Reading about Marko Cheseto

This is an affecting story about a Kenyan runner who disappeared from his university campus in Alaska and spent days alone in the woods before staggering into a local hotel. His running shoes were frozen to his feet. His feet had to be amputated because of frostbite. The original story, based on a police report, seems to have been taken down from the website of the school’s student newspaper (“Error 404 – Page Not Found”), but the cached version and other reports say Marko Cheseto had been depressed since his cousin and teammate William Ritewiang killed himself earlier this year. The stories say Cheseto was struggling. “He told me that he felt like no one had been able to understand how difficult things had been for him, and that everyone basically just said to hang in there,” the police report said.

Reports say Cheseto went running without a hat or gloves, and he threw his water bottle away. He turned off the trail and ran into the woods. Parts of the police report were redacted. Cheseto told police he passed out, woke up in the snow, found he couldn’t stand and eventually forced himself to his feet. When he made it into the hotel and collapsed, he was surprised to learn it was Wednesday, not Monday.

It doesn’t take much to imagine what might have happened in the woods. What struck me, and apparently has struck many others, was well put by the university’s cross country and track and field coach, Michael Friess. “It is hard to understand depression,” Friess said in news reports. “Yes, he was in the wrong place, he fell down, you could describe it. But in my opinion the strongest aspect is that he got up. He wasn’t found. He returned to us.”

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