If any further proof was needed that runners possess an endearing streak of quirky madness, the Scottsdale Beat The Heat race this summer may just provide it.
Billed as the hottest sporting event on the planet, the inaugural race is being deliberately staged at the warmest time of year and during the most oppressive part of the day, all to maximize the discomfort and enhance the challenge of those either courageous or deranged enough to sign up.
Temperatures in the fashionable Arizona city are expected to tip the thermometer at upwards of 110 Fahrenheit on June 22, with participants set to complete a seven-mile course beginning at 2:47 p.m., the specific time when the heat is predicted to be at its fiercest.
"Whether someone has gone bungee jumping, ran an Ironman or run with the bulls, this is something they won't have experienced before," said race inventor Jason Rose, a Scottsdale PR executive. "This is about us choosing to celebrate the heat, not retreat from it."
The concept was dreamed up at a tourism workshop among Scottsdale business leaders that sought to combat the challenges posed by the extreme weather conditions in the middle of summer, when visitor numbers routinely plummet.
Rose's answer was to appeal to hardened extreme sports participants, with a shorter 5k race added to draw in those adventurous of mind but of more limited physical capacity.
Races in the harshest of conditions continue to enjoy popularity, with an annual marathon in the Sahara desert drawing record numbers in recent years and the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley also attracting devotees year after year.
Those races, however, seek to avoid the hottest part of the day wherever possible, whereas the Scottsdale slog will embrace it fully.
Understandably, Rose and his team are taking strong precautions to ensure racers do not endanger their health by taking part.
"There will be water stations every half mile, instead of every two miles as would be normal," Rose said. "The fire department will be on hand, and we are encouraging people to seek their doctor's permission before they enter."
Organizers expect up to 2,500 athletes of all levels of experience and the early response has been strong. "I started off doing the Tough Mudder races and I have run a couple of marathons," said recreational runner Kevin Turlock, of Claremont, Calif. "But then my friends did some similar runs so I don't have so many bragging rights any more. Doing this will be a way to get them back, I guess I'll have to train in sweats even in summer to get myself prepared for it."
Among the contestants for $10,000 in prize money will be David Goggins, a Navy SEAL and Afghanistan veteran who is an ultra-marathon star and holds the world record for most pull-ups completed in 24 hours.
"People who aren't used to it will have to be careful how they prepare," Goggins said. "You can't expect to go out there and run normal times because your body and your hydration levels and your heart rate – everything is different.
"They should try to get as much hot weather training in as possible because that is the only way to adapt," he continued. "I will be spending time in a sauna and doing training in there."
Added Rose: "For some people there is something very addicting about pushing themselves to the limit and seeing what the human body is capable of. That is what this race will give the opportunity to do."
The course will take in several modern Scottsdale landmarks, such as the Central Arizona Project Canal, Phil Mickelson's McDowell Mountain golf course, before finishing at the local polo grounds where a four-story waterslide awaits to cool off the sweltering competitors.
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