Mark Heinemann's Passing

It is with great sadness that we forward you this email from all of Mark's
friends in the community.

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It is with great sorrow we inform you that Mark Heinemann, age 46,
died peacefully in his sleep on the morning of Friday, January 2,
almost a full day after courageously completing 207.54 miles in a
48-hour ultramarathon race at the Across the Years event in Phoenix,
Arizona. Mark was a man with a huge heart who loved running. His
passionate nature, capacity for incredible stamina and determination,
and relentless sense of humor were a source of inspiration and
support to so many people who knew and ran with him.

Mark also touched people deeply teaching music, his other great
passion. To students of all ages he offered his talents, knowledge,
creativity and love of music from blues to jazz to rock & roll to
classical. He even wrote and performed ultrarunning ballads full of
warmth and wit. He felt what he had gotten from ultrarunning added
great depth and breadth to both his appreciation of and teaching of
music. It enhanced both his compassion and empathy for the
difficulties his students might encounter and his 'can-do' attitude
and skills in helping them overcome any fears and limitations, such
as lack of confidence or discipline, that might otherwise have
interfered with fully developing their musical talents, skills and
appreciation.

He also taught workshops, called Models for Change, that focused on
how to create a healthy and harmonious lifestyle and move positively
forward in one's life. He left unfulfilled a vision he had of
offering 10-day workshop retreats, The Compleat Musician, to combine
teaching music with the lifestyle practices that he felt had greatly
helped him with his ultrarunning, his music, and his overall
enjoyment of life.

His commitment, joy and enthusiasm for the sport of ultrarunning
propelled him through 7 Leadville Trail 100 races, 2 Rocky Raccoon
100 Mile Trail Runs, 2 Umstead 100 Endurance Runs, the 2003 San Diego
National 24 hour Championship, and running Across the Years in
Phoenix, Arizona for three consecutive years - once for 24 hours and
twice for 48 hours. In these 15 races, he had an impressive 9 top-10
finishes - one an outright win and course record! At Leadville, he
always finished among the top runners receiving large buckles for
completing it in under 25 hours. In the highly competitive 24 hour
National Championship race, in San Diego this past November, he ran a
PR, completing 130.32 miles, placing 1st in his age group and 10th
overall. In 12 years of running and racing ultras, he did not have a
single DNF.

His warrior spirit never let him quit. His dream had been to run in
the Championship level 48 hour race this coming May 28th in Surgeres,
France. This elite race is by invitation only and features the top 48
hour runners in the world. Mark received an invitation as a result of
his great first-time showing in the 48 hour event last year at Across
the Years, running 222.2 miles, which was the 2nd best performance by
an American for the year. This accomplishment placed him into the
upper echelon of accomplished 48 hour runners, with whom he shared
the top four honors for 2002: John Geesler - a multiple 24 hour
National Champion and pending 48 hour record holder (as of this
Across the Years race), Roy Pirrung - a genuine legend with medals
and records too numerous to mention, and Jeff Hagen, who Mark felt
especially close to - one of the most consistent high level
performers in 24 hour and 48 hour races and a brief holder of several
age group records until recently supplanted by Pirrung. He felt both
humbled and inspired to have crossed paths for the first time this
last year with such luminaries of the sport.

Mark always stood out first and foremost among us in being the only
one to passionately aspire to and dream of running races longer than
100 miles or 24 hours - like 48 hours, 6 days, and the TransAmerica
race. His coach and teacher, Yo Tizer, always did his best to sober
him both as to the demands of such distances and his readiness to do
them, encouraging him to focus on them further down the road so he
would be as fully ready to do races of such magnitude as one could
be, short of actually doing one. It was commonplace among those who
knew them both, to watch Mark chide Yo for spending so much time
talking about ultrarunning and Yo retort it was only because Mark
endlessly asked him so many related questions.

Mark wanted to do another 48 hour race as a stepping stone and tune
up for running side by side with the best in the world at Surgeres.
He considered running 48 hours at the Houston Ultra Event Weekend in
late February, which would have allowed for a fuller recovery from
San Diego while still allowing a reasonable prep time for Surgeres.
However, Mark very much loved and appreciated the Across the Years
event, the people who he got to know there - the loyal fans of the
race who ran it year after year, the organizers, volunteers and other
handlers, who all contributed to the support, camaraderie, and warm
family feel of this race. Despite it being so close in on the heels
of San Diego, he didn't want to pass up the opportunity to run it
again. He had dearly wanted and expected to improve on his
performance at last year's Across the Years despite it being a
possibly slower and more challenging course (this year run on a
beautiful dirt loop at Nardini Manor rather than the 1/4 mile
all-weather track of prior years). As always, he gave it a truly
gallant effort to the end despite falling short of his goal.
Anyone who has tried their hand at endurance sports has tasted the
deep satisfaction of calling forth their full physical, mental and
emotional capacities. Mark uncovered a fierce strength in himself
through his endeavors with running, but also a vulnerability in being
human and facing limits. He had an intense desire to bring out the
best in himself and in others, to lend a helping hand, to believe
anything is possible. To the end he never gave up, never lost hope,
never forgot that living life fully and rightly is what it is all
about.

At approximately 10:15 in the morning of January 2nd, Mark was
discovered in his bed, not breathing and cold. Friends called 911 and
performed CPR in an attempt to revive him. When the EMTs arrived they
pronounced him dead.

The police officers who were on the scene, interviewing several of us
as part of standard police procedure and acting as intermediaries
between ourselves and the medical people, were exceedingly empathetic
and warm. We deeply appreciated how they treated us like family in
terms of the normal procedures they go through with a deceased
person. It helped us immensely in dealing with this loss.
Both of the officers made personal comments that showed their
understanding and depth of feeling about the situation. There were
also some striking coincidences with both of them. The officer whose
first name was Mark and whose pronunciation of his own last name
sounded to several of us like "Strong" but was actually Skrogh told
us we should keep on running in memory of Mark, that he would always
be there right behind us. The second officer, Bradford Knights,
talked about how his body structure was similar to Mark's right down
to the depression in his sternum and said he had always wanted to
run, but had been unable to because of weakness in his lungs. Against
that background, he really respected Mark for his running
accomplishments. Like Mark he also was a musician. Having traveled
with a band he was well familiar with the challenges of traveling
with a group of people and could see how well-loved Mark was by all
of us.

As demanding and potentially life-threatening as extreme endurance
sports can be, we still do not yet know why he died. According to an
unofficial report, the initial autopsy came up negative in terms of
the kinds of things you would most expect to be possibilities as to
the actual cause of death- such as heart attack, lung failure,
suffocation, etc. We have been told it will take 4–16 weeks to
complete the lab work on blood and other bodily samples to hopefully
uncover an exact cause of death and help us understand what went so
fatally wrong in his body despite having been a veteran of so many
previous events and years of long practice in the sport. We can only
speculate what, if anything, the lab work might reveal in terms of
the cause of death: if it was too severe a shock to his body to have
used non-prescription pain relievers (like Aleve) for the first time
in years (on his final day of the race he took 2 doses of this type
of pain reliever) having stopped taking them during races because of
previous adverse effects - dehydration, stomach problems, vomiting,
etc. and because, being so healthy, he had no cause to need them or
any drugs for that matter in his normal conduct of life; or owing to
some pre-existent medical condition neither Mark nor any of the rest
of us were aware of that might have in conjunction with the stress of
running 2 big endurance events less than 8 weeks apart for the first
time (despite that being hardly out of the ordinary for many others
in this sport); or if he fell victim to infections or viral agents
given the increased vulnerability of the immune system after such an
exertion; or if somehow the fact that he ate far less than we can
normally count on him doing given his usual chow-down approach to
these types of races contributed to some massive depletion of
physical and chemical reserves; or if it was owing to a most
unfortunate combination of several of these factors. But even looking
at all these factors it is still hard to fathom them leading to
anything more than a severe illness.

We had hoped ourselves to know and be able to share something more
definitive about what actually led to his death with all his friends
and well-wishers. Unfortunately at this point it remains inscrutable
how this could have happened. When we learn anything we will let you
know.

We all know that such things can and do happen when testing the
limits of human endurance but it is still so very difficult to fathom
or believe it could ever hit so close to home, especially in the case
of anyone as well conditioned and experienced in the sport as Mark
was. While it proved to be a very hard race for him, he's had other
hard times in the past. We have seen him persevere through great
duress before, just as we have all witnessed and been inspired
countless times by the enormous perseverance so many in our sport
have shown in the face of comparable extreme physical difficulty.
Since he generally has looked very distressed near the end of and
after his races and then recovered and been fine, this was a total
shock to us.

Mark accepted and loved the challenges, risks and rewards of
participating in more extreme endurance events, as an ever increasing
number have also come to enjoy and love them. For Mark it was even
more striking given his background of growing up in Manhattan, not
even knowing how to drive a car until he moved away, and never being
athletic as a youth. He was very proud of his athletic achievements;
they meant a lot to him and were part of his efforts to realize his
deepest potential. Early in the race we were all struck by and
commenting on how much more joyous and relaxed he was in this race
than any of us have ever seen him be so early on in any of his other
races. It felt like he was on the verge of getting to a whole other
level with his running and other related personal goals.

We are deeply heartbroken and in grief as we are sure all those who
knew Mark will be and we send our condolences to all those others who
along with us will suffer his death. We appreciate, hope and pray
that all others will do their very best during this trying time to
make his passage into the dimensions beyond this earthly life a
smooth, graceful and joyous one and will respect and carry on his
memory, and all that he was and felt deeply connected to in this
life, the direction of his own vision of the future and the ends
toward which he so energetically directed himself - his running,
music, his teaching, our community and its goals, and his own playful
approach to life. In his life in the community, as with running
ultras, he was tirelessly dedicated to promoting and furthering these
ends in the best possible way.

A memorial service in Boulder is being planned as well as possibly in
other locations. We will let you know more once it has been
scheduled. In addition we have begun talking about other types of
memoriums for him, his life and all he stood for and believed in, in
the hopes of reaping what valuable lessons we can from both his life
and death. In this way we seek to honor him and perpetuate the light
he brought into this world and the realization of his great hopes for
others.

Our Hearts are with You,
His Extended 'Family'