x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Sister runs New York Marathon in tribute to dead swimmer

Maddy Crippen was planning to withdraw from running the New York Marathon after her brother Fran's death devastated the family, until a friend persuaded her to still take part.

The American swimmer Francis 'Fran' Crippen, who died in Fujairah last month.
The American swimmer Francis 'Fran' Crippen, who died in Fujairah last month.

Maddy Crippen was planning to withdraw from running the New York Marathon last Sunday after her brother Francis's death devastated the family.

But Jack Roach, a good friend of her late brother's, had just come back from the UAE with his body and insisted that Maddy stick by her resolve to run.

"He said to me, 'You have to run, that's what Fran would want you to do'," she said.

Francis had run the New York Marathon twice, in 2008 and 2009, Maddy said. "He loved it, he said it was the coolest sporting event he ever did. He said, 'Maddy, you have to put it on your list'."

Ms Crippen, a 30-year-old marketing professional completed the race in four hours, six minutes and 19 seconds. After 29km, the run almost got the best of her. She described it as the most horrendous thing she had ever done in her life. But when she crossed the finish line, she knew she would be repeating the experience again next year, and that she would run for the soon-to-be-formed Fran Crippen Elevation Foundation.

"Our goal [with the foundation] is to provide funds for athletes who don't have the money to support themselves," she said, whether for a 16-year-old whose parents cannot afford to send them to swim meets, or a 30-year-old athlete who needs health insurance to attend the Olympics.

The foundation will help keep her brother's spirit alive, and his family plan to throw themselves into ensuring the foundation is a success. "He had a big spirit so it's hard, but we're trying," Ms Crippen.

That spirit had him decked out in head-to-toe Philadelphia Phillies gear when he ran the marathon in 2008, in honour of his local baseball team, which had won the World Series that year.

"Our big rivals a lot of the time [in baseball] are New York. Fran ran the whole race through New York in his Phillies T-shirt, shorts, everything, so of course he got a few boos," his sister recalled.

For her, it was just the sort of prank her brother would relish. "He was just a really fun person. You knew that if Fran was around you were going to have a good time," she said.

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