A Kansas runner died this weekend after being struck by lightning less than a mile away from the finish line of a 50-kilometer race.
Thomas Stanley was competing in the FlatRock 50K race on Saturday at Elk City State Park in southeastern Kansas. About a quarter-mile from the finish line in the roughly 31-mile race, Stanley was hit by lightning and later died as a result. He was 33.
According to the Wichita Eagle, the National Weather Service predicted severe thunderstorms in that region of the state on Saturday afternoon, with heavy rain, damaging winds and large hail possible. The race, however, continued as planned.
“We got word of a storm coming in moments before it hit,” race director Carolyn Robinson said, via KSN. “It was moments after that that we got word that a participant had been struck by lightning.”
While he didn’t technically cross the finish line, race organizers said Stanley did complete a 50-kilometer run in distance. He finished the race in 11th place with a time of 6:59:05.
“Thomas’ family says that the chances of being killed by a lightning strike are about one in a million, and Thomas was truly a one-in-a-million guy,” race organizers said in a statement on Facebook. “Our deepest condolences to Thomas’ family and all who knew this wonderful man.”
The Andover, Kansas, native graduated from Wichita State in 2008 and was a board member of Run Wichita, a running club in the city, according to the Wichita Eagle.
“My heart hurts and I feel sick to my stomach,” his wife, Ashley, wrote on Facebook. “I had 15 blessed years of knowing my best friend and I was planning to have 79. Please keep our family in your prayers. I want so badly for him to hold me now and to feel his face on mine. He was the most amazing man — and I’m not just saying that.”
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