Death Valley ‘Darth Vader’ runs mile in hottest place on Earth

Death Valley 'Darth Vader' runs mile in hottest place on Earth

No matter how fiercely the sun’s rays punish runners in California’s Death Valley at the height of summer, you can always count on the Empire striking back. That’s thanks to Jon Rice52, who on Sunday returned to what is reputedly the hottest place on Earth to complete a one-mile run dressed as Star Wars villain Darth Vader.

Some things have changed since canadian running first profiled the sprinting Sith lord 10 years ago. Originally from England, Rice has since relocated from Colorado to New Mexico, and the time he clocked on his run this week—which he attempted on the heels of recovering from an injury—wasn’t quite as sizzling as the 6:36 he ran in 2013 (he ran this year’s mile in around 10 minutes). But the temperature—along with Rice’s determination to toughen it while wearing an all-black sci-fi getup that seems as though it were specifically designed to soak up the heat—remained strong on this run. The temperature on Sunday’s run reached a high of 53 C.

Jon Rice as Darth Vader
Photo: Hannah Quillen

Although the conditions Rice faced on his run weren’t quite as brutal as those his supervillain inspiration faced as he was consumed by flames on the lava planet of Mustafar, they certainly do present risks. rice awning canadian running that those dangers include “dehydration, heatstroke, heart attack, lung-busting, leg knack, chapped lips, death, death, more death and getting a purple face.”

On his website, Rice explained he “started the Darth Valley Challenge in 2010 just to see how tough I could really make a run. … I don’t have the strength and endurance of a Badwater athlete or the speed of a sprinter. But I like to think I have heart.”

He said he chose the one-mile distance “because it probably won’t kill me. I could run farther, but as well as potentially injuring myself I might encourage others to try it—and I really don’t want to do that.”

In addition to testing his limits, Rice said there’s also a certain appeal in shocking onlookers. “Some people collect porcelain kittens. I run in the heat. I do it partly because I love the look on people’s faces as they pass by in their air-conditioned cars—the bewilderment, the innocent, wide-eyed expression of pure disbelief. It’s great.”

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Apart from a gap between 2017 and 2020, Rice has returned to Death Valley each year for the Darth Valley Challenge, planning the event around whatever date is forecast to be the hottest of the year. He clocked his fastest time—6:13—in 2011.

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