Imagine running 400m—that’s once around the track. Not a big deal for most of us. If you run it as fast as you can, you may need a minute to catch your breath and recover, but still, for most Parkites it's--no pun intended--a walk in the park. Now imagine running that same 400m at a pure uphill sprint and you’ll get a better picture of the excruciating pain and exhaustion you’d feel after participating in the Red Bull 400.
The Red Bull 400 could be the world’s most challenging race out there, both mentally and physically. Runners scramble up a Nordic ski jump as fast as they can to reach the top before other competitors. This year, racers have fought to conquer ski jumps across Europe and North America. What began in Almaty, Kazakhstan ends in Park City on September 24th at the Utah Olympic Park. While all the races, whether in Germany or Canada, are grueling in their own right, the Park City venue boasts the additional challenge of elevation. From the starting line of the Nordic ski jump, racers will have to ascend to 6,870 ft., the highest altitude of any of the competition venues.
Categories for this year's Red Bull 400 will include a full-distance solo for men and women as well as a co-ed 4x100m relay. There's also a special coed CROSSFIT heat where cross fit athletes will have the chance to run with Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, the female winner of 2014 CrossFit Games, and qualify for the men's and women's individual finals. This year's event is capped at 650 racers (15 spots of those spots being reserved for professional athletes) so the heats can remain small enough (40-50 people) in order to create the best possible environment. Twelve teams of four people will compete in the relay event and another 40 will be in the special cross fit heat. The first, second, and third place finishers in both the men's and women's individual race take home $1500, $750, and $250, respectively, while the top three relay teams win $1000, $400, and $200 prizes. In addition to the hefty purse, Under Armour will also be on hand to pass out schwag to winners.
The first Red Bull 400 took place in Tauplitz, Austria back in 2011; the event's North American debut happened last September here in Park City. The two-time Olympiac cross-country skier, Liz Stephen, who’s based here in Park City, took the crown for the women, finishing in 4 minutes, 39.2 seconds. The men’s winner was Ahmet Arslan of Turkey, a multi-gold medal winner at the European Mountain Running Championships and winner of the inaugural Red Bull 400, who clocked in at 3 minutes, 58.9 seconds. This year's field includes 2013 World Champion and 2014 Olympian in ski jumping, Sarah Hendrickson and big-mountain freeskier Johnny Collinson. All the proceeds from the Red Bull 400 will help fund the Utah Olympic Park's in-house programs, including the Park City Nordic Ski Club. "The event is a great way to support the club," said Utah Olympic Park Marketing Manager Melanie Welch, "and it's always fun seeing the Nordic ski jumps used in entirely new ways."
Ordinary mortals can, of course, come out to the Utah Olympic Park to cheer on the athletes at 10:15 a.m. when the first heat gets underway. The event will continue for the rest of the afternoon, is free and open to the public, and food/beverages will be available for purchase from Under Armour. After the race, everyone is also welcome to move over to Drafts Sports Bar & Grill at the Westgate Park City Resort in Spa from 3 - 7 p.m. for a special meet and greet with Misty Diaz, one of the most competitive adaptive athletes in the country. See you at the races!