some runners include Derek Scott of Indiana, who ran a four minute mile, and Mandi Zemba, a Grand Valley State University student who holds a personal mile best of 4:41.
Its not an anybody race, said Matt Peterson, who teaches science at East Jordan Middle School. Were trying to attract, probably not Olympic caliber runners, but athletes who stand out in their field.
The race will begin at 10:30 a.m. and is set to start prior to the Venetian Festival Parade. The race course starts at the corner of M-66 and US-31 and will finish near Bridge Street. The public is encouraged to come out and watch.
While the race is named in Ryans honor, Joe Shay said the three men assured they would alleviate any responsibility. The only thing they requested was if either Joe or his wife Susan could officially start the race. Shay said one of them will be there on Saturday.
(Ryan) really was from Northern Michigan, Shay said. He would train out west but would always come home. He bought a piece of property down the road from us. He always planned on returning home to his roots.
When reflecting on something that would honor Ryan, Joe Shay said he cant think of anything better than the Ryan Shay Mile.
I cant begin to appreciate the work that these three gentlemen have done.
For more information on the Ryan Shay Mile and the Drenth Memorial Foot Race, go to: www.venetianfestival.com