There are myriad races out there that test even the toughest athletes. None, however, compare to the Badwater Ultramarathon. Recognized globally as “the world’s toughest foot race,” it is the most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet.
Starting in Badwater, Death Valley, the lowest elevation in the Western Hemisphere at 280 feet below sea level, the race covers 135 miles non-stop to the finish line at the Mt. Whitney Portals at nearly 8,300 feet. The Badwater course covers three mountain ranges for a total of 13,000’ of cumulative vertical ascent and 4,700’ of cumulative descent. Competitors travel through places or landmarks with names like Mushroom Rock, Furnace Creek, Salt Creek, Devil’s Cornfield, Devil’s Golf Course, Stovepipe Wells, Keeler and Lone Pine.
The race, on average, attracts an international, invitational field of approximately ninety-five endurance athletes representing approximately nineteen countries and twenty-four American states. This year’s race hosted 96 competitors with an average age of 45, 79 of which were male and 17 female. Of those 96 competitors, 49 were rookies and 47 were veterans.
Out of the 96 competitors that started the race, an astounding 89 crossed the finish line. No course records were broken this year (although men’s winner Mike Morton came quite close), as the men’s record still stands from 2007 when Brazilian Valmir Nunes finished in 22:51:29. Coloradan Jamie Donaldson still holds the course record from her incredible finish in 2010 of 26:16:12.
USA’s Mike Morton from Lithia, FL took the men’s win in 22:52:55, a mere 1:26 off the course record. Mexico’s Oswaldo Lopez from Madera, California, who finished first in last year’s Badwater, took second in 23:32:58. USA’s Zach Gingerich from Tigard, Oregon rounded out the top three in 25:49:40.
Reigning 2011 Badwater women’s champ Sumie Inagaki from Japan successfully defended her title and finished first in 29:53:09. USA’s Pamela Reed from Jackson, Wyoming took second in 31:06:43, and USA’s Maggie Beach from La Crescenta, California finished third in 33:31:04.
Only two Coloradans took part in the epic race, including Marshall Ulrich from Idaho Springs who finished in 41:55:39, and Littleton’s Paul Grimm who finished in 46:13:12.