KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A distance runner was killed by lightning as he was about to cross the finish line for a 50 kilometer race in southeast Kansas.
Thomas Stanley, 33, of Andover, was less than a quarter mile from finishing the FlatRock trail race at the Elk City State Park when he was struck around 2:15 p.m. Saturday, said race director Carolyn Robinson.
She said the day started off hot and sunny before a small storm hit the area about 150 miles southwest of Kansas City, Missouri, “without warning.” Robinson said Stanley was struck “the moment the storm blew in.” While some racers, including a doctor, attempted CPR, others in the crowd jumped in their vehicles and drove to a straight stretch of road that leads to the finish line, so other runners could get inside and out of the storm, she said.
“A lot of the participants who were there tending to him are having a very hard time dealing with this loss,” she said. “They did everything they could.”
Race organizers said in a Facebook post that Stanley was included as a finisher in the final results because, although he didn’t cross the finish line, he completed the full distance. The results show he came in 11th out of 104 competitors. Robinson says his wife was presented the finisher award he would have received. The couple had three children, the oldest just 6. Robinson said they are “devastated.”
His family described him in a statement as a “devoted husband, father, and friend.”
One of his friends, Ben Davis, 35, of Wichita, described Stanley as a “running evangelist” who had previously run at least two other much longer, 100-mile events. Davis ran alongside him to provide support for parts of those races.
“He loved the endurance challenge of overcoming the difficulty it would take on you,” Davis said.
He said Stanley would prepare by running through the night and then going to work the next day on no sleep. Stanley worked for the nonprofit Kansas Leadership Center. Davis said Stanley focused on interfaith leadership development, teaching people to use their influence “no matter how big or how small, to help others.”
The intensity he brought to running, he also brought to parenting, Davis explained.
“Everybody who has kids knows how overwhelming it is, the chaos and the exhaustion. But he embraced it,” Davis said. “He was just such a remarkable person.”