DAVIS COUNTY, Utah – Athletes and staff who competed in the DC Peaks Ultramarathon share how they managed to get to safety after encountering an unexpected blizzard.
Between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, more than 80 runners embarked on a 50 mile hike that can take between 8 and 12 hours.
“It was raining when we left, but it was actually warm,” said Annie MacDonald, who has been racing ultramarathon since 2004. “We did about the mile six and it started to snow. But it was light. It was kind of like we knew there was going to be snow, we were ready for it.
But as MacDonald and the others continued up the backcountry trail, the snow got worse.
“The wind was blowing 30 to 40 miles an hour sideways,” she said. “You couldn’t see anything. It was foggy.
At this point, the athletes’ goal has shifted from the finish line to survival.
READ: Runners rescued after snow stops Davis County ultramarathon
“I just kept following the girl in front of me. I followed his feet. It’s the only thing I could see, ”MacDonald said.
Shortly after, the race organizers were informed of the challenges faced by the athletes. As soon as they were informed of the conditions, the race was canceled and the organizers made a plan.
“I told them the next aid station – Francis Peak First Aid Station – is a mile or two miles away. You’re going to go there, warm up, get some food and run five or six miles downhill to Farmington Lifeguard Station, ”said Jake Kilgore, one of the two race organizers.
The athletes started to move towards this aid station, but the journey was slow. MacDonald says her post-race stats indicated she was traveling at a pace of about a mile every 30 minutes.
“It was the coldest I have ever been in my life,” she said. “You knew you had to keep going. You had to go to this first aid post because there was no other way out.
The aid station was the closest place that all-terrain vehicles driven by race organizers and rescuers could reach due to the rough terrain and conditions. When the athletes got to this point, they could be taken to safety.
MacDonald described feeling relief at the sight of these trucks after being in rough elements for about five hours.
“The word got out of Mick and Jake [race organizers] that we need to get the runners off the mountain and they’ve all come together, ”said MacDonald. “I was shaking uncontrollably. I was incredibly grateful that they were so organized. It was immediate. “
MacDonald and another race participant contacted by FOX 13 credited the race organizers with acting quickly and without hesitation to ensure that all race participants were led to safety.
Davis County Sheriff’s search and rescue teams also helped get people out of the mountain.
“The search and rescue has been phenomenal,” Kilgore said.
The Davis County Sheriff’s Office said minor injuries were treated on the spot and no one needed hospitalization.
While the first edition of this race ended abruptly and unexpectedly, Kilgore is already planning the 50 mile event next year.
“The super successful running community thanks to risk and excitement, doing tough tasks and completing tough tasks,” he said.