Jeff Lynn, Slippery Rock University professor of exercise and rehabilitative sciences, has been asked to provide medical treatment for a day-and-a-half during what many physiologists consider the toughest footrace on the planet – the Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, Calif.
The 135-mile race begins July 15. Up to 100 participants will endure 120-degree heat during the day and cooler temperatures at night as they run for up to 36 consecutive hours.
Lynn, himself an ultramarathon runner, will man the 42-mile station. He will assess heat-related problems experienced by runners and their crews, and help runners control nutrition, hydration and sun exposure so that they keep their bodies in working order until the finish line.
The race is especially grueling, Lynn said, because it moves from the Mojave Desert, which is 285 feet below sea level, to Mount Whitney, elevation 8,300 feet.
“My job is to help people who are truly sick. It could be the runners or it could be their crew,” he said. Treatment could involve an IV or emergency-based intervention.
Lynn serves as chair of the special interest group on endurance medicine for the American College of Sports Medicine, an association promoting and researching fitness. The association asked Lynn to provide medical treatment because of his expertise in endurance fitness.
“I am a lifelong learner. I became an exercise physiologist because I am fascinated by the ability of the human mind and body to manage these extreme circumstances,” Lynn said. “The Badwater Ultramarathon is like a laboratory to study the limits of human endurance.? When you combine the distance and the temperature, it’s truly an extreme challenge.”
The race comes amid heat-related Death Valley media attention marking the 100-year anniversary of the hottest air temperature ever. The National Weather Service recorded a 134 degree Fahrenheit temperature July 10, 1913.
The forecast for the weekend and early next week is a “cool” 118 degrees.
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