Pa. physician places others first during JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon
Laszlo Madaras runs in the JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon in this photo taken in 2005. Madaras did not complete last Saturday's JFK race because he missed a time cutoff, but the Greencastle, Pa., resident was slowed because he assisted three people who needed medical attention during the run. (Submitted Photo)
Before the race started, the physician at Waynesboro (Pa.) Hospital and Chambersburg (Pa.) Hospital learned that his close colleague at Chambersburg Hospital had died.
Marty Heine, Chambersburg Hospital's emergency room physician, was hiking with his wife on the Appalachian Trail in Greene Township, Pa., the day before the JFK 50 Mile when he collapsed.
The two doctors had become friends through their work.
Heine, 56, saw patients when they came into the emergency room at Chambersburg Hospital. Patients who were admitted would be turned over to Madaras.
Heine collapsed on the Appalachian Trail about an hour from the closest main road, and he died by the time medical crews arrived.
Madaras, 50, of Greencastle, Pa., was stunned to learn that the doctor with whom he spent so much time at the hospital since 1996 was gone.
Madaras said he thought about not running in the JFK, but couldn't bring himself to withdraw because of all of the training he had done for the competition.
So he pressed on.
"It was kind of hard to wrap my head around the race all day," Madaras said.
At about mile 13 of the race, Madaras said he heard a "crack."
He looked up and noticed a woman had fallen face first in a rocky area near Weverton Cliffs.
When Madaras reached the woman, she was not moving and she had an injury to her forehead, nose and knee.
Madaras felt compelled to stop, partly because of what had happened to his friend. He did some preliminary assessments on the woman and stayed with her for about 20 minutes until medical help arrived.
Madaras continued in the race and a short distance away, he saw another injured runner, an older man who Madaras worried might be having chest pains.
Again, Madaras stopped. He performed some preliminary assessments on the man and stayed with him for about 20 minutes until medical help arrived.
He stopped a third time between miles 27 and 34 when he came across a runner who was "hobbling pretty badly."
Madaras said he walked with the man to an aid station where he could get medical help.
By the time Madaras reached mile 34.4 in the race, he was informed that he missed a time cutoff and would have to drop out of the run.
Madaras said he told a race official that the reason he was behind schedule was because he was giving medical assistance to other runners. But Madaras said he respected the rules and didn't want to give the racing official a hard time.
The racing official gave Madaras a free entry into next year's race.
Madaras wrote a letter to JFK 50 Director Mike Spinnler to let him know why he did not finish the race. Madaras said he is a friend of Spinnler's and wanted to let him know what happened.
"If I had run past these fallen runners, and later learned that something critical happened to them, then the medal at the finish line would have meant something totally different to me, even if no one else knew. That is not what I wanted my 10th finisher medal to represent," Madaras told Spinnler in the letter.
Madaras said he later learned that the injured woman he helped near Weverton Cliffs finished the race.
He considered that a tribute to his friend Marty Heine.
"That's what he did," said Madaras, referring to emergency medical help.
Spinnler confirmed that Madaras was given a free entry into next year's race. When Madaras completes his 10th JFK 50, Spinnler said he plans to make a special announcement about Madaras' experience in this year's race.
"My hat is tipped to him," Spinnler said.