HOUSTON – Harry Vroulis died doing what he loved.
The 74-year-old, whose full name, Theocharis, means “gift from God” in Greek, died on Sunday while running his 36th consecutive Houston Marathon. At least. His family lost count.
“He was trying to prove that he was immortal by running every year,” his brother, George Vroulis, said, adding that Harry even ran in 2010, the year after he beat cancer.
Harry Vroulis was born in Athens, Greece and after his undergraduate degree, in the late 1960s, he moved to Houston and earned his master’s degree in mechanical engineering.
He started running the Houston Marathon sometime in the early 1980s.
“Today I held a dying man’s hand,” Diane McMaster wrote to KPRC. “He was running mile 16 in the Houston Marathon ... near my house, as I was walking my usual path.”
“He was running in my direction, near me, when suddenly he collapsed and fell, and I rushed over to him because it looked like he had tripped,” McMaster added.
“I called 911. I held his hand and called his name, Harry," she wrote.
The ambulance rushed Vroulis to the hospital but he did not make it.
“Devastated,” George Vroulis said, in tears. “I want to thank that woman for what she wrote. For what she did”
“It makes me happy to know that there was someone who was caring that was there at the very end,” Nicolas Vroulis, Harry’s nephew, said.
Three weeks ago, the family says a doctor checked out Harry Vroulis and everything looked good. Exactly what happened is still a mystery to them.
In a second incident at the marathon, a 50-year-old man had just finished when he also suffered an apparent heart attack, officials said. Houston Fire Department paramedics took the man to a nearby hospital where he is expected to survive.
Officials with the Chevron Houston Marathon released the following written statement:
"On behalf of the Houston Marathon Committee, we would like to express our most sincere condolences and support to their family, friends and running communities.
“Please keep both of these men and their families in your thoughts.”