One of Canberra's top endurance events has been cancelled because of soaring heat and fire risk, as the ACT Government took precautions after the "catastrophic outcome" of a Western Australian ultra-marathon in 2011 where runners were trapped by bushfires and suffered life-threatening burns.
ACT 's Territory and Municipal Services ordered the cancellation of the Sri Chinmoy Triple Triathlon on Saturday, on the eve of the event, citing the potential for total fire bans and expected 36-degree temperatures on Sunday.
Another endurance event will go ahead in Canberra on Sunday, up to 1500 competitors are expected for the inaugural Lifeline Fun Run on the new Majura Parkway, including a 21.1-kilometre half-marathon.
More than 400 competitors had entered the Triple Triathlon, which is comparable to an Ironman triathlon, where competitors cover more than 6km of open-water swimming, 99km of mountain biking and 35km of trail running.
But with the likelihood of total fire bans in Canberra from midday on Sunday, and 80 per cent of the course set in surrounding bushland, TAMS stepped in to shut it.
ACT Sports Minister Shane Rattenbury, an endurance athlete who will fire the starter's gun for the Lifeline run, cited the example of a 100km ultra-marathon in Western Australia's Kimberley region in 2011, where two women suffered life-threatening burns when trapped in a fire.
It was subject to a WA parliamentary inquiry that found organisers did not do enough to ensure the safety of competitors.
"That was a catastrophic outcome and I think people have learnt a lot from that when it comes to these sorts of events, particularly around fire danger," Rattenbury said.
"Given the spread-out nature of the event, it certainly presents a safety risk from a fire point of view. That's the first part of it. It's an endurance sporting event ... and in extreme heat there's obviously a personal safety risk as well in terms of dehydration and the like."
The ACT Government has vowed to help reorganise the race. A new date is expected to be announced by the end of the week.
Individual entries cost up to $210 and team entries $270, but event organiser Prachar Stegemann said entrants would not be entitled to a refund. Instead, competitors could defer their entry in the annual event for as long as three years.
Stegemann said organisers would lose money staging the next event, but he backed the government's decision.
"The decision was made by the government, they phoned us and told us they had to cancel the event," Stegemann said. "Having said that, we fully appreciate and support their decision.
"Staging an event like this is very expensive and most of that cost is upfront. People enter in good faith that there's going to be an event, we spend their money in good faith that there's going to be an event, all of a sudden it's cancelled. It's not the athlete's fault and not our fault."
A five-time winner of the Triple Triathlon, Canberra's Trevor Fairhurst, said competitor safety was the most important consideration.
"It's disappointing, but I understand," Fairhurst said. "If things are cancelled because of fire risk, which are inherent in Australia ... it's only a race, it's just for fun."
While the winner usually takes about 11 hours to complete the Triple Triathlon, Sunday's half-marathon starts at 7.30am and the top runners will be finished by 9am, escaping the most brutal heat.
It will also be on sealed road, allowing extra supervision.
Event manager Matt Heffernan said: "We've got four water stations on the route, there's 14,000 litres of water, we've got a firetruck coming to be on site at 8.30am after they change over shifts, we're taking every precaution we can."