It’s been called the worlds toughest foot race, and amongst endurance athletes, its level of difficulty is legendary. It is the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135 mile run that starts today in Death Valley and ends Wednesday when the final competitors cross the finish line half-way up Mt. Whitney.
The race begins in Badwater, California, which sits at the heart of Death Valley National Park, the lowest point in North American, falling some 280 feet below sea level. The 135 mile course crosses three mountain ranges and registers a total of more than 13,000 feet of vertical gain, along with another 4,700 feet of descent. Racers will face temperatures climbing up to 130ºF as they run to the finishline which sits at the Mt. Whitney Portal found 8360 feet up that mountain.
This year’s field consists of 88 athletes, 71 men and 17 women. 50 racers are veterans of previous Badwater races, while 38 unsuspecting rookies will set out into the desert for the first time. They hail from seventeen countries from around the globe, and the youngest entrant is just 19 years of age, while the oldest is 67.
Over the next two days, these amazing endurance athletes will race non-stop across that 135 mile course, with the blazing Death Valley sun and opressive heat punishing them every step of the way. The top runners will reach the finishline in roughly 24 hours, while the average racer will finish in about 45 hours. Everyone who finishes in less than 48 hours is awarded the prestigious Badwater belt buckle. There is no prize money and the competitors do it just for the challenge.