Ultra-marathoner bolts to 3rd place after being hit by lightning

Calgary marathoner Adam Campbell running in the Hardrock 100, where he finished in third place...

Calgary marathoner Adam Campbell running in the Hardrock 100, where he finished in third place despite being caught in lightning strike. Photo courtesy Byron Powell/iRunFar.com

Michael Platt, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:01 AM ET

CALGARY -- Having watched one lightning bolt strike the mountain summit only seconds earlier, Adam Campbell decided the peak was probably his safest bet.

After all, everyone knows the old adage about lightning never striking the same place twice, right?

"Apparently, that is not true," chuckles Campbell.

Campbell can laugh now, but on Friday night, it was a decision that nearly cost the Calgary runner his life high in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado -- and just moments later, lightning would indeed target that same summit for a second time, with Campbell standing right on top of it.

The near-fatal strike came in midst of the Hardrock 100, ranked as one of the world's toughest ultra-marathons, and Campbell should have been focusing on getting to the finish line of the 100 mile race, still some 12 hours away.

But as the Canadian and his pacer, Aaron Heidt, ran through the evening darkness towards the highest point of the race -- 14,058-foot Handies Peak -- the thunderstorm they'd managed to avoid so far suddenly changed course.

"We were watching this weather system rolling in, and it was really beautiful, vivid red and a big angry sky, and we could see it coming in -- but it looked like the system was moving away from the peak we were on," said Campbell.

"But as we went up the summit ridge, the weather changed instantly. And then when we were about 200 or 300 feet from the summit, we actually saw lightning strike it, right where we were headed."

Completely exposed on the barren peak, 35-year-old Campbell and his pacing partner made a fast decision to keep moving as quickly as possible -- "speed is your only defence" -- and continued to run over the summit as the stormed raged around them.

And then lightning did what it supposedly doesn't, and when a few million volts of electricity grounded on the top of Handies Peak for a second time that night, both Campbell and Heidt were hit.

"Right when we hit the summit, we heard a huge crack and a flash of light and both of us got knocked to the ground," said Campbell.

"I heard the battery on my headlamp pop -- and we were laying there looking at each other, and we both swore.

"It was really scary, with lightning going on all around us -- you're in shock, like 'were we really just struck by lightning in the middle of a race?'"


Videos

Photos