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Upper Darby athletic trainer suffers fatal heart attack during Broad Street Run

It was at least the third death in the race's 40-year history.

Brian Smart, 25, of Hatboro, died after suffering a heart attack during Sunday's Broad Street Run.
Brian Smart, 25, of Hatboro, died after suffering a heart attack during Sunday's Broad Street Run.Read moreFacebook

An athletic trainer at Upper Darby High School suffered a fatal heart attack while running in Sunday’s Broad Street Run, district officials said.

Brian Smart, 25, of Hatboro, was running at a good pace when he collapsed after the 8-mile mark, said Frank Nunan, district athletic director, citing a conversation with a family member. Emergency responders tended to him immediately, but he was pronounced dead after being transported to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, city officials said.

“He was in great shape,” Nunan said. “It’s just so tragic.”

Smart had started the job at Upper Darby in the fall. Students left flowers, drawings, and messages at the school athletic offices all day, Nunan said.

“He was above and beyond what we could’ve ever imagined,” Nunan said.

Family members told Nunan they appreciated the support and prayers from the community.

“The world certainly lost a good one yesterday," Smart’s father, Bill, told Nunan.

City officials said the Medical Examiner’s Office was investigating the cause of death and could not disclose additional information.

In a statement, Mayor Jim Kenney and race director Leo Dignam said, “We are grateful to our first responders and the hospital staff who tried valiantly to save his life, and those who were there to aid and comfort his family. The entire city stands with Brian’s family and friends in the wake of their loss.”

In general, regular aerobic activity is beneficial to the heart and is associated with a longer life span. But the risk of sudden cardiac arrest and heart attack rises a bit during strenuous activity and then goes back down.

Runners are not immune from fatal heart events. The most famous example was running guru Jim Fixx, who died while running in 1984 at age 52. (He had an elevated risk of heart disease before he took up running at 36, as he had been a heavy smoker and had a family history of heart trouble.)

At least two other Broad Street Run entrants have died in the race’s 40-year history.

Richard Lagocki, 45, of Port Richmond, died in 1998 after collapsing near the halfway point of the 10-mile race, despite a resuscitation attempt by a cardiologist and a nurse who also were competing.

In 2007, Robert Massaroni, 29, a champion martial-arts instructor and seventh-grade teacher at Bensalem’s Shafer Middle School, collapsed and died moments after he finished the Broad Street Run.