On Sunday, many professional runners and coaches described Jonathan Grey as a competitor who was as fierce as he was friendly—somebody who was unafraid to set audacious goals and stubbornly pursue them. When he fell short, Grey sought redemption in preparing for his next big race.
Over the weekend, Matt Grey announced on Facebook that his twin brother, Jonathan Grey, had “lost his battle with depression,” and died by suicide on Saturday. He had been visiting Portland, Oregon. He would have turned 30 on Tuesday.
“There is an amazing person who I love, my best friend, my inspiration. My running partner. My partner in crime,” Matt Grey wrote. “I was made whole by this person as we did everything together. I will be half the person I was when I woke up this morning.”
Jonathan Grey, a 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier and member of the Boulder Track Club, had recently driven from Minnesota to Portland to be with his brother. He was training for the L.A. Marathon, following a PR-setting performance at the distance in December during the U.S. marathon championships in Sacramento, where he finished in 2:20:08.
Many of Grey’s career highlights were in cross country. He was the 2011 USA Track & Field Club Cross-Country champion, as well as was a member of Team USA at the 2012 and 2015 Great Edinburgh cross-country competitions, and the 2015 Pan-American Cross-Country Championships.
Grey grew up near York, Pennsylvania, where he attended Kennard-Dale High School and was named by the local newspaper as one of the top 10 best athletes in the school’s history. He went on to compete at the University of Oklahoma during his freshman year but then transferred to the College of William & Mary, where he was a three-time All American.
As a professional runner, Grey trained with Team USA Minnesota before joining the Boulder Track Club under coach Lee Troop. He was sponsored by Adidas.
In a series of social media posts on Sunday, Troop said he will “forever be thankful and appreciative of what [Grey] taught me.”
“Today I lost not just an athlete, I lost a person who was unique and someone I connected with,” Troop wrote. “Jon was not everyone’s cup of tea, but he was mine! As complex as you were my friend, you challenged me and I loved it.”
It’s been less than 10hrs since I spoke with Jon’s mom and then called those closest to him. I still can’t make sense of this tragic ending but I do know how much people loved him. At 29, there was so much living to have and still so much running to be done. Running was Jon’s life and in one way it was his savior and coaching him was a thrill. He was a hard worker, always went for goals despite how unrealistic, and was one of the most honest persons I’ve ever come across. If he ran like shit, he accepted full responsibility and never looked for excuses. Our next goal was LA Marathon which was to atone for CIM and he was fired up for it. Fierce, tough, honest and a total baller! Watching Jon race was amazing as I always knew he would give 100% and even if he didn’t win, his competitors would have to bleed to beat him! He was a true racing warrior!
A post shared by Lee Troop (@leetroop73) on Feb 11, 2018 at 4:47am PST
Many of Grey’s competitors and fellow athletes also posted their memories of Grey on social media on Sunday.
Jon was a competitor. If we were in the same room long enough, he would have told you about how he coached me up a big hill during my first breakout race in Minnesota. That story is more true than I would have admitted. May his family find peace, and his energy rest. pic.twitter.com/SimWF6msSj
— Noah Droddy (@IBuiltTheArk) February 11, 2018
I’m very sad to hear the news of @jsgreyrunner’s passing. We shared some good times with @TeamUSAMN. Jon was a passionate, dedicated runner and never failed to make me laugh with his many hilarious stories. My heart goes out to his family, especially his twin brother Matt.
— gabriele grunewald (@gg_runs) February 11, 2018
Since 8th grade, I’ve done many miles beside Jon. Heart breaking news to hear of his death. Sending comforting thoughts to his family and loved ones and to all those in the running community who knew him. https://t.co/8NV9rCKjq2
— Neely Spence Gracey (@neelysgracey) February 11, 2018
I battled with Jon Grey a bunch over the past few years on the road, track and grass. He was a gutsy runner, with big dreams. But, more importantly, he was always a friendly dude and I enjoyed all the warm-ups, races and cool downs we shared. RIP Jon. pic.twitter.com/W1MvhDbp4D
— Scott Fauble (@scottfaubs) February 11, 2018
Our deepest condolences to Jon Greys family and friends. Jon was an unbelievable team member and fierce competitor who bought the best out in people. We are saddened by his loss. R.I.P pic.twitter.com/ypd3brHVxq
— Boulder Track Club (@BoulderTC) February 11, 2018
Services have not been announced.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. The line is open 24 hours a day, seven days per week, and offers free and confidential support for people in distress.