Over 80 runners participating in a 50-mile ultramarathon had to be rescued after being trapped in a blizzard.
The course of the DC Peaks 50, which runs through the East Mountain Wilderness Park in Utah, was covered with between 12 and 18 inches of snow on Saturday and as a result, search and rescue teams had to resort to using snowmobiles and other all-terrain vehicles to locate 87 runners, according to Davis County Sheriff’s office. The athletes were all taken to safety by mid-afternoon.
"Venturing onto the mountains, trails, and bodies of water at this time of year can be dangerous because the weather changes rapidly and conditions can quickly become life threatening," Davis County Sheriff Kelly Sparks said in the statement. "Even a mild rain in the valley can translate to blizzard conditions at higher elevations."
Annie MacDonald recounted the incident to KSTU, explaining that initially it was just raining and rather warm when the runners started the race between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. By the time she reached six miles, it began snowing— lightly at first. Ultramarathon runners are required to pack emergency gear including space blankets, nutrition, water, thermal clothing, and more. There are also aid stations along the course and MacDonald said she felt prepared. But then the wind picked up, reaching gusts of 30-40 miles per hour and the snow started coming down thick.
"You couldn’t see anything. It was foggy," she said.
Athletes tried to reach the next aid station but it was heavy going, with many covering about one mile every 30 minutes. It became a survival game.
"It was the coldest I have ever been in my life," MacDonald said. "You knew you had to keep going. You had to get to that aid station because there was no other way out."
Once athletes reached the aid station, which was the only spot where race organizers and rescuers could reach, they were driven to safety. The Davis County Sheriff’s Office said minor injuries were treated on-site. Nobody required hospitalization.
This was the first edition of the DC Peaks 50 and although it ended abruptly, race organizer Jake Kilgore is already planning the next event.
"The ultra running community thrives on risk and excitement and completing hard things and doing hard things," he said.
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