In memory of Hannah Taylor
I don't think I'll ever forget the moment I found out Hannah had died. It was in Silverton, around 3 in the afternoon. All around me the hubbub of the Hardrock 100 bustled past, and a quick glance at my phone showed an email with the subject "horrible, horrible news". I never thought that news would be that Hannah had died in a fall.
The chaos of a thousand emotions came crashing down. I thought immediately about how we had been emailing back and forth just the day before...our brief conversation at Bighorn. I didn't know Hannah well, but the knowledge that she was gone opened a hole in my stomach that I can't describe.
The first time I remember meeting Hannah was during the race last year. We met at the first year of the High Lonesome where she ran and won the race. The first time we met, she was cruising through the first aid station. We exchanged waves and a smile, and she darted past. Over the next 30ish hours, she ran like the champion she was. She took the lead early, never gave an inch, and by the time she finished she had beaten the next woman by over 2 hours. As she crossed the line, she smiled and it was the brightest thing around.
I wish I could remember more of what we talked about at the finish line. I remember she was so excited and exhausted, but she couldn't stop smiling. I remember telling her how proud I was of her, how much she had inspired me. I think she cracked a joke about blaming me for making it rain so much.
I saw her again a few times after that, the last being at Bighorn. She was standing in the crowd at the start line, and as always she was smiling. We chatted about training, the race, and the summer. She said how she felt strong and was excited for High Lonesome. I told her that I was rooting for her and I'd hopefully see her at during race. I think the whole conversation may have lasted 3 minutes.
We are lucky in the running world. Death overlooks our communities far more than the other mountain sports. It's rare we loose someone, but it's a reality that many climbers, skiers, and mountaineers have dealt with since the beginnings of their sports. They have dealt with the loss, the sudden news of partners passing, the holes that their absences leave in ourselves and our communities. We our so often spared these emotions that the mountains become our playgrounds. They become the places we go to cope with the issues we face.
But what do you do when the very place you go for peace is the same place your friend died? How do you cope when the sport that you always turn to is the sport that created the pain you are trying to fix?
It's moments like this that cause us to face the biggest shifts. They force us, with the unequivocal certainty of death, to examine things that we can otherwise so easily ignore. I won't lie to you, I hate the mountains right now. I hate how they took someone who was so wonderful. I hate that I am reminded that every time I go out into the mountains this could be me, that I could die as suddenly as Hannah did. I hate that I have to find the right words to say in a Facebook post. But most of all, I hate that there is absolutely nothing I can do to change things.
Death is a bitch.
Hannah's death had left a hole in the lives of so many people, and it's not one that will heal quickly. We will miss her as a community, her athletes will miss her as coach, her friends and family will miss her, and our race will miss her.
I know that over time the mountains will stop being the place that reminds us of her death, and once again become the place we go to find joy.
Hannah will never stop inspiring me. I will never forget watching her win my race. She embodied what it meant to be a female mountain athlete. You didn't have to know her to feel her confidence, strength, passion, and competence. She exuded the best parts of our sport and community. We will miss you Hannah. I'm so sad that you're gone, but I hope that you were having the best day of your life on Saturday.