LOS ANGELES (AP) — 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 exactly why she keeps coming back, she says, and why every ultrarunner has 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 recently 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, who is 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 Monday night as word spread among the running community that the race would have to make a detour through a less challenging environment next year.
The safety study should be done by the spring, and running and cycling events could resume as early as next October, Death Valley spokeswoman Cheryl Chipman said Monday. But sponsors could be faced with enforcing stricter safety rules when events resume.
Chris Kostman, whose AdventureCorps sponsors the Badwater 135 and several other endurance competitions in the sprawling desert park, questioned the need for such a review. He said his organization has held 89 such 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 to supporters.
Chipman said park officials aren't so concerned about runners and cyclers, who they know arrive prepared to survive the area's heat and rugged terrain.