Badwater Ultramarathon

September 13, 2014

If the idea of running 135 miles over extreme terrain excites you, then the Badwater Ultramarathon is your race. The event takes place in Death Valley National Park every year and has been named one of the “world’s toughest foot [races]” by National Geographic. 

The event is hosted by AdventureCORPS, a group that promotes ultra-endurance sports events. The organization held its first Badwater race in 2000, although the race started in 1987. 

 The Ultramarathon begins at the lowest point in North America and concludes at the end of the Mount Whitney road. Each year, there are around 100 participants, but 400 support members and around 50 event staff are present. 

Runners come from more than 20 American states and around 20 to 25 countries. Some of these contestants have completed years of training to compete in the Badwater race.   

The Badwater Ultramarathon is also dedicated to more than running. In 2013, the race had 96 runners and these runners raised or donated $665,390 for philanthropic causes. These funds went to various organizations such as the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Challenged Athletes Foundation. 

Since the Badwater Ultramarathon’s beginning, some incredible races have occurred. According to AdventureCORPS, 743 runners have entered in the event since its founding in 1987. 

Furthermore, only 254 of these entries have been women. The youngest female to finish the race was 23-year-old Claire Heid, who endured many hours of running training to complete it. She completed the race in 2012 and was born in the United States. The youngest male to finish the race was Nickademus Hollon, age 19, USA, in 2009.  

When training for the race, competitors often have full-time jobs and careers. Additionally, there is no prize money or reward for winning or completing the race. Contestants simply receive a t-shirt, medal and a Badwater Ultramarathon buckle after running some of the toughest miles in the world.

Although the reward may seem small, one contestant has completed the race 19 times. Various other runners have completed the Ultramartathon more than 10 times as well.

It is important to note that there is an interesting change to the Badwater race this year. Although the race has taken place on the same route for 27 summers, it will be relocated in 2014. The National Park Service is conducting a “safety assessment” of the route and the run has been moved to Owens Valley, which is dozens of miles to the west. 

 One might think that moving away from a terrain with a 13,000-foot elevation gain and temperatures around 120 degrees sounds like a dream, but Badwater competitors are upset. Some argue that changing this Ultramarathon’s location is like changing the Tour de France route – it simply shouldn’t be done. Contestants who have completed the race before are also worried about altering their training schedules to accommodate the new route. 

 The Death Valley park spokeswoman Cheryl Chipman told reporters that there are multiple issues with the Badwater race, which is why they are conducting the assessment. Every year, 1 million visitors come to the desolate park for the event and the Park Service is concerned that the traffic is hazardous for tourists. 

No matter where the race is held this year, around 100 participants will still set out to add 135 non-stop miles to their running careers. The training will be long and grueling, but runners say there is no better reward than completing the Badwater Ultramarathon. 

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