Racers to run, walk 'Hottest Race on Earth' Saturday afternoon in Scottsdale

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The city of Scottsdale is hoping a unique extreme race will become an annual draw for visitors during the heat of the summer. Officially called Scottsdale Beat the Heat, race organizers are billing it as the "Hottest Race on Earth."

The event takes place at WestWorld of Scottsdale on Saturday, June 22, which is the first full day of summer. While most events like this kick off early in the morning, especially during the hot summer months, this race has a somewhat unusual -- and very specific -- start time. Runners will take their marks, get set and go at exactly 2:47 p.m.

Why such a specific time? It's a historical reference. At 2:47 p.m. on June 26, 1990, the temperature hit an astounding 122 degrees in Phoenix -- the hottest temperature the Valley of the Sun has ever seen. That record still stands today, 23 years later.

The record also is the inspiration for the so-called Hottest Race on Earth. Organizers say the event is a way to celebrate the heat in the desert we call home. Nearly 1,000 people from all over the world are expected to run the race.

"We came up with this idea during a tourism development meeting," Jennifer Parks, one of the event organizers, explained. "How can we celebrate the heat rather than retreat from it? … Let's bring out racers. … We have Olympians coming in. We have runners from Ethiopia coming out to run."

There are two components to Saturday's event -- an 11.22K course and a 5K course, both of which are walkable.

"Not everyone has to run it," Parks said.

Many think running a race -- or even walking one -- in the heat of the day is crazy.

"Crazy, I suppose, is probably a state of mind," said James Cunningham of PMT Ambulance, the title sponsor of Scottsdale Beat the Heat. "It's amazing to see what the human body can do."

Cunningham said proper preparation and hydration are the keys to safety for participants.

"You need to make sure you're stopping at every one of the nine water stations that are strategically placed [throughout the course]," he said.

"Typically you see [hydration stations] every two miles at a race like this. We're going to have them every half mile," Parks said.

In addition to the water stations, EMTs, paramedics and firefighters will be set up along the course, ready to help anyone who might need it. Ambulances will be stationed along the route, as well.

Cunningham said participants need to be diligent about listening to their bodies.

"If you're not feeling quite right, don't tough it out," he said. "There are no prizes for being Superman out there."

The goal is for everyone to have fun and go home safely.

The race ends with a family-friendly celebration featuring the world's largest inflatable water slide. It's four stories high.

Local runners are excited for the first-of-its kind race.

"We're doing it because we love the Valley and we want to do something that keeps us active over the summer," runner Diane Loran said. "It's fun to be part of the inaugural event."

"It's gonna be tough. It's gonna be a challenge," said Sheila Lees, an Arizona native who has been training for the event.

3TV Meteorologist April Warnecke says it won't be anywhere near 122 degrees on Saturday, but it won't be anywhere near cool, either.

"We're forecasting about 107 for Saturday," she said. "It's going to be around 105, 106 about that time when the race is starting."

Participants are required to sign a waiver before hitting the course.

For more information, check out ScottsdaleBeatTheHeat.com.