One of the most extreme ultramarathons of the year looms… Billed as the world’s toughest foot race, elite athletes run from the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, Death Valley (-280 ft below sea level), to the end of the road on Mt. Whiney at 8,300 ft.
This is a 135 mile (217 km) non-stop race where the temperatures don’t drop below 90 degrees F / 32 C at night and are so blistering hot during the day that the soles of your shoes melt… 130 F / 55 C. Once you get to Mount Whitney however the temperatures can drop to 30 – 40 degrees F / -1 – 4 C.
“It is the most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet,” say AdventureCORPS, the organisers of this endurance event.
The race runs through Death Valley, across another valley, up and over a mountain range, followed by an interminable run across a high desert plateau before a left turn at Lone Pine. After 120 miles, you finish the race with a 15 mile run up non-stop switchbacks to the 8,000 ft base camp of Mount Whitney. And there is a cut-off time of 48 hours.
Sound like fun? … and all this with no sleep.
The following video is a synapsed view of the 2010 race. It’s long but I think it’s worth watching. In fact, it’s positively motivational.
Tony Portera , who will be taking part in this race for the third time, has this to say about it: “Sometimes I liken the Badwater Ultramarathon to an amusement park ride, perhaps a mix between the twists/turns/highs and lows of a Space Mountain, the constant changing terrain and scenery of the past like the Great Movie Ride, and a look into the inner workings of what it takes to not only cover 135 miles in extreme conditions, but also to organize it, sort of like the Studio Backlot Tour. The event truly is a mixture of so many different things… As usual, I’m still scared to death by this race for a variety of reasons!”
Greg Bomhof, challenging the course for the first time, has heard enough about Badwater to know that “much of the race is a matter of mental toughness, of slogging away for hours with waves of heat shimmering off the road that seemingly stretches forever”. A previous 2010 runner, Brian Recore, who will be taking part in it again this year, has warned him that “The course itself messes with your head. It’s the monotony, looking out 20 miles in the distance and seeing where you still have to go. It can get to you.” Bomhof has been training for months and has even subjected himself to regular doses of sweltering heat in a sauna in an attempt to prepare his body for the temperatures it is about to be exposed to on Monday.
Monday, 11th July, is D-Day. 17 nationalies from 14 countries will be taking part in this, the 34th staging of the event. The average age of the 94 runners is 45. There will be 66 males and 28 women taking part of which 44 are veterans and 50 are rookies.
Good luck to one and all.
feature photo courtesy of: There’s a Shark in the Water