A Tennessee pastor and father of five died Saturday after suffering a heart attack during the third annual St. Jude IRONMAN 70.3 Memphis triathlon meant for “courageous people who aren’t afraid to push their limits.”
Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova announced on Facebook that Tim Shelton, their Groups Leadership and Family Life pastor, passed away during the event held in Shelby Farms Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country. Shelton was 53.
“Known for his kindness toward everyone, Tim touched many lives as he consistently lived out the faith he professed. While we grieve Tim’s absence, we grieve with much hope, and we rejoice that he is now in the presence of the Lord Jesus. Please pray for his wife, Susan, and his sons, Jack, Gray, Sam, Drew, and John David,” Bellevue Baptist Church said in a general statement on Sunday.
The St. Jude IRONMAN triathlon consists of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run.
A statement released by IRONMAN Memphis on their Facebook page Saturday said Shelton suffered cardiac arrest during the swim portion of the event.
“It is with great remorse to confirm the death of a race participant during Saturday’s IRONMAN 70.3 Memphis triathlon. During the swim portion of the race, the athlete signaled for support and was attended to by the swim safety team for immediate medical assistance,” the event organizer explained. “The athlete was transported to a nearby hospital where they continued to receive critical medical treatment and care. Sadly, the athlete passed away today. Our sincere condolences go out to the athlete’s family and friends, whom we will continue to offer our support.”
A statement from BPC Performance Coaching where Shelton got personal training said it was his first time doing the event but he was “fit, ready, and super jazzed” for it.
“As you may have heard, BPC Athlete Tim Shelton suffered from cardiac arrest yesterday during the swim portion of Ironman 70.3 Memphis and is now with His Father. Tim was a husband, father, pastor, triathlete, and all-around ball of positivity. He was our most consistent squad member and was fit, ready, and super jazzed for his first 70.3,” the coaching service noted.
“The last thing he asked before leaving the pre-race meeting was how many athletes, we had racing so he and his congregation could pray for the safety of all of our athletes. We now ask you [to] pray for his family and loved ones during this difficult time,” the coaching group continued. “As coaches, this has been a worst nightmare come true. We are completely gutted. It’s not supposed to happen like this. It’s supposed to be a day that we all celebrate as a team the hard work that everyone put in.”
Drew Tucker, an associate pastor at Bellevue, said in a statement cited by Fox 13 that Shelton “loved Jesus Christ” and “He never hesitated to point people to his Lord and Savior. None of us are perfect, but Tim was intent on representing Jesus with integrity and excellence.”
He said the late pastor was loyal to his church and family and intentional in his approach to life.
“Tim was one of the kindest and most intentional men I’ve ever known. He was a man always looking for ways to encourage others. He served people selflessly and with love,” Tucker said. “While Bellevue Baptist Church will greatly miss Tim, we know that his impact here and in the Memphis community will last for generations.”
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