Share This Page

Friends running to remember North Allegheny grad who died in race

| Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, 10:35 p.m.
Sean McKeag | Point Park News Service
Liz Lotz, left, 23, and Megan Prucnal, 23, train on treadmills for the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon at Pure Athletex in Wexford, Pa. on January, 22, 2014. They plan to run in the May 4, 2014, race in honor of Kyle Johnson, their friend who passed away last year of a rare heart disease while running in the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon.
Sean McKeag | Point Park News Service
Kyle Chase Johnson, 23, an employee of Deloitte & Touche and a graduate of Penn State University, collapsed and went into cardiac arrest on Sunday, May 5, 2013, during the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. He later died.
Sean McKeag | Point Park News Service
Megan Prucnal, 23, trains for the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon at the Pure Athletex club in Wexford, January 22, 2014.
Sean McKeag | Point Park News Service
While training for the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon at the Pure Athletex club in Wexford on January 22, 2013, Megan Prucnal, left, 23, and Kathy Arena, center, 54, watch a demonstration on the TRX, given by Kasey Arena, right, 24. All three of them are participating in the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon in honor of their friend Kyle Johnson, who died during the race last year.

Kyle Johnson conquered a half-marathon in New York last year and set his sights on the same race in Pittsburgh.

Slightly more than a mile from the finish line here on May 5, Johnson, 23, collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. He was pronounced dead a short time later in UPMC Mercy from what pathologists said was “an inherited abnormality of the coronary artery system,” which supplies blood and oxygen to the heart muscles.

His family and friends are honoring him this year by training to finish the race he wanted to complete.

“We need to celebrate his life,” said Megan Prucnal, a longtime friend of Johnson's. “Obviously, we are still upset about it, and I'm sure emotions are going to be really high … but we need to finish it for him. We all keep laughing, thinking about how he'll be enjoying himself up there, seeing us struggle across the finish line.”

The group is training for the Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Half-Marathon on May 4 and will run with customized bibs bearing the tag, “Run4Kyle.”

“When I first thought about his anniversary, I wanted to get out of Pittsburgh,” said Johnson's mother, Mary Beth Deal. “But when the idea of Run4Kyle came up and running in the marathon, it just felt right. Kyle would have wanted it.”

As word spread, someone set up an event on Facebook, leading hundreds to register for the race and use the hashtag #Run4Kyle when posting training updates and photos to social media sites.

“It kind of grew into its own monster,” Prucnal said. “It's kind of been this uniting measure with all of us, any time someone is doing something active, posting like, ‘I ran the lake this morning #Run4Kyle.'”

Johnson, a North Allegheny High School graduate who played football in high school, graduated with an accounting degree from Penn State University. He stayed active with sports and traveling.

He joined the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche in September 2012 as an auditor, moved to a Downtown apartment, and had just taken the first of four exams to become a Certified Public Accountant days before he died.

Employees of Deloitte & Touche are honoring Johnson's work and commitment with a plaque in the office.

Last year's race fell on Cinco de Mayo, and Johnson had planned a party with pancakes and margaritas at his apartment afterward. His family and friends intend to do that this year.

“The only thing that could have stopped him from completing that race was what happened, because he was really mentally tough,” said Alex Calder, Johnson's roommate and a childhood friend. “He probably would have completed it if he had a broken leg.”

Haley Wisniewski is a writer for Point Park News Service.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.