Ultra-marathon runners recount snowstorm that canceled race and put lives at risk

Local News

KAYSVILLE, Utah (ABC4) — Eighty-seven ultramarathon runners were taken to safety after blizzard-like conditions stranded them near Thurston Peak and Francis Peak.

Upwards of a foot and a half of snow fell in a hurry during the 50-mile race. Search and rescue teams had to be called to get them off the mountains. 

A father-daughter duo was caught in this storm and said they did not prepare exactly for this, but said it happens and it is what makes the race more challenging. It was Alex and Audrey Michael’s first ultra-marathon together.

“Once they encountered those extreme weather conditions, it was truly white-out conditions and many of those runners were in some trouble,” said Davis County Sheriff Kelly Sparks.

Two of those runners in trouble were Alex and Audrey Michael.

“Audrey had a desire and a goal to run her 50 and that was supposed to be today, but that didn’t work out how we wanted it to,” said Alex Michael.

The father-daughter duo got to the starting line at East Wilderness Park in Kaysville around 4 a.m. in the morning to get ready for the Davis County 50-mile ultra-marathon. The race was on trails, service roads, and paved roads. 

It’s a tough course with around 12,000’ of vertical gain and 10,000’ of descent which ended at Tunnel Springs in North Salt Lake.

“I knew it was going to be cold and I knew there was going to be a little bit of snow at the top but I had no idea what was coming,” said Alex.

The Michaels said they had run various parts of these trails before. They were about six to seven miles in when the storm hit.

“That did become more frightening as time went on,” said 17-year-old ultra-marathon runner Audrey Michael.

Alex Michael said a race director told them the race had been canceled but they still had two miles before they could get to the nearest aid station.

“I don’t think we had fears as much as that painful trudging through, knowing we had to get to that aid station,” said Alex. “We had to get to the trucks so that way they could take care of us and it was more of just we had to get it done.”

With that attitude in mind, the Michaels said they are getting ready for their next ultra marathon.

“I think it is really nice to be at home after experiencing that,” said Audrey.

“I think part of it is knowing we hopefully got the worst one out of the way and that means everything from here will be so much better,” said Alex.

Sparks said several people were treated for hypothermia and one person was injured, but nobody had to be taken to the hospital. Search and Rescue personnel covered the entire racecourse for several hours on foot along with 4x4s and snowmobiles.

The Michaels said they are thankful for the emergency responders.

“I have to say, I was so utterly impressed by the race directors responding so quickly,” said Alex.

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