Quite recently the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic of summer 2014 happened. Like any other race in Alaska this is one where you are on your own. There isn't any life support and as most races you sign a liability form. Most parts of Alaska don't have any cell service, because you are far out in the wilderness. Where self rescue, as stated on the wilderness classic blog mean: Self-rescue does not mean that you know how to dial a sat phone for a rescue. Self-rescue means that you know how to stabilize serious injuries enough that you can walk (or crawl) dozens of miles to a possible fly-out zone. You are on your own and you have to take care of yourself. Most people will never acquire the experience necessary to run a Classic
As W says, this is stupid and selfish, why would anyone ever do that? Well as a human we are born to challenge ourselves. Some people are of a "different breed" as the wilderness classic blog call it. Some humans want to experience the impossible, some people want to experience the wild, but you don't need to do the wilderness classic to do that. In fact, you only need to take your hiking boots, backpack, tent and sleeping bag and venture off to some backcountry creek or alike and just start to hike. There are plenty of land to explore in Alaska, but there are also plenty of obstacles, or challenges that you might not have thought about prior to your wilderness experience.
A couple of weeks ago one of the veterans in the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic died. He died just after putting in into the Tana river which is described by the park ranger Peter Christian: "The Tanana River is known for extremely cold, swift, large water and difficult rapids, when the water is high it's big water. "As soon as Rob put in, he was swept into big, boiling hydraulic". You can read the rest of the story in Alaska Dispatch which has a detailed article about it. We have had so much rain in large parts of the state, so a lot of rivers in the interior at leas are swelled. Our small streams are about 10 times as big as they usually are, I would for sure be scared putting into the big rivers now. But then again, if you already had your mind set to do it, would you call it off?
A lot of people just want to live a little, they feel more alive and get that specific rush when they do something they are afraid of, I think most people feel the same. Weather its braving to pet a spider or a snake at the zoo, or conquer the Grand Canyon in a kayak. This is how all extreme sports are born, and along the way some people loose their life's, just by chance, just like we could die walking down to street in a car accident. Either way it's sad, but it happens.