Say it five times fast: "Darth Vader-dressed dude dashes in Death Valley." It sounds like a comic convention fever dream, but it's very real. Jonathan Rice is a fan of heat running. It's pretty much what it sounds like. It involves running in stifling hot temperatures.
Rice is the originator of the Darth Valley Challenge, a personal challenge he sets himself to run a mile through Death Valley at the height of its heat, all the while dressed as everyone's favorite "Star Wars" villain, mask and all.
The most recent Darth Valley Challenge took place on June 30 when the National Weather Service recorded a temperature of 129 degrees. Rice made the mile run in 6 minutes and 36 seconds. He describes the run as pointless, but completely fun. Now, in its fourth year, the challenge this year also had the goal of setting a new Guinness World Record for hottest verified run.
According to the Colorado newspaper Longmont Times-Call, Rice wasn't alone this year. His support driver dressed as Chewbacca and other supporters showed up in costumes ranging from Princess Leia to R2-D2.
This may all sound a little insane to you, and Rice agrees. "This is a ludicrously dangerous endeavor. I don't support you doing it. I don't even really support me doing it," he says. His site is full of disclaimers about the dangers of heat running, such as heart attacks, heatstroke, and death.
The dangers don't dissuade Rice from his unusual hobby, however. He's planning to go again next year. Perhaps we could persuade some "Star Trek" fans to challenge him to a footrace dressed in full Klingon costumes. That would be worth braving the heat for.