Cerritos, Calif. Man Dies After Running Philadelphia Half-Marathon

"It immediately struck me as odd," said Matthew Lee, when he received word that his brother, University of Pennsylvania senior Jeffrey Lee collapsed after crossing the finish line at the Philadelphia Marathon Sunday

Jeffrey Lee was a 21-year-old senior at the University of Pennsylvania, who, according to friends and family, had all the potential in the world.

One of 13 valedictorians in 2008 at Whitney High School in Cerritos, Calif., Lee went on to become a stellar college student, who was scheduled to graduate in May from a dual degree program at the Wharton School of Business and the School of Nursing at the university, according to Phyllis Holtzman, a school spokeswoman.

His friends and family will never know how far Lee’s potential would take him.

Lee was one of two runners who collapsed and died at the Philadelphia Marathon Sunday, Holtzman confirmed. Lee had participated in the half-marathon.

Lee, a dean's list scholar, had planned to move to Seattle, according to his brother, Matthew Lee.

"He just got a job offer from Microsoft a week or two ago," said Lee, who posted a message to his brother on Facebook.

"I remember talking to you just last night, about helping you move to Seattle after graduation and get started with your new job, and wishing you luck on the marathon," Lee wrote.


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"And now this."

Lee said his brother told him he wanted to run the Philadelphia marathon before he graduated. The night before the race, Lee said he got a text message from him.

"He was excited about it. He said it was 'Game Time. Time to run the marathon,'" Lee said.

Lee's family, who lives in Cerritos, got a phone call from the doctor several hours later.

"To make things worse, it was my mother's birthday yesterday," Lee said. "It was a very bad day."

Lee's classmates and friends gathered at a prayer session Sunday, according to school officials, who remember Lee as a "brilliant, engaged student."

“His close friends and classmates are terribly distraught," said Holtzman.

Penn President Amy Gutmann sent a statement Monday.

“We grieve that such a young and promising life has been taken from us so suddenly,” she said.

“At times like these we must come together as a community to mourn our loss and support the loved ones of Jeffrey Lee and one another.”

News of Lee’s tragic death flooded his own Facebook page with messages from classmates and high school friends.

“I still can’t believe it,” wrote Sarah Ko, who said she met Lee three years ago when they volunteered together, decorating a City of Cerritos float for the Pasadena Rose Parade.

“To me, he was like a brother and an inspirational motivator,” said Ko, who is now a high school senior.

“He always told me, ‘don’t give up.’”

Ko said Lee was well known not just because he was extremely smart, but also because he was “so genuine.”

“His death makes this world a lesser place for me,” Ko said.

Lee participated in Sunday’s 13.1-mile half-marathon and finished with a time of 1 hour, 58 minutes and 6 seconds, according to the race website.

School officials said it was unclear how Lee died, and whether he had experience running marathons.

He had a "clean bill of health," according to his brother who said he had run in races before, but nothing as long as a marathon.

"He was always setting goals, and exceeding expectations," Lee said of his little brother.

"He would always claim academics came first, but if a call came in from a friend, he would drop everything and go to them," Lee said. "He cared a lot more about other people than he cared about himself."

A 40-year old man, also died at Hahnemann University Hospital after participating in the marathon, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

Lee’s family arrived in Pennsylvania from Los Angeles Monday morning. Students were being encouraged to seek counseling services available through the university chaplain this week.

"Rest in Peace, Jeffrey Lee," wrote his brother Matthew.

"I guess in the end, you ran the good race."

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