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Death Valley Races Canceled Pending Safety Review in World's Hottest Place

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By Robin Farmer   |   Tuesday, 24 Dec 2013 03:19 PM

A group of elite runners will not tackle the annual 135 mile July ultramarathon through Death Valley in 2014 as all racing events — including cycling — are suspended until a safety study is completed.

Death Valley National Park issued a moratorium on all racing events in the hottest place in the world while the study, expected to be completed in the spring, is underway.

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Among the events on hold is the Badwater 135, which has been held in the middle of summer for the past 36 years. Participants, selected by invitation only, expressed sadness and disbelief that they could not compete in the grueling race where temperature can top 130 degrees.

"It's like taking Wimbledon away from a tennis player," Farar-Griefer told The Associated Press of the race cancellations in Death Valley. She is the first woman to win the race twice in a row. The challenging route requires trekking 135 miles from Badwater Basin in Death Valley — the lowest elevation in North America — to almost the top of Mount Whitney, then turning around and returning to the start line.

Running and cycling events could resume as early as next October, Death Valley spokeswoman Cheryl Chipman said Monday, the AP reported. Chipman said the safety concerns were more about the spectators that attend as the endurance events have become more popular.

"We don't want to have to wait for an accident to happen to do this safety review," she told the AP. "We want to be proactive and create the conditions that we think are the safest allowable for these kinds of events.”

Chris Kostman, race director for the Badwater event, said the events are safe.

"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.

In a prepared statement, he said the National Park Service review may spur national implications, The Sun reported. “There are successful and popular cycling and running events held within national parks across America; they could all be in jeopardy now.”

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