Annual Baker to Vegas Relay Race may be a privilege to some, but was hot for all.
By Mary O’KEEFE
It was hot.
A relay run through Death Valley is not what most people would choose to do with their weekend, but for one weekend a year, for thousands of law enforcement officers, it has become not only a challenge but a tradition.
The 28th Annual Baker to Vegas Relay run took place last weekend, a 120-mile race on mostly desert roads covered by 272 teams.
“I ran it four times in the past,” said Deputy Ted Abdulfattah, captain of the Altadena/Crescenta Valley Los Angeles County Sheriff’s team.
This was his first time as captain. He said it was a lot of work but well worth it.
“I had never organized it before,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect but it was not that bad at all.”
Support volunteers in following vehicles kept watch over the runners.
“It was hot, very hot,” Abdulfattah said. “They said it was 110 degrees [Fahrenheit] in Baker at noon.”
He added that he had heard rumors that the heat might cause the cancellation of the race, but it went on despite the blinding hot temperatures.
Abdulfattah didn’t run this year, instead acting as captain, organizing and watching for fallen runners.
“There was a Los Angeles police officer that went down [due to the heat],” he said. “In all, 12 people were airlifted [to hospitals] the first three legs of the race.”
And that wasn’t counting the runners who had medical issues that did not need air transport.
He added that he decided to take one of his runners out of the race.
“We had a runner that we had to pull out, it was just too hot,” he said.
The race can be a logistical nightmare, however Abdulfattah credits the volunteers and support crews for making the race work.
“Volunteers like Steve Goldsworthy and Rafi Koshkarian were a huge help and so reliable during the entire run,” he said.
“I think the runners have the easiest part,” said Robert Sheedy, runner and member of the Montrose Search and Rescue. “The support team does all the heavy lifting. We just do our leg. They are out there the entire time.”
Sheedy ran the fourth leg of the race, 5.2 miles that began at 1 p.m.
“When I started, the temperature was 108 [degrees Fahrenheit] and that was ambient heat, not adding what was coming off the asphalt,” he said.
Through the miles and heat, the benefits outweighed the pain. Abdulfattah said it all came down to the camaraderie between law enforcement.
“To me, it’s a privilege to run with these [officers],” he said.
The race started as a way for officers to work together through friendly competition. The Challenge Cup/Baker to Vegas Relay began with LAPD officers Chuck Foote and Larry Moore. Foote, general manager of the Los Angeles Police Revolver and Athletic Club, Inc. and Moore, LAPD Athletic Director drove the course and designed the race. The first race had 19 teams competing, but soon grew into one of the largest law enforcement races in the world, according to www.bakervegas.com.
“I was talking to the captain of the team from Germany,” Abdulfattah said.
Although it started as a California team race, it has since expanded to hosting teams from all over the country, as well as international. This year in addition to Germany there were teams from South Wales and Canada.
“You see police agencies from all over the world,” he added. “Plus you get to see a lot of friends. I saw so many of my academy guys. “
The course began 25 miles north of Baker on Highway 127, and ended on Highway160.
Abdulfattah is ready for next year. He has already agreed to be captain and is looking forward to another 120 miles.