Thursday, June 23, 2011

So Long, Cousin: Ric Sayre 1953 - 2011

Former US marathon champion and winner of the inagural Los Angeles Marathon in 1986, Ric Sayre, who was a distant cousin, passed away unexpectedly on June 20 in Ashland OR, where he had lived for the past 30 years. He was 57 and still in top shape. Apparently his heart just gave out after a run.

More biographical information was published from a local paper in Ashland.

As a young runner and racing fan in the late 1970s I first noticed Ric's name in Boston Marathon results, probably 1978 when he ran a breakthrough 30th place. He was just an average-decent runner in high school, where he never broke 10 minutes for the 2 mile. Went to junior college and then Walsh University in his home state of Ohio, and began to make some noise on the marathon circuit a few years later.

I'd always been told by my parents that all Sayre's in the US are related, descended from Thomas Sayre an English yeoman who arrived in the 1640s and settled into Southampton, Long Island with his young family.

Through the 1980s Ric was a prolific marathoner. He moved to Oregon for a better training environment and to make a go as a professional runner. In his career he ran 50 marathons, winning 12 including some major races and a PR of 2:12:59. He was known to do several marathons a year and credited his healthy lifestyle and good diet to the rapid recovery.

More than 15 years after his peak, in 2005, I ventured down to California International Marathon for a late fall "consolation" effort. A stress fracture and some ill-timed chest pains had curtailed my late summer running season, and I had missed the chance to run Equinox or a fast fall marathon in the lower 48. All healed up and healthy, I attempted a crash training program, going from 20 miles a week in September to 60 or 70 in October in November.

The morning before the race I walked from the hotel to a running store in Sacramento to try on some training shoes. In walked Ric--I hadn't seen his picture in years but immediately recognized him. So I introduced myself and we talked for a bit. Within a minute I KNEW we were related--like long lost cousins. He had a friendly intensity, and it felt that he was easier to relate to than my own brothers who were about his age.

Ric had just run a 33 minute 10K (or maybe sub 33) at 51 and was hoping to go for a US masters (50+) marathon record of 2:25. My goal was 2:50. We bid adeiu and promised to keep in touch. Neither of us had a memorable day. Rick missed the start, bonked at 18 miles, and dropped out. While I made it to the start, I also hit the wall at 18 and struggled in with my slowest non-Equinox effort, an agonizing 3:00:01.

So while our goals on that day were not reached we did contact each other and kept in touch. And a few years ago Ric contacted me again to ask about our geneaology. Indeed we were related, and Thomas Sayre 1597 - 1670 was our common ancestor. Among Thomas's sons were Daniel b 1633 and Joseph b 1630. Ric was a descendent of Daniel and I was from Joseph's line.

We had hoped to meet up; I invited him to do Equinox or Midnight Sun Run, and he said we'd be welcome to visit him in Oregon.

We never got that chance.

Strangely, on Monday the day he passed, I was thinking about Ric, wondering if he ever noticed my numerous race updates on Facebook--about the only time I post an update on my life is such and such race--and in the back of my mind going, yeah, I need to keep in touch.

Now he's gone. Life is so short. The articles I've read and comments from friends and family all point to the fact that he was a kind and decent man, as well as a great runner/competitor. He will be missed and I offer my condolences to Ric's family and friends.

Rest in peace, cousin!

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