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Long-distance runner killed by lightning metres from finish of 50km race

Long-distance runner Thomas Stanley was killed by lightning as he was about to cross the finish line for a 50km race. Credit: Mile 90 Photography via AP

A long-distance runner has died after being struck by lightning just metres from the finish line of a 50km race.

Thomas Stanley, 33, was less than half a kilometre from completing the FlatRock trail race in Elk City State Park, Kansas, when he was hit by freak weather.

Race director Carolyn Robinson said weather in the day was hot and sunny before a small storm hit the area about 150 miles south west of Kansas City "without warning".

Ms Robinson said Mr Stanley was hit "the moment the storm blew in".

One of the racers who is a doctor attempted CPR on Mr Stanley. Other runners got into their vehicle to avoid the adverse weather, Ms Robinson said.

She said: "A lot of the participants who were there tending to him are having a very hard time dealing with this loss.

“They did everything they could.”

Race organisers said in a Facebook post that Mr Stanley was included as a finished in the final results because although he did not cross the finish line, he had completed the full distance, placing 11th out of 104 runners.

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Mr Stanley's wife was presented with the finisher award he would have received. The couple had three children, the oldest aged six.

In a statement, Mr Stanley's family said they were "devastated" by their loss and described him as a “devoted husband, father and friend”.

Ben Davis, 35, of Wichita, described Mr Stanley as a "running evangelist" who had previously ran at least two 100-mile events.

Mr Davis ran alongside him to provide support for parts of those races.

“He loved the endurance challenge of overcoming the difficulty it would take on you,” Mr Davis said.

He said Mr Stanley would prepare by running through the night and then going to work the next day on no sleep.

He worked for the non-profit Kansas Leadership Centre. Mr Davis said he focused on interfaith leadership development, teaching people to use their influence “no matter how big or how small, to help others”.