50-mile race will salute runner who died on the Tussey Mountain course
Sunday’s Tussey Mountainback 50-Mile Relay and Ultramarathon will remember local runner Edward N. Thompson, who suffered a heart attack and died during last year’s race on Oct. 23.
Thompson, who was 58, was a member of the Nittany Valley Running Club and was director of development for Penn State’s Office of Educational Equity. He had worked at the university since 1999.
The club’s memorial for Thompson includes a plaque to be placed on the race course and slap bands, or bracelets, that the relay teams will wear.
As of Wednesday, 158 ultramarathon competitors and 120 relay teams composed of four to eight people had entered, according to organizers. The race also is the 2012 U.S. 50-mile road championships.
The course winds through Rothrock State Forest and ends at the Tussey Mountain ski area. The relay has 12 legs that range from 2.8 miles to 6.2 miles and cover several types of terrain.
The slap bands will serve as each relay team’s baton. They will be purple with the name “Ed” written in yellow, said Jonathan Thurley, a club member and friend of Thompson. The colors reflect the purple and gold of Omega Psi Phi, Thompson’s fraternity.
A rock with a mounted plaque in remembrance of Thompson will be at Transition Zone Two, at the top of Laurel Run Road. The running club’s relay teams -- seven teams of seven people -- plan to go to the site before the race to place flowers and pay their respects, club member Tom Cali said.
According to Cali, the plaque reads, “Ed Thompson. 2011 Tussey Mountainback Draft Challenge Relay. Runner. Teammate. Friend.”
The site was chosen because leg two of the relay was the one that Thompson completed, Cali said. He collapsed while running leg eight.
Cali and Thurley were among the first to reach Thompson after he fell.
“There is just a helpless feeling, trying to do everything you can do to save a friend’s life,” Thurley said. “I don’t know if I will run it again after this year because it is too emotional. We’ll see how it unfolds.”
Meira Minard, another club member and a part of Thurley and Cali’s relay team this year, said running in honor of Thompson motivates her to want to do the race even more.
“The Mountainback has always been such a positive, life-affirming experience for us that it was hard to accept such a terrible, tragic outcome,” Minard said.
“Ed was such a positive guy and so supportive of others and had such an amazing impact on other people. I see the Mountainback same way,” she said. “It is one of my favorite days of the year.”
Cali, Thurley and Minard also will have Thompson’s first name on their singlets as a way to honor their friend.
Minard said the relay team is “carrying his inspiring spirit with us as we run.”
“Especially since Ed was one of those amazing people who radiated life and positive energy to everyone around him,” she said. “He spent much of his life finding ways to help others make the most of their lives.”
“We wanted to memorialize a friend, a great man with no enemies,” Thurley said. “He is who I would have wanted as a role model for my kids.”