Nobody died during this year’s Badwater Ultramarathon, which took place July 16-18. In fact, nobody has ever died during the grueling 135-mile race. Considering the circumstances, however, you might call that a miracle.
Billed as “the world’s toughest foot race,” the Badwater Ultramarathon route was originally plotted in 1969 to take racers from the lowest point in the contiguous United States, Badwater, Death Valley, which sits 282 feet below sea level, to the highest point, Mt. Whitney, which shoots 14,505 feet into the California heavens.
The original route was 146 miles around bone dry lakebeds and inhospitable desert, where temperatures reach 120 degrees fahrenheit, and across the imposing Sierra Nevadas, to the peak of the tallest US mountain outside Alaska.
After multiple failed attempts, Al Arnold, the route’s architect, became the first to run the course in 1977. It only took him 80 hours.
This year, 96 runners were approved to take on the course, which, due to Forest Service requirements, no longer ends at the top of Mt. Whitney, but rather at basecamp, which sits at a lofty 8,371 feet high. This is still a formidable place to string up a finish line.
This year, Mike Morton, 40, of Lithia, Florida, crossed that finish line first, completing the course in 22:52:55. This time was just one minute shy of the all-time mark set by Valmir Nunes in 2007.
Morton completed the course at a literally blistering pace, finishing 40 minutes ahead of second place finisher and last year’s winner, Oswaldo Lopez. Third place finisher Zach Gingerich finished more than 2 hours after Lopez.
Next year, should he choose to take on the challenge once again, Morton will wear the number 1 jersey on the inhospitable route. Compared to the challenges posed by the course, to Morton, that added pressure should prove “no sweat.”
Cover Photo Credit – Jeff’s Canon – flickr.com