clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Lisa Rasch will run the Ragnar Relay leg her late husband started a year ago, while spreading love in his memory

PARK CITY — When Lisa Rasch’s family asked her if she wanted to run on the Ragnar relay team organized to honor her late husband’s life, she didn’t hesitate to decline the invitation.

“I said, ‘I don’t think I could do that,’” she said. “And then I thought, ‘But who is going to be runner 3 because that’s Ty. And he hasn’t finished.’”

At 46, Tyler Rasch was running his first Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay last June when, less than a half mile from the end of his first leg, he collapsed and died. Another runner later told Lisa that Ty passed him, patting him on the back as he did.

“He told me Ty said, ‘Can you believe we paid money to do this?’” Lisa said. “‘And then about 10 yards in front of me, he bent over like he was trying to catch his breath, and then fell down.’”

Other runners and emergency workers administered CPR within 30 seconds of Rasch collapsing. Lisa would later learn that her husband had an undiagnosed bicuspid aortic valve that caused his heart to become enlarged.

“I could not believe it,” she said of Ty’s unexpected death. “He was in great shape.”

Lisa has always loved running. Her husband, on the other hand, began competing in triathlons about five years earlier in hopes of getting in better shape.

“He really loved biking,” she said. “He didn’t love running, but he did it.”

About 18 months ago, Ty Rasch, who was the CIO of 4Life, decided he wanted to organize a team of employees to participate in the 2015 Ragnar Relay’s Wasatch Back. Lisa had run the 200-ish mile relay race from Logan to Soldier Hollow eight times, but Tyler would be experiencing the unique event for the first time last June 19-20.

As the couple prepared for the race, Lisa began to feel anxious.

“I had this crazy anxiety about the race,” she said. “I kept telling him, ‘This is not a good idea. I don’t think we should do it.’ And he kept saying, ‘What are you doing? You’ve done this eight times.’”

The nagging negative feeling only seemed to intensify as race weekend drew closer. She thought it was because she usually ran with a group of girlfriends, who coincidentally decided not to organize a team that year.

She thought it might be pre-race jitters or a lack of sleep. As the team started, her anxiety eased and she slipped into the comfort of a familiar experience. Her husband was runner number three, and he began his first leg — a fairly moderate seven-mile stretch that started in Hyrum and ended in Paradise — about 7 a.m.

She said he ran faster than expected, looked strong and seemed to be enjoying himself as they checked on him during his run.

With one mile to go, Lisa said she ran to him and offered him one last drink of water.

“I was all excited,” she said. “He’s usually the guy supporting us. I told him, ‘You are doing so good!’”

Then she climbed back in the van and the team drove to the exchange location at an LDS church.

“We were waiting, and I started to realize, ‘It’s taking too long,’” she said. “Especially because he’d been running so strong.’ Then we heard rumors that a runner collapsed, and I thought, ‘That’s it. He’s stopped to help someone.’”

Her stomach started to churn and she tracked his phone.

“It had stopped,” she said. “I gave him a few minutes, and then something said, ‘You need to go check it out.’” She and a teammate walked about two tenths of a mile around a curve in the road and saw a crowd and an ambulance.

“I scanned the heads because Ty is 6-3,” she said. “I couldn’t see him. My eyes went down to the ground, and I saw his green shoes. He was laying on the ground. They were working on him.”

Lisa rode in the ambulance to Logan Regional Hospital where they battled to save her husband for more than an hour. They approached her about ending CPR and Lisa said she begged them to keep trying.

“He’s my best friend,” she said she told the doctor. “We have three kids.”

About 15 minutes later, the doctor told her he was gone, and she said the pain eclipsed everything.

“There were these noises coming out of me,” she said. “I thought, ‘I think that sound is coming out of my mouth.’ I just couldn’t believe it. I was there for a long time. I was pretty hysterical. It was like a dream.”

In the wake of losing her husband, she couldn’t run. She found strength in the support of her friends and family who have continued to rally around her and her three children — Jaden, 21, Jessica, 18, and Jaxon, 13.

“You’re not thinking about anything,” she said. “You’re surviving five minutes at a time.” She lists off the acts of service — small and large — that helped her family through Ty’s funeral and the year of firsts without the man who’d been big in stature and spirit. Over and over her husband’s generous nature came back to the family in ways they never expected.

In January, Lisa started running again, but she had no intention of running this weekend’s Wasatch Back until her cousin asked about forming a team in Ty’s memory — Remember the Ty-tans.

When Lisa asked about leg 3, her sister offered to be runner three, and then she offered that stretch of the race to Lisa, who initially declined.

“My sister said, ‘You can run any part of that if you want to run,’” Lisa recalled. “I just kept thinking about it for about two weeks. I told my sister, ‘I want leg 3. I don’t think I can do the whole thing. But I want to finish that leg for him.’ He would do that for me; so I’m going to do that for him.”

Lisa said this weekend’s race is especially tough as the anniversary of Ty’s death falls on Father’s Day. The family has made plans to spend the morning exploring American Fork Canyon in their Jeep and the afternoon engaging in random acts of kindness. They did it on his birthday, even asking others to do so and send them pictures, and she said it transformed the day for her family.

“What gift do you give an angel?” she said. “You have to give a day of service. It helped us survive that day knowing people were living like Ty would live and doing it in his honor.”

She is looking forward to finishing what her husband started last year on the Ragnar course.

“I think...the whole race, I'll be running it with different eyes,” she said of the idea of honoring Ty and remembering his generous life. “You want to be the one out there supporting, helping, cheering on. It's not about winning; it's just about giving back to the running community."

In addition to finishing what her husband started, Lisa sees the 7 miles she’ll run Friday morning as an opportunity to thank the running community for its support of her family. The family just started a foundation that aims to engage in random acts of kindness while raising awareness about heart health and defects — Treasure Your Heart. She had magnets and cards made so she and her family can hand them out along the route.

“I feel like we’ve got to do something,” she said of why they started Treasure Your Heart. “The community has been so fabulous to us. … Ty is the guy who was always there to help you. That’s what life is about; you help others. He truly loved and helped everybody.”

Email: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: adonsports