Death Valley officials study safety of running, cycling events
The Badwater 135 Ultramarathon, an endurance race that runs through the hottest place in the world in the summer, will be taking a detour in 2014 after Death Valley National Park in California placed a moratorium on running and cycling competitions until it can determine how safe they are.
The study should be done by the spring, and such events could start being scheduled again after Oct. 1, park spokeswoman Cheryl Chipman said Monday.
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“We want to make it clear, we’re not canceling or banning any events,” Chipman said. “At the moment, we’re just not taking any more applications for them until we finish our safety evaluation.”
Chris Kostman, whose AdventureCorps sponsors the Badwater 135 and other endurance competitions in the sprawling desert park each year, said he has had to reschedule and move several of them for 2014. He questioned the need for a safety review, contending his organization has held 89 events in the park since 1990 without a serious incident.
Chipman said the study was prompted by observations of rangers and visitors that an increasing number of endurance contests were jamming the park’s two-lane roads with participants, support crews and spectators.
The Badwater 135 Ultramarathon in July begins in the park’s Badwater Basin, which at 282 feet below sea level is the lowest point in North America. It continues across a barren, unforgiving desert where summer temperatures can surpass 130 degrees before it takes runners across three mountain ranges. It ends near the 8,300-foot level of Mount Whitney.
“Although it is considered the world’s toughest footrace, we have an 89 percent finishing rate,” Kostman said of the invitation-only event.
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Seattle Times news services