Runner died of dehydration in canyon, autopsy shows
By Hal Dardick
Tribune staff writer
Published July 14, 2004
As National Park Service officials released more details about the dangerous Grand Canyon run attempted by a University of Chicago medical student who was a lauded marathoner, an autopsy showed she died from dehydration.
Margaret L. Bradley, 24, a native of the Boston area, died from "dehydration due to environmental heat exposure," according to a Coconino County, Ariz., medical examiner's autopsy report. The death was determined to be accidental.
Bradley and a Flagstaff man took the Grandview Trail from the South Rim of the canyon, park service spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge said. "It's fairly easy to get to, but the trail itself is very rugged, and it's not a maintained trail," she added.
They planned to run along the Tonto Plateau to the South Kaibab Trail that heads back to the rim, preliminary investigation results indicate, Oltrogge said. The entire route is about 27 miles, she said.
When Bradley and the Flagstaff man, who authorities would not identify, attempted the "day run" on Thursday, temperatures in shaded areas reached 105 degrees. "It could have been 120 or higher" in the sun, Oltrogge said.
"Because this was a remote trail, it does not have water along it in summer months," Oltrogge said. "It's a tragic reminder that even the most physically fit can be challenged and run into problems in the remote areas of the canyon."
The man returned to the rim with help from a U.S. Geological Survey employee he ran into. He asked a trail worker to leave a note at Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the canyon, informing Bradley he was returning to Flagstaff.
After relatives who were to meet Bradley in Flagstaff reported her missing at 1:30 a.m. Saturday, a search was called. Bradley's body was found about 13 hours later below the Tonto Trail in a drainage called Cremation. It was dry, authorities said.
It's possible Bradley, unable to find water, took a trail that leads to the canyon's bottom and the Phantom Ranch in hopes of finding water, Oltrogge said. Bradley and the man likely ran out of water fairly early in the run, she said.
Bradley late last year or early this year joined the Universal Sole-Reebok Racing Team, said Jessica Harlow, manager of the Universal Sole, a running-gear shop near Lincoln and Belmont Avenues. Earlier this year, Bradley placed 31st in the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:04:54. That was the 15th best time for a U.S. female runner.
Tom Derderian, coach of the Greater Boston Track Club where Bradley had trained, said Bradley might not have known what to expect.
"I don't know that she knew about performing in such places," he said. "Her experience was running in Boston and Chicago, places where adverse physical environments are cold."
Bradley was a strong runner who, with further training, might have been ranked in the top 25 in the nation, he said.
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