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Thread: The Dangers of Mountain Running

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    Senior Member ChrisB's Avatar
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    The Dangers of Mountain Running

    We have discussed the hazards of trail running with regard to the lack of equipment and changing weather in the Whites.

    Here is a story describing a recent Ultra race in which 21 competitors died due to changing weather coupled with their lack of warm gear. Unbelievable!
    Nobody told me there'd be days like these
    Strange days indeed -- most peculiar, mama
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    Senior Member Barkingcat's Avatar
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    Wow. That's really sad. I see no mention in the article about whether or not the race organizers were prepared to call off the race in advance, based on the weather forecast, or require runners to have appropriate equipment?

    It's as if this could not be foreseen, and 21 people died.

    EDIT: the article includes a bit more information about public reaction, including to that day's weather forecast.
    Last edited by Barkingcat; 05-23-2021 at 09:03 AM.

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    Senior Member Mike P.'s Avatar
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    It's a tragedy so many died, between terrain and the competitive spirit required to do this type of race, carry extra gear or deciding, "No, I'm going to stop" isn't in their DNA. I'm assuming a race in China is not organized by the same group that would run the races here, although, IDK if their is an international organization overseeing these events or not.

    If I was going to characterize ultra-marathoners as a type of dog breed, they would be a cross of some type of dog with great endurance and a body frame of a greyhound. They certainly aren't Huskies or Norwegian Elkhounds.

    It begs the question, what does the ideal athlete look like? We have such specializations, runners, hockey players, soccer players, the NFL has different body types by position, LB's, TE and Strong safeties maybe being the positions where they have the ability to do different things. Are decathletes the most versatile from track and field?

    Would have making it mandatory they carry a space blanket and something tiny and packable have helped?
    Have fun & be safe
    Mike P.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike P. View Post
    If I was going to characterize ultra-marathoners as a type of dog breed, they would be a cross of some type of dog with great endurance and a body frame of a greyhound. They certainly aren't Huskies or Norwegian Elkhounds.
    They most certainly are huskies. You just described the process of breeding alaskan huskies for sled dog racing. They are often based off GSPs crossed with various inuit breeds and others like GSDs, border collies, and greyhounds.

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    Senior Member Grey J's Avatar
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    That's a lot people dying for the sake of a race with little if any intrinsic value. Don't know if anyone keeps track of such things but it seems like it might be a record for the number of people dying in a race. I wouldn't disparage anyone's pastime but this sounds pretty crazy to me even in good weather. There's an Ironman 70.3 (half ironman) in town today and it's 88 degrees here. That doesn't seem healthy either and I wouldn't have a go even you paid me, but then some people think my peakbagging is foolish so there you go.
    "I am a pilgrim and a stranger"

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    Senior Member maineguy's Avatar
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    100 Km is not that ultra by US standards. The Leadville 100 (aka "the race across the sky") is 100 miles of trail running in the CO Rockies with elevations ranging from something like 9K to 12K feet. I think it runs in the late summer so there is always the chance of rain, sleet, hail, snow, etc at those elevations. I happened to be in Leadville once when they were doing the 100 mile bike race across similar terrain. Some of the participants were staying at the same motel as I was and I spoke to some of them. I know nothing of mountain biking, but they looked pretty ordinary to me (but somehow I don't think they were).

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    A couple years ago, on my birthday, they were holding the MT Washington road race on a day we decided to visit the Alpine Garden via Ammonoosuc Ravine trail. Almost all the top finishers were from Colorado. I heard leadville mentioned a few times over the loudspeakers while we were criss-crossing the trails below the rockpile. We finished by taking Huntington's trail to the Autoroad and walked up to the summit with an older racer in his late 70's or early 80's. He'd been doing the race for several years. That was a cold blustery day, too.

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    Senior Member Rhody Seth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maineguy View Post
    100 Km is not that ultra by US standards.
    Sure it is. Technically an ultramarathon is any race longer than the 26.2 miles of a marathon, with 50k generally being the shortest ultra. 100 miles is certainly the iconic distance for ultras but shorter distances count as well.

    Terrible situation over there in China. When I did the Kilkenny 50 Miler a couple years ago the race directors required you show them your kit that included among other things rain gear and an emergency blanket. In this case it doesn't sound like they had prepared their runners at all for the conditions they experienced. Just sad all around.

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    Moderator David Metsky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhody Seth View Post
    Sure it is. Technically an ultramarathon is any race longer than the 26.2 miles of a marathon, with 50k generally being the shortest ultra.
    Yes, 100K is unquestionably a solid ultra marathon by any standards.
    You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose. -- Dr. Seuss

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    Senior Member maineguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhody Seth View Post
    Sure it is. Technically an ultramarathon is any race longer than the 26.2 miles of a marathon, with 50k generally being the shortest ultra. 100 miles is certainly the iconic distance for ultras but shorter distances count as well.

    Terrible situation over there in China. When I did the Kilkenny 50 Miler a couple years ago the race directors required you show them your kit that included among other things rain gear and an emergency blanket. In this case it doesn't sound like they had prepared their runners at all for the conditions they experienced. Just sad all around.

    Yes, of course it is ultra. But...what I said is that it is not THAT ultra. Meaning there is ultra and there is ULTRA. Hey, anything over about 5 miles of running is ultra for me

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    Moderator David Metsky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maineguy View Post
    Meaning there is ultra and there is ULTRA.
    You're making a distinction that doesn't really exist. Anything over 26.2 is an ultra. Certainly, some races are longer than others, but they're all ultras.
    You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose. -- Dr. Seuss

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    Senior Member SpencerVT's Avatar
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    In the excellent Shane McConkey documentary someone being interviewed says "If you keep pushing the boundaries, at some point you're going to find them." Unfortunately, for extreme athletes this can often mean the boundary they find is death.
    It is in humanity's nature to keep pushing the extremes. Look how FKT's keep getting crazier and crazier. But the human body has a limit and when you find those limits it can be disastrous.
    Why not do a 600 mile running race being chased by wildlife through the African desert while you are wrapped in barbed wire covered in gasoline while carrying a jersey barrier?.....I mean at some point the ridiculousness and madness has to stop otherwise more people are going to keep dying. I am surprised no one has died attempting the Barkley Marathon yet.
    I also think there are plenty of other cool types of races/pursuits/activities where people can push boundaries while still greatly mitigating the risk of injury or death.
    Spencer
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    Senior Member Rhody Seth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpencerVT View Post
    .I mean at some point the ridiculousness and madness has to stop otherwise more people are going to keep dying. I am surprised no one has died attempting the Barkley Marathon yet. I also think there are plenty of other cool types of races/pursuits/activities where people can push boundaries while still greatly mitigating the risk of injury or death.
    I think it's a stretch to take this one tragic incident and extrapolate that ultrarunners are risking life and limb every time they participate. I certainly wouldn't call it madness. This was a race on the other side of the world. Who knows what kind of regulations they had. And by all accounts the fault lies with the race directors who did not account for the conditions the runners may encounter nor did they ensure that the runners had the appropriate gear for those conditions. Yes, we all accept a certain amount of risk when we venture into the backcountry on long efforts but you seem to equate it with base jumping or free soloing which is a bit sensational.

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    Senior Member Mike P.'s Avatar
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    I think Spenser's point is that activities that are meant to push the boundaries do on occasion, have the boundaries, push back. organizers are usually part of the community. It's not just runners, somewhere on the planet, someone is looking at skydiving from higher than the guy who was on the edge of space a few years ago.

    From what I've seen, the mountain range was more dramatic than what we usually see here. Someone else mentioned that the latitude (or is it longitude) was similar to NC. However, ocean currents and nearby geologic features effect weather patterns. Our nearby peaks are pretty old and worn in comparison to others.

    Several years ago, you had this: https://www.sleepmonsters.com/races.php?article_id=9279 and as you may expect, they have had other fatalities on this event and runs in Patagonia.

    Another event that many would say is pushing the boundary: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Badwater_Ultramarathon
    Have fun & be safe
    Mike P.

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    Senior Member ChrisB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhody Seth View Post
    I think it's a stretch to take this one tragic incident and extrapolate that ultrarunners are risking life and limb every time they participate. I certainly wouldn't call it madness. This was a race on the other side of the world. Who knows what kind of regulations they had. And by all accounts the fault lies with the race directors who did not account for the conditions the runners may encounter nor did they ensure that the runners had the appropriate gear for those conditions. Yes, we all accept a certain amount of risk when we venture into the backcountry on long efforts but you seem to equate it with base jumping or free soloing which is a bit sensational.
    This quote from a follow-up news story about the race sums it up. This woman survived when others did not:

    “Trail running is the same as mountain climbing,” said Chinese mountaineer Luo Jing, who survived the race. “You have to make plans for the worst case every time, and don’t pin your hopes on others.”

    Luo put her survival partly down to preparation, bringing warm clothes and ensuring she had time to descend when the weather worsened.
    Nobody told me there'd be days like these
    Strange days indeed -- most peculiar, mama
    .

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