The Badwater 135, hosted by Adventure CORPS, may have had its last year of punishing runners in Death Valley. The event is considered the toughest of its kind in America, as well as around the world (known as the “world’s toughest foot race”). Chris Kostma, the event organizer, believes that the Badwater 135 still has hope as a continued extreme running staple, but can’t be sure of the specifics given the new rules being enacted by Death Valley National Parks Service.
The restrictions withhold runners from participating when temperatures reach over 110˚F. The event is also forbidden to take place between 10am and sundown while in areas below 2,000 foot elevation (from June 14 to September 9). These restrictions pushed Badwater 135 out of Badwater, Death Valley while those behind the event consider how they’ll return while keeping the race as brutally tough as ever.
This year, The Badwater 135 was a non-stop 135 mile marathon that started in Lone Pine, California and went to Mount Whitney Portal, California. In between runners went through a ghost town (Cerro Gordo), and were challenged to a total of 17,00 feet of ascent and 12,700 feet of descent throughout the course. The new 2014 route introduced the difficult changes in elevation to keep the run challenging while avoiding the new restrictions.
The route used to start in Badwater and have runners battling the harsh heat of Death Valley and Panamint Valley. Before the 90s, the race ended at the summit of Mt. Whitney, an additional 11 miles up from where it ends now (making it a 146 mile marathon). More and more this race is being chipped away at. In its conception, the course was designed to take participants from the lowest point in the continental United States to the highest point. It no longer does this, but the spirit—of being a brutal course that pushes even the most experienced marathon runner to the brink—has always held true.
This year, American Harvey Lewis had the best time of 22 hours, 52 minutes, 55 seconds (racers are required to complete the course in 48 hours). The shortest time ever was set in 2007 by Brazilian Valmir Nunes with a time of 22 hours, 51 minutes, 29 seconds. What do racers get for completing the course? A belt buckle. It isn’t about fortune or fame for these people, it’s about the satisfaction of accomplishing a difficult adventure. The belt buckle is just a great way for them to hold their pants up high in pride.