Death Valley to detour ultraraces
FILE - In this July 23, 2007 file photo, Tim Kjenstad, of Henderson, Nev., runs in Kiehl's Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, Calif. The race start line was at Badwater, Death Valley, which marks the lowest elevation in the Western Hemisphere at 280 feet below sea level. The race finished after 135 miles at the Mount Whitney Portals at 8,360 feet. Death Valley National Park is putting the brakes on ultramarathons and other extreme sports events that involve running and cycling until rangers can determine how safe it is to hold those competitions in a place that records the hottest temperatures on Earth. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)
Photo by AP
LOS ANGELES — It's the hottest, hardest, most grueling foot race in the world, says Shannon Farar-Griefer, who has run the Badwater 135 ultramarathon through Death Valley five times.
That's why she keeps coming back, and why ultrarunners have it on their bucket list.
The race takes the bravest of runners 135 miles through the hottest place on Earth in the middle of the summer.
Next year, for the first time in 27 years, runners won't be able to tackle the Badwater 135. Death Valley National Park has put a moratorium on foot and cycling races through the desert hot spot 200 miles east of Los Angeles while they study ways to make the events safer.
“We're devastated,” said Farar-Griefer, the first woman to conquer the race route back to back. That entails running 135 miles from Badwater Basin in Death Valley to near the top of Mount Whitney, then turning around and running back to the starting line.
“It's like taking Wimbledon away from a tennis player,” she said on Monday as word spread among the running community that the race would have to detour through a less challenging environment next year.
The study should be done by spring, and running and cycling events could resume in October, park spokeswoman Cheryl Chipman said. But sponsors might need to comply with stricter safety rules when events resume.
Chris Kostman, whose AdventureCorps sponsors the Badwater 135 and other endurance contests in the park, questioned the need. He said his organization has held 89 events there since 1990 without a serious incident.
“There have been no deaths, no car crashes, no citations issued, and only a few evacuations by ambulance after literally millions of miles covered on foot or by bike by event participants,” he said in an email.
Chipman said park officials aren't so concerned about runners and cyclists, who they know arrive prepared to survive the area's heat and rugged terrain.
But as such events have grown in popularity, she said, participants, support crews and spectators have begun to jam the park's narrow two-lane roads, creating a dangerous traffic hazard.
“We don't want to have to wait for an accident to happen to do this safety review,” she told The Associated Press. “We want to be proactive and create the conditions that we think are the safest allowable for these kinds of events.”
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments â either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.