The STYR Labs Badwater® 135 ultramarathon is held annually, in July when weather conditions and temperatures are most extreme in Death Valley, with temperatures hovering around 120 Fahrenheit (49 Celsius). The Badwater race is considered the most demanding running race in the world and very few people, even among ultramarathoners, are capable of finishing this extreme competition. This 135-mile course takes the extreme athletes from Nevada’s Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at 282 feet (85m) below sea level, to California’s Mount Whitney Portal, the highest point in the US, at 8,300 feet.
In total, the grueling ultramarathon course covers three mountain ranges for a total of 14,600 feet (4450m) of vertical ascent and 6,100 feet (1859m) of vertical descent. Throughout the race the runners experience the following landmarks while running the course from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney: Mushroom Rock, Furnace Creek, Salt Creek, Devil’s Cornfield, Devil’s Golf Course, Stovepipe Wells, Panamint Springs, Keeler, Alabama Hills, and Lone Pine.
Stan Rodefer and Jim Burnworth from San Diego first made the Badwater trek, from Badwater to Mount Whitney through the perilous salt flats in Death Valley, in 1969. The first race to complete this brutal course in 1987, inaugurated this footrace as an official, organized competition. Five runners competed in the race the first year, and it the early years the course did not specify any particular route from Badwater to Mt. Whitney. The runners would attempt various "shortcuts" between the start and finish line; one competitor, Adrian Crane, even used cross-country skis to cross the salt-flats at Badwater.
In 2014 the location of this ultramarathon was changed after federal park officials barred it over safety concerns. The National Park Service conducted a "safety assessment" of the run and other athletic events during that summer. Race organizers have re-routed one of the ultra-distance running competition and moved it to an alternate course that crossed the Owens Valley, dozens of miles to the west. Competitors eager to participate in the event coined, “the toughest foot race in the world,” were frustrated with the changes made to the course.
Kathy Billings, superintendent of Death Valley, announced the safety review was necessary in light of the athletic events in recent years posing safety risks and triggering "multiple near miss" accidents, most notably with support vehicles connected to the races. She went on to state that the assessment would look into the impact on participants, park visitors and employees.
Chris Kostman the Chief Adventure Officer at AdventureCORPS, Inc. and the Race Director of the Badwater Ultra Cup who operates the Badwater run, Furnace Creek bike race and three other Death Valley events, called this decision by Billings, "mind-blowing" and "unprecedented", to cancel or relocate the competitions, given that there have been no deaths, serious accidents or citations over the last 24 years. (The Park Service does not dispute the events' clean safety records.)
Kostman said that runners that participate in the Badwater ultramarathon are among the best-trained athletes, conditioned for the hot and rugged conditions and that no runners have died or been seriously injured in the race. The course was returned to the original route for the 2015 race.
Valmir Nunes, 43, from Brazil, currently holds the record for the fastest-ever finish recorded in 2007 by crossing the tape at 22:51:29. Throughout recent history, about 70 to 80 people choose to compete in the race every year, and twenty to 40 percent of racers typically fail to finish.
The application period has already begun, Tuesday, January 19 2016 - Tuesday, February 23, 2016.
RACE DATE: Monday-Wednesday, July 18-20, 2016.