The Badwater Ultramarathon is considered ‘the hardest footrace in the world,’ with obvious evidence to support this. Beginning in Badwater, Death Valley at the lowest point of the Northern US, this race climbs from 280 feet of elevation to Mt. Whitney Portal at 8360 feet, covering 3 mountain ranges in the process. Ths year, the race will be held on July 14 – 16.
Badwater has always attracted a range of athletes from around the world. This year is no exception. Runners from Australia (2), Brazil (2), Canada (2), France (6), Germany (7), Guatemala (1), Hungary (1), Italy (1), Mexico (1), New Zealand (1), Norway 1), the UK (2) and of course the US (56), will participate in the 2008 event. There are 21 women and 62 men overall. The youngest is 26 while the oldest is 66. The average age this year is 47.
Currently, the course record is held by Valmire Nunez of Brazil, who ran the 2007 race in 22:51:29. Pam Reed holds the women’s record at 27:56:47 set in 2002. She also won the overall race in both 2002 and 2003.
This year’s pool of competitors are some of the best Badwater has ever seen. Among the male contenders are Akos Konva, 33, from Oceanside, CA and also a Hungary citizen. In both 2006 and 2007 he was the runner up. Charlie Engle, 44, comes to Death valley from Greensborough,NC. He placed 3rd in 2005 and 2006. David Goggins, 32, of Chula Vista, CA placed 5th in 2006 and 3rd in 2007. Jorge Pacheco, 40, of Los Angeles, CA (a citizen of Mexico) placed 4th in 2007.
Three former champions also join the race this year. Marshall Ulrich, 57 of Idaho Springs CO, won the race in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1996. David Jones, 55, also comes back to the race this year from Eagleville, TN after his win in 1997. Dean Karnazes, 45, of San Francisco, CA won in 2004, includes Badwater in his Desert Grand Slam, consisting of the 5 hardest desert races in the world.
In the women’s field, Pam Reed, 47, of Tucson, AZ was the 2002 and 2003 overall winner. She also won the women’s division in 2005. Monica Scholz, 41 of Jerseyville, Ontario, Canada, is a 5 time finisher and lead the women in both 2004 and 2006. Jamie Donaldson, 33 of Littleton, CO led the women in 2007 up to mile 122, then fell back to 5th place. Eight time finisher, Lisa Smith-Batchen, 47, of Driggs, ID was both the 1997 and 1998 women’s champion.
With temperatures consistently 120 degrees + in Death Valley, this certainly promises to be a challenging year. The field is solid with some of the best athletes in this sport. With the challenges that come with desert racing, this could certainly be anyone’s game. This year will be one of the most exciting years to see who comes out on top in the end.
article by: Summer Wesson