When snowflakes started falling a few miles into a 50-mile ultramarathon through the Utah mountains, Annie Macdonald was not worried. As an experienced long-distance runner, she had expected some snow.
But then the stray flakes turned into a near whiteout, lashing participants of Saturday’s DC Peaks 50 race with winds of up to 40 miles per hour and erasing the path through the desolate terrain. The temperature dropped and Macdonald, who wore a rain jacket over a shirt, with tights, mittens and running shoes, became “just miserably, miserably cold.”
The race was in its first year as a new arrival to the increasingly popular ultramarathon scene. Ultramarathons stretch longer than the 26.2 miles of a marathon, covering grueling distances of 50 miles or more.
At about seven miles into the race and six miles from the first station, there was little choice for Macdonald but to keep going. With the path gone and the snow blasting into her face, she could only follow the footfalls of the runner ahead of her, pushing on nearly five hours to the station.
“I just kept thinking, okay, be smart. Don’t get injured, because if you get injured, then you can’t keep moving, and you have got to keep moving,” Macdonald said in an interview on Sunday. “And so that was what I kept telling myself. But even then, it was still scary for me, because I’ve never been that cold. And you just think, how can I be this cold?”
The 46-year-old, a friend of the race organizers who lives in the last house outside the canyon where the ultramarathon began, was one of 87 runners caught in the rugged mountains of northern Utah when extreme weather brought on up to 18 inches of snowfall. All were rescued in an hours-long operation that included the Davis County Sheriff’s Office, first responders, search and rescue volunteers and the organizers of the ultramarathon, who called off the event once they grasped the extreme conditions.
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