National Park Places Moratorium on Biking and Running Races in Death Valley

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literally millions of miles covered on foot or by bike by event participants.” As for the Badwater 135, a footrace held in one of the hottest places on earth, he adds, “Although it is considered the world’s toughest foot race, we have an 89 percent finishing rate,” Kostman told the AP on Monday. He said no participant has ever been seriously hurt.

Death Valley spokeswoman Cheryl Chipman said the study wasn’t prompted by any accident but by observations of rangers and visitors that an increasing number of endurance contests were jamming the park’s narrow two-lane roads with participants, support crews and spectators. Evidence tends to suggest this was creating traffic hazards for the competitors and others. “We don’t want to have to wait for an accident to happen to do this safety review,” Chipman added. “We want to be proactive and create the conditions that we think are the safest allowable for these kinds of events.” Death Valley, which attracts about a million visitors a year, is located some 200 miles east of Los Angeles in an area that’s sometimes been described as desert salt pan surrounded by mountains. Read more here.

Participants in such ultra endurance races and extreme condition competitions should have proof of completion of events of comparable (and increasing) difficulty, a thorough physical exam by a qualified doctor. During the event, athletes should have support teams with sufficient nutritional and other supplies. Participants’ fluid and calorie intake should be carefully monitored in order to avoid dehydration or other systemic problems. The runners’ or bikers’ progress can be tracked with GPS or similar technology. Lastly, it would not be a bad idea to equip each endurance athlete with a “panic button” in case of emergency. Hopefully when the National Park’s safety study is completed by next Fall, the events in Death Valley will again resume.

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