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Toxicology tests shed no light on distance runner Todd Ragsdale's death

Ultramarathon runner Todd Ragsdale died of "undetermined natural causes," the Jackson County Sheriff's Department has determined.

Toxicology tests returned to the department Tuesday revealed no new information about the cause of the runner's death, said Sheriff Corey Falls. Ragsdale's body was found Jan. 30 in Lithia Park, two days after he set out from his Talent home for a light run in the watershed.

"All the variety of tests came back negative," Falls said. Toxicology tests generally check for controlled substances, common pharmaceuticals, alcohol and poisons, according to the Oregon State Police website.

There was no trauma found on Ragsdale's body, Falls said. The autopsy performed shortly after Ragsdale's death turned up nothing suspicious, a medical examiner's report said.

Ragsdale's family, friends and the running community have been waiting anxiously for the results of the tests, hoping they would shed light on how Ragsdale died. The report arrived Tuesday, according to Capt. Tim Snaith, who oversees the Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office.

Ragsdale's wife, Nancy, provided a statement.

"Although I may never fully know the circumstances of Todd's passing, I am confident of Todd's faith and that he lived as a good husband, friend and father. Todd was fully certain of his eternity with Christ. And for this reason, I have comfort and peace and I hope that for all that loved Todd that they have the same comfort and peace. Run like Todd!"

Ragsdale was 46 when he went missing the morning of Jan. 28, after driving from his Talent home to the Ashland watershed for a run. Ragsdale, who was nursing a hamstring injury at the time, was dressed in a light jacket and running shorts, according to the sheriff's department. 

After an exhaustive 2½-day search involving dozens of search-and-rescue workers from eight counties and volunteers with Southern Oregon Runners, Ragsdale's body was found Jan. 30 along the edge of Ashland Creek upstream from the Granite Street reservoir. 

In a February Runner's World article remembering the distance runner, Nancy said her husband had been running down Pete's Punisher loop when he vomited for an unknown reason.

Ragsdale then took a deer trail down to the creek, where he lost consciousness. Ragsdale was found in water roughly a foot deep, according to Runner's World.

In the wake of Ragsdale's death, runners near and far mourned the distance runner, known for his antics and costumes during distance runs, and for surpassing a Guinness World Record for most miles run barefoot by more than 12 miles. On a page set up for Ragsdale's wife and family via the crowdfunding website GoFundMe, $18,657 was raised, surpassing a $15,000 goal.

Upon news that the toxicology results proved inconclusive, Ragsdale's friend Peter Wickliffe said he had resigned himself to the fact that some questions would remain unanswered. 

"I didn't expect them (the results) to come back and answer any questions," Wickliffe said.

To process the loss, Wickliffe said he's put his thoughts to paper over the past few months.

Wickliffe, who is directing the "Tutu Todd's 10-Miler" race at 9 a.m. Saturday at Lithia Park in Ragsdale's honor, is encouraging those who knew and cared for him to run in a tutu or other outrageous costume.

"He deserves to have a race in his honor," Wickliffe said. "He took part in so many of them, and he enjoyed every single race that he did."

Wickliffe said online registration closes at midnight Thursday, but those interested in participating can also register from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday in front of Pioneer Hall, or from 8 to 8:30 the morning of the race.

Wickliffe said there's healing in running together with others who cared for Ragsdale. He described Ragsdale as a devout Christian who loved to run.

"Not everybody believes in heaven, but I know that's where Todd is," Wickliffe said. "He was a great man of faith."

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Talent runner Todd Ragsdale, shown running at Crater Lake in 2008, died of 'undetermined natural causes,' according to the Jackson County Sheriff's Department. Mail Tribune file photo