A Grieving Community

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.

From Taylor Ceepo’s Facebook page. May she rest in piece

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.

11 thoughts on “A Grieving Community

  1. I’ve tried to comment a few times — hopefully this one goes through. Anyways… this is a really wonderful post. Taylor’s death is so heartbreaking on so many levels. I can’t stop thinking of her and her family. ❤

    We definitely lost one of our own. Hugs to you and thank you for your post.

    1. This one came through 🙂 I think it’s safe to say, none of us who were there can stop thinking about her.

      So incredibly grateful for getting to know you through our group, and this is a reminder to not take it for granted.

  2. Wow. I have read this a few times as I continue to struggle with this loss. You said it beautifully that we are all in it together. I’m so proud to be a small part of this running community and this is a very hard reminder that life is so fragile. Thank you for your wonderfully written words and thank you for your friendship!

  3. I just finished reading this, I didn’t run the Cleveland Marathon this year but I did in 2016, and as a runner, I still cheer for all those running, whether I’m in the race or not, my heart broke hearing the news about Taylor, thank you for posting this. I am a writer by trade and you captured exactly how I and everyone in the running community feels… there truly is a bond, brotherhood amongst runners, whether you run a mile or 26.2, and whether we’re a stranger or not, on race day we become friends and remain friends Thank you again for your beautiful post. Many prayers for Taylor’s family and friends, and may she be running with the angels.

  4. This is beautifully written & you helped put my feelings into words. I ran that day & came upon Taylor before the ambulances got to her. I saw her beautiful face & the brave people trying to revive her. I felt so helpless. I truly believed that she would be ok, I was heart broken when I learned otherwise. My thoughts have been with her family & friends constantly. I run the Medina Half Marathon on Saturday & will run in solidarity with all of those running for Taylor.

    1. I am so sorry you witnessed this. It has been gut wrenching all week, and my only memory is the ambulance sirens. I can’t imagine what you must feel. The beauty is we all have on another, and our bonds are stronger. Thank you for reading and sharing your experience.

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