Margaret Bradley

Falmouth grad dies in run at Grand Canyon
Margaret Bradley, 24, is remembered as an outstanding athlete.

Sean Gonsalves, Staff Writer
July 13, 2004

(This article appeared in the Cape Cod Times on July 13, 2004.)

FALMOUTH – She shined both on and off the track.

But on Saturday, loved ones discovered that 24-year-old Margaret Bradley’s star went out sometime after she set off into the Grand Canyon Thursday for what turned out to be her last run. She was found dead Saturday in Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.

Her body was recovered by park rangers who had launched an aerial search when Bradley’s family reported her missing earlier that day, the Chicago Tribune reported yesterday.

A 1997 Falmouth High School graduate, Bradley had been attending medical school at the University of Chicago. Her parents – Mary Jo, a nurse, and Keith, a research assistant at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, still live in town.

On Thursday, Bradley and a male friend started off on a “day run” at the South Rim of the park at the Grandview Trailhead; they planned to arrive at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon that evening. The journey would have covered almost 30 miles and involved a 5,000-foot drop in elevation from top to bottom, where temperatures can reach more than 100 degrees, according to a press statement released by the Park Service yesterday.

Runners split up

The pair became separated on the way down, and Bradley’s friend headed back up to the rim, with help from a U.S. Geological Survey employee he encountered, the statement said. The friend also told a trail worker to leave a note at Phantom Ranch informing Bradley he had aborted the run and was returning to Flagstaff, about 85 miles away.

When Bradley didn’t meet her family in Flagstaff on Friday as planned, relatives reported her missing to Flagstaff police and the Park Service at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday.

An aerial search was launched and Bradley’s body was found about 2 p.m. below the Tonto Trail in an area called Cremation drainage. Her body was flown by helicopter out of the Grand Canyon and brought to the Coconino County, Ariz., medical examiner’s office.

Because of overlapping jurisdictions, both the National Park Service and the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office will perform independent investigations into a cause of death.

One park official told the Chicago Tribune that the type of run Bradley set out on is not encouraged because of high temperatures and the drastic change in altitude.

“It’s a pretty strenuous hike, even for an overnight hike. It’s not something that the Park Service recommends or condones. …You really put yourself at risk because of the extreme conditions and extreme temperatures,” park spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge told the Tribune.

Road race regular

A member of the Greater Boston Track Club, Bradley was no stranger to the local road race scene, having finished 31st in the Falmouth Road Race last year with a time of 44 minutes and 25 seconds. She also finished 31st among female runners in last year’s Boston Marathon with a time of 3 hours and 4 minutes.

In Falmouth, fellow road race lovers expressed their shock over Bradley’s death and remembered her as not only an outstanding athlete but also as an academic star.

“As far as her spirit, her competitiveness and determination, she was a top-quality person,” her former Falmouth High track coach, John Carroll, said yesterday.

“In high school she was a straight-A student, National Honor Society – and she was the type of athlete you like to have on your team, because she was determined to be a success and lead others by her example,” he said.

Jack Whitehead, an oceanographer who works with Bradley’s father at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said his heart goes out to the Bradley family.

Whitehead lost his own daughter in a car accident several years ago, so the news of Bradley’s loss has hit him hard, he said. “They’re great people,” Whitehead said of the Bradley family, who are volunteers for the Special Olympics.

Bradley’s immediate family was in Arizona and was not available for comment yesterday.

(Published: July 13, 2004)