Jon Rice (right, duh) and a friend pose in front of a thermometer at the finish line in Furnace Creek. Photo: Hannah Quillen.

Jon Rice (right, duh) and a friend pose in front of a thermometer at the finish line in Furnace Creek. Photo: Hannah Quillen.

The Dark Side was way on the hot side for Jon Rice, a Colorado-based runner who sprinted a mile across Death Valley, California, dressed in a stifling Darth Vader costume.

Rice set off for his mile jaunt at 4 p.m. on June 30, when the U.S. National Weather Service recorded the temperature at 129 F (53.9 C), one of the hottest temperatures ever recorded on Earth and the hottest day in June anywhere on the planet, ever.

With a complete Vader ensemble, including jet-black Vader cape, full-body suit, gloves, balaclava and face mask, Rice shocked local drivers by sprinting down the side of the road and finishing the mile in 6 minutes, 36 seconds. The feat could get him into the Guinness World Records for the hottest verified mile run in history, never mind the Vader outfit.

What force, you might ask, who compel someone to do this? “There is no good reason for it other than the sheer joy of seeing the looks on the faces of the people quietly trying to escape the cloying heat, windows rolled up and AC blasting … while you thunder by, cape flying,” Rice wrote on his website. “Some people collect porcelain kittens. I run in the heat.”

Jon Rice ran the 6:36 mile in Death Valley dressed as Darth Vader. Photo: Laura Greenfield.

Jon Rice ran a 6:36 mile in Death Valley dressed as Darth Vader. Photo: Laura Greenfield.

The 42-year-old Rice has been doing this “Darth Valley Challenge” since 2010 and calls it a “ludicrously dangerous” endeavour. “I don’t support you doing it. I don’t even support me doing it,” he adds.

Dangers, according to Rice, include “dehydration, heatstroke, heart attack, lung-busting, leg knack, chapped lips, death, death, more death and getting a purple face.”

Breathing is by far the most challenging aspect of the run, Rice says. “I have drilled air holes, but it’s still like being slowly overcome by carbon dioxide poisoning,” he tells Canadian Running. “By the end of the run, I feel like a fish that’s been slapping around on the riverbank for way too long. I’m taking in mouthfuls of balaclava, not air!”


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