A University of Wisconsin Pharmacy School graduate student died late Sunday morning immediately after finishing the Little Rock Marathon in Little Rock, Ark.
According to race director Gina Marchese Pharis, 27-year-old Adam Nickel collapsed and died between 11 a.m. and noon, shortly after crossing the finish line of the 26.2-mile race in three hours and two minutes.
“We had a great day, the weather was nice and the aura of the race was positive,” Pharis said. “It is very sad to have the loss of Adam. We have not had a fatality before.”
Pharis added while no one has previously died at the Little Rock Marathon, there have been medical situations before that have required medical attention for runners, and the event was prepared for emergencies. She said there was an ambulance on site, as well as four medical sites spread throughout the course.
There were also medical bike teams on the course Pharis described as “mini-ambulances on bikes.” She added all of these facilities had defibrillators ready.
UW Pharmacy School dean Jeannette Roberts said she had recently met with Nickel to discuss his fundraising efforts. She said he was interested in raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in memory of his grandmother and wanted to include the school in his efforts.
“He was one of our top students, and he was very engaged in student organizations and activities throughout the school,” Roberts said. “We send our sincere condolences to the Nickel family and stand ready with them to devise a suitable way to remember Adam.”
Roberts added UW is prepared to help grieving students to cope with the loss of their friend.
“We’re trying to be very thoughtful and have engaged the counselors, as well as the dean of students, to help us address the situation,” Roberts said.
UW professor of sports medicine David Bernhardt said while some people as young as Nickel have been known to have heart attacks, it is more common for people that young who die playing a sport to have suffered from a congenital heart disease.
Congenital heart disease is something a person is born with, according to Bernhardt. These diseases can often have no symptoms and go undetected until a person suffers through a traumatic episode or dies suddenly.
“These conditions are relatively rare, but it is scary to think about,” Bernhardt said. “People are walking around with these conditions that are not aware of it.”
Bernhardt added the cause Nickel’s death may be discovered in 24 to 48 hours if there is something obvious that appears on the autopsy. However, he said it may take several weeks to a month to find the cause, or it may never be discovered at all.