A marathon runner in Ontario has died after collapsing near the finish line at the Road2Hope marathon in Hamilton on Sunday, the city's emergency service confirmed.

The collapse happened around 10 a.m. local time near the finish line. The runner, a man in his mid-50s who was taking part in the half marathon race, was without vital signs when he fell down, according to Doug Waugh, deputy chief of operation with Hamilton Paramedic Service.

A number of doctors and nurses who were volunteering at the marathon performed CPR on the man, Waugh said. 

"So he was treated immediately," he told CBC Hamilton.

He was transported to Hamilton General Hospital where he died, Waugh said. 

The hospital is not releasing the name of the runner due to patient confidentiality, a spokesperson said. 

Swift response

Race organizers issued a statement Sunday night, sending their thoughts and prayers to the family. 

"Unfortunately, events such as today can happen at marathon races and our medical staff were prepared and ready to respond," the statement reads. 

The runner collapsed 10 metres away from the finish line, according to the organizers. The emergency response team, which includes physicians, nurses, paramedics and first aid responders, assisted the runner immediately. 

"Despite their heroic efforts, they were unable to revive him," the statement continues. 

The Road2Hope marathon, a two-day event, drew 5,000 people to Hamilton, according to organizers. About 2,000 runners took part in the half marathon and 1,000 in the full marathon on Sunday. The 1K, 5K and 10K races took place on Saturday. 

The half marathon was briefly stopped and detoured as paramedics treated the runner near the finish line. The full marathon wasn't affected by the incident, as the man had been taken to the hospital by the time the first full marathoners approached the finish area. 

'What if that was us?'

Toby Cockcroft from Toronto was among the group of half marathon runners who were stopped after the man collapsed. He said emergency staff on site approached the man immediately and performed chest compression for about seven minutes. 

The race's medical director also used a smartphone to time the sequence and called out instructions, he recalled. 

"It was very professional," he said. "I don't know what else they could have done to him."

Hamilton Road2Hope marathon

Runners approach the finish line at Road2Hope marathon Sunday morning. The two-day event drew 5,000 people to Hamilton, according to organizers. (Sunnie Huang/CBC)

Nonetheless, Cockcroft said it is still upsetting to see a fellow runner in medical distress. 

"There was no life in him. His eyes were half open. His face was all bloodied," he told CBC News. "It was pretty disturbing to see him in that stage."

It isn't the first time that Cockcroft, who has been running for seven years and has completed five marathons, witnessed a running-related death. A man collapsed near the finish line at a 10-kilometre race in Toronto several years ago and also died.

Underlying heart conditions, which are aggravated by the stress of running, are usually to blame, according to Cockcroft. 

The 45-year-old said the incident has reminded him to assess his heart condition too and he plans to discuss it with his doctor during his next checkup. 

"What if that was us? What should we do to make sure it doesn't happen to us?"

Both the half marathon and the full marathon on Sunday began at ArcelorMittal Dofasco Park in Hamilton's Stoney Creek neighbourhood and ended in Confederation Park. The full marathon kicked off at 8 a.m., followed by the half marathon 15 minutes later. 

Billed as the No.1 qualifier in Canada for the Boston Marathon, the event is now in its eighth year.