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Video: Dude Sprints In 129-Degree Heat Dressed As Darth Vader

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Colorado resident Jonathan Rice got hooked on heat-running in 1996 when he visited Death Valley and went on a run in the, well, deathly heat.

He had his friend drive up ahead of him about a mile or a half-mile at a time, so that he could run and catch up. Then things got a little hairy: another car turned up onto the road where he was running and Rice's friend couldn't pull over to let him back into the car for three miles.

Rice told his local paper in Colorado the Longmont Times-Call: "There I was with no water, completely ill-prepared. You can do a solo run if you stay within a couple miles of your crew, but even a four-mile run can be too hot. If you're not experienced, it will kill you."

It could have gotten really ugly, but Rice got hooked and returned again to Death Valley to run in the mercury-busting heat. But even that got too "easy" after a while, which is how the Darth Valley Challenge, now in its fourth year, was born. Instead of just running in 120-something-degree heat, Rice could do it while dressed all in black and wearing a mask.

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Laura Greenfield, a fellow Darth Valley Challenge participant who has dressed up as Princess Leia on a run, admits it's pretty insane: "It's completely crazy, but it's really fun."

This year Rice ran a mile in 6 minutes and 36 seconds. On that day, Death Valley reached 129 degrees on June 30 at 4 p.m. when he started his run. Rice is hoping to have his efforts verified as the hottest run on record in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Rice said he trains year-round for this kind of challenge by spending hours in a sauna and running in high temperatures without a costume. He warns imitators to not try this "ludicrously dangerous endeavor" unless they, too, are well-trained: "I might look like an idiot, but I'm a well-prepared one." He writes on his website, "I don't support you doing it. I don't even really support me doing it. If, for the Force-alone knows what reason, you decide to do this, you do so entirely at your own risk and you agree that you fully understand the dangers inherent in running at 129 degrees in a black costume."

So why does he do it? Well, mostly because he can:

Some people collect porcelain kittens. I run in the heat. I do it partly because I love the look on people's faces as they pass by in their air-conditioned cars - the bewilderment, the innocent, wide-eyed expression of pure disbelief. It's great.
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Here is Rice's possibly record-setting run: