It has been just over twenty-four hours since the Cleveland Marathon ended. A day that 15,000 people looked forward to, and thousands others stood by to cheer for. There have been forty-two editions of this beautiful race, yet this one leaves all of us stunned and saddened.
About 400 yards from the finish, on the most spectated part of the course, the Cleveland running community lived a nightmare. A young woman collapsed in the finish line chute, ambulances raced towards her as distraught spectators watched in horror. Attempts to revive this beautiful young lady were unsuccessful as the medical staff tried time and time again on the course and on the way to the hospital, where she was ultimately pronounced dead.
On May 19, 2019, 22 year old Taylor Ceepo left her physical body on this earth, and left behind friends, family, and a grieving running community.
I want to say first and foremost, I cannot speak for the Ceepo family or for those who knew Taylor. I did not know her. But what I can speak to is that I am shaken by her death, as are all of my running friends. I remember standing at gear check with my friends Adam and Thomas as we heard ambulance sirens. I said “I get sick of hearing those things on days like today”. What was meant by this was I know that my comrades struggled in the elements of the day, and pushed their bodies beyond the brink. A part of each runner is eaten up by that sound on race day.
Little did I know, that comment was made to sound of the very ambulance speeding towards Taylor. The conditions were far from ideal, mid 80s for much of the day, and each whale of the siren always takes my mind to a dark place.
The circumstances are unknown at this point, but what is known is that a community of 15,000 runners and many more in our city and communities grieve with the Ceepo family. We lost one of our own.
In a race the distance of 13.1 or 26.2 miles (or even longer) you are supported by people you’ve never known. Those around you. I owe the finishing of races to people I’ve never met before, or seen again. You are fighting the distance and the elements together with the same goal – to finish! There is something so wholesome and genuine about those relationships and that community, and it makes us extremely tight-knit. It’s what causes you to talk to someone wearing a race shirt at a grocery store, to wave to the runner on the street that you drive past. It’s an interesting dynamic we have, and something I am so proud to be a part of.
My thoughts, oddly enough, keep going back to the start line of the Cleveland Marathon. This is such a religious experience for runners. The moments we wait for. The only time we all feel the same. There’s no pain to push through and no heat to sweat. We are just waiting in excitement for horn to blow and the steps to begin. We all felt this together this year, and this includes Taylor. We were all the closest of friends in those corrals, as we listened to the national anthem and stood in line at the porta-potties forever. We take pictures with friends, some of us get our music playing, some of us pray.
There is a certain feeling about the start line, and it’s hard to think that I know exactly what she was feeling before her final race began. We all do.
We all have different routines, different speeds, and different backgrounds. But we all have two things in common; a goal to finish and a love for running. This is what brings us together.
I’m not sure what this is meant to be. Perhaps some sort of justification for the community as we grieve. I read in a group I’m apart of that a lady had to take a mental-health day at work because of it. Some would think that’s crazy, but if you aren’t a part of it, you wouldn’t know. She is completely justified. Taylor was heavy on the hearts of each and every person I talked to in the community.
In a text thread with my friends Adam and Thomas, all I could say is “This shit isn’t supposed to happen. I know it does happen, but it’s not supposed to”. There will always be more questions than answers.
We lost one of our own this day. And our hearts are broken. Our hearts are broken for the spectators who witnessed, the race staff, the runners who shared the course, the first-responders who were unable to revive her. Most importantly, our hearts are broken for the family and friends of this young woman. Nobody can imagine the pain they must feel, as it can only be experienced. I hope they know, and can in some way feel, that we share in their grief. I hope that provides them comfort.
Finally, to Taylor – Know that you are loved by the running community of Northeast Ohio.