Badwater Ultramarathon begins today in Death Valley

80 of the world’s top endurance athletes have descended on Badwater, California, located in Death Valley, to take part in the 33rd annual Badwater Ultramarathon, which gets underway at 6AM local time today. Known as “the world’s toughest footrace”, the Badwater is one of the most grueling and demanding competitions on the planet, punishing runners who come to challenge the unbelievable course, the intense natural elements and of course, themselves.

The race begins in the town of Badwater, which sits at the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere – 280 feet below sea level. From there, the course will run 135 miles through the heart of Death Valley, crossing three mountain ranges, before ending at the Mt. Whitney Portals, located at an altitude of 8300 feet. Along the way, the runners will face more than 13,000 feet of vertical gain, as well as 4700 feet of vertical descent. Along the way, temperatures will soar as high as 130ºF, adding yet another element to an already extreme race.

The runners will go day and night, mostly non-stop, throughout the entire race. Support vehicles will be on hand to ensure that they have food and water, not to mention medical attention, as need. The fastest runners will cover the 135 miles in approximately 24 hours or so, while most will take somewhere in the 30-40 hour range. Officially the race runs through Wednesday, with runners straggling across the finish line late into the day.

Ultramarathoners are incredibly fit and tough athletes who are capable of covering great distances, often at amazing speeds. But when it comes to challenging races, few are tougher than the Badwater. While it is too late to join the fun this year, you can start training now to get in on the action next July.

[Photo credit: The Los Angeles Times]