Search for Ultra Marathon Runner Ends Amid Tragedy-Update
Hannah Jones, Staff Writer
Updated 3:52: The Jackson County Sheriff’s department reports the body of a man which fits that of 46 year old Todd Ragsdale has been found. A news conference is underway to reveal more detail but at this point the search has ended with the news that more than a hundred volunteer searchers, mostly runners, had hoped not to hear.
The medical examiner will be revealing more details in the hours and days to come.
Earlier Saturday dozens of cars lined the side of Granite Street leading up to the edge of Lithia Park where Jackson County Search and Rescue teams along with nearly 100 volunteers began searching for missing marathon-runner Todd Ragsdale. He was was last seen Thursday at 10:30 am before leaving for a “light run” up behind the park. The 46 year-old marathon runner left his home in Talent Thursday morning wearing running shorts, a black beanie, bright green running shoes, and a “Rogue Valley Runners” jacket. His vehicle was found behind the park after he failed to return home that day.
While Ragsdale was known for his strong running capabilities, he was suffering a hamstring injury that could have caused complications during his hike. The trail he was supposed to be running that day is known for steep grades and obstacles including fallen tree branches and muddy trenches due to the winter season.
Rescue parties focused on combing the trails, while workers from the city of Ashland searched through Lithia Park.
“Between yesterday and today we’ve probably covered 80 percent of the trails and about a 2 mile radius,” said Pat Rowland, a retired Lieutenant with Jackson County Search and Rescue. Rowland stated that two helicopters were also put to use flying overhead on Friday, but were still unable to find anything.
As Rowland spoke to reporters, a group of a dozen volunteers were returning to the sheriff’s trailer parked next to Granite Reservoir, being greeted with subway sandwiches and warm coffee laid out underneath easy-up tarps. New groups would return at different intervals to rest and refuel then head back to the trails. This had been the rhythm of the search since it began Thursday afternoon.
The search suspended at 10 pm Friday night for the sake of the volunteers and their safety but continued early Saturday morning until early afternoon when a body was found fitting the description of Ragsdale.
Since his disappearance around 50 search and rescue volunteers from 8 different counties deployed. In addition, Ashland’s running community quickly spread word through Facebook posts about the missing runner, resulting in almost 100 emergent volunteers joining the search by Friday night.
Ragsdale, a much admired and loved runner in the ultra marathon community, “I got on Facebook an hour before bed, saw a post about someone we knew, how he was missing, and decided to go out and help,” said Des Barnes, who joined the search late Thursday night. Barnes along with many others involved had known Ragsdale from various running events in past years. Lorelei Phillips, another volunteer standing alongside Barnes commented on Ragsdale’s ability as a runner saying “he’s smart,[…] so I would think he could hang in there for a long time.” Hers was a view shared by many and kept them optimistic until the end.
Both runners stood bundled in waterproof jackets and beanies with their hands wrapped around hot cups of coffee. They had just returned from the trails for a short break but were prepared to continue their search despite the ongoing rain, which is lifting in intervals. Phillips alone had run approximately 17 miles around the area since the search began, staying out until 1 am on Thursday night.
“We’re hoping for the better,” said Lieutenant Rowland, “we always do.” This was a sentiment shared often among searchers throughout the near round the clock search efforts. But now that the news has come in of a body being found, the searchers, volunteer and professional, are quietly packing out supplies and breaking down command posts. It was not the ending anyone hoped for.