Globally known as “the world’s toughest foot race”, Badwater 135 takes place every Summer in Death Valley, California, USA.
The most challenging part of the race is the heat, as temperatures can reach 130 °F (54 °C).
Up to 100 BadAsses yearly toe the line and attempt to cover the 135 miles (217 km) route non-stop, from the bottom of Death Valley to high on Mt. Whitney.
It started with Al Arnold’s original trek from Badwater to Mt. Whitney in 1977. Arnold, an ultrarunning pioneer and human potential guru, competed in a solo effort: it was just him and his support crew against the elements and the clock.
It took four more years until Jay Birmingham also completed the course, in 1981. The official head-to-head race began ten years after Arnold’s pioneer trek, in 1987, and has been held annually since then without serious incident, fatality, or any citations issued by any branch of law enforcement.
It was the British Eleanor Robinson who won the first Badwater Ultramarathon in 1987 in 52:45:00!
The first male finisher in 1987 followed more than 6 hours later with a completion time of 58:57:34.
Death Valley is the largest U.S. National Park outside Alaska with 91% protected wilderness, including low valley floors crusted with barren salt flats, rugged mountains rising as much as 11,000 feet, deep and winding canyons, rolling sand dunes, and spring-fed oases.
The race contributes to several charities to conserve the environment because “We care deeply about the natural world for we are intrinsically linked with it and because we want to enjoy these events in their awesome natural settings for a long, long time. Here is what we are doing, so far, to mitigate the impact of our events, as well as some current thoughts about doing better.”
It’s a self-sufficient race. Runners must arrange their own crew and vehicle to provides them with all needed support, like water, ice, food, gear, pacing, and medical care.
“Simply put, without the crew, there can be no runner, so I’m thankful to Eric for sticking with me for the whole run. Crew members have to train for the heat, be alert, and take this very, very seriously. It could be a matter of life and death,” says Badwater pioneer Al Arnold.
Overall course records
Pete Kostelnick, 28, USA, 2016: 21:56:32
Alyson Venti (Allen), 34, USA, 2016: 25:53:07
At least ONE of these requirements must be met prior to applying:
- You have officially finished the Badwater 135 (the actual race held since 1987; “solo” efforts will not be considered, except those made prior to 1990) AND have completed at least one significant ultra running event (or significant ultra cycling or triathlon event) in the previous 12 months other than the Badwater 135.
- You have officially finished at least THREE running races of at least 100 continuous miles in length, at least one of them in the previous 12 months. Exception: Officially finishing the 81-mile BADWATER SALTON SEA race “counts” as one 100-mile race for this qualifying purpose. (Please see the list of Preferred Qualifying Races below.)
- You have officially finished the Brazil 135+ (either 135 miles in 48 hours or 160 miles in 62.5 hours) AND have completed at least one significant ultra running or other endurance sports event in the previous 12 months.
Registration Badwater 135
The Badwater 135 is, and always has been, an invitational race. Applicants will be considered purely upon their race application and its specific written merits.
The application submission period for the race begins yearly in January. A committee of four race staff members, one of whom is the race director, will then review and rank each application on a scale of 0 to 10. The ranks will be tallied and the top 45 rookie applicants and the top 45 veterans with the highest scores will be invited (rookies and veterans compete separately for 45 slots for each category) on February 14. At that time, or later, up to ten more applicants (rookie and/or veteran) may be invited at the race director’s discretion, for a total of approximately 100 entrants.
It is anticipated that the race field will include women and men from twenty or more countries and twenty or more American states.
As a result of this strict selection, ca 70% of the participants is capable of finishing this grueling race within the time limit of 48 hours!
Badwater Ultra Cup
AdventureCORPS is an athlete-run firm that initiated and owns the Badwater Ultra Cup, an annual three-race series of the 51-mile Badwater Cape Fear in March, continued with the 81-mile Badwater Salton Sea in April and concluded with the STYR Labs Badwater 135 in July.
Those runners who complete all three events in the same calendar year are featured on the Badwater.com website and their virtues are extolled throughout the Internet and in BADWATER Magazine.
The video in this article is embedded with permission of Tom Leigh Knight, who holds all copyrights.
Image by LoggaWiggler
Chris Kostman is the Chief Adventure Officer at AdventureCORPS, Inc. and the Race Director of the entire worldwide series of Badwater® events.
Chris got his start early in ultra sports as both an athlete and an event organizer: He set world ultra cycling records in high school in 1984 and 1985 (riding against the clock from San Francisco City Hall to Los Angeles City Hall) and completed the 3127-mile Race Across America bicycle race in less than eleven days at age 20 in 1987. That was a springboard to competing in events as diverse as the Triple Ironman in France, the 6.5-mile Skaha Lake Ultra Swim in Canada, three 100-mile snowshoe races in Alaska, six Ironman Triathlons, an Ultraman-distance triathlon stage race in Vermont, the Boston Marathon, and many other endurance races.
Hand in hand with his athletic career, Chris has been producing some of the toughest endurance events on the planet since 1984 through his company, AdventureCORPS, Inc. Hosted in Death Valley, on the slopes of Mt. Whitney and Palomar Mountain, on the beaches of North Carolina, in Nepal, China, and beyond, Chris has now produced well over 150 endurance sports events. These include the world-famous Badwater 135 Ultramarathon and its sister events, Badwater Salton Sea and Badwater Cape Fear. Chris also produced and directed the venerable Furnace Creek 508 bicycle race from 1990 through 2013, and its sequel, the Silver State 508 bicycle race, from 2014 through 2016.
Available for hire as a consultant or event partner, Chris worked on the staff of the Race Across America for thirteen years, including five years as the creator and race director of the team division. He has also produced, directed, and orchestrated special events for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, American Lung Association, City of Los Angeles Marathon, and other organizations.
Chris has also published over 250 articles about the endurance world, adventure, travel, archaeology, human potential, and lifestyle. Trained and educated as an archaeologist at U.C. Berkeley (BA, MA, and “half a Ph.d.”), he works part-time in that field, both undersea and on land in the Middle East and South Asia. He is a Fellow of The Explorers Club.
Further details are available at www.chriskostman.com