Every year I visit Death Valley in California, usually in July, so that I can sprint a mile dressed as Darth Vader.
It’s pretty hot. In fact, I was there on the hottest reliably-measured day in history, June 29th 2013, when the thermometer read 129.2F. (Although the official record is 134F back in 1913, it is almost certainly wrong by at least ten degrees.)
Why? Well, why not?!
Apparently, even in Death Valley, this is considered strange behavior, and the Darth Valley Challenge – a name I coined in 2010 – was picked up all over the world by TV stations, newspapers, websites and radio shows.
At a conservative estimate, there were 300 million impressions across all media. From the BBC to South African National Radio and NPR, the French news shows to The Qatari Times, in USA Today and on the front page of Yahoo, and even in the less-than-fun-loving Runner’s World, it turned up everywhere!
Over the years I’ve been joined by Princess Leia (in BOTH outfits…), Chewbacca, Han Solo, R2D2, Greedo, Jango Fett, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi and a nameless Sand Person.
It’s one of the most ridiculous and fun things I believe you can do to yourself in the desert, and apparently a lot of people agree. I actually got letters telling me that the Darth Valley Challenge made the writer proud to be an American!
Although a feature-length segment on ESPN never materialized, due to a temporary ban on sporting activity in the National Park, I still get inquiries every year about when, where, and how to join in. This year – 2017 – it was CBS.
Which just goes to show, you can even find evergreen content in the desert…