Badwater Ultramarathon 2013: Athletes Compete in 135-mile Death Valley Race

The 135-mile (217 km) race, which bills itself as the world’s toughest foot race, goes from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, California in temperatures which can reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit (55 Celsius).

The terrain makes the race extremely difficult for the runners, with miles of road visible ahead of the competitors. Photo: AZ_Michael/Flickr

Billed as the toughest footrace in the world, the 36th annual Badwater 135 starts at Badwater Basin in Death Valley, 280 feet below sea level, where athletes begin a 135-mile non-stop run over three mountain ranges in extreme mid-summer desert heat to finish at 8,350-foot near Mount Whitney for a total cumulative vertical ascent of 13,000 feet.

Staying hydrated in the heat of Death Valley is the biggest challenge for runners and crew members alike. Aside from the 48-hour time limit, dehydration is the primary reason runners will quit midway through the trek. About 15 percent of runners don’t finish of a typical Badwater race.

“Most human bodies aren’t designed to operate effectively and efficiently at 120 degrees, says Chris Kostman, organizer of the race and president of AdventureCORPS.

“The distance is certainly challenging, but the heat really [is] the biggest factor — and it’s not just the air temperature. It’s also the road surface temperature, because the road will hold the heat in and then radiate up to 200 degrees up their feet and legs.”

The race takes place in July of every year. The first of three waves of runners start at the AdventurCORPS Badwater 135 Ultramarathon in Death Valley National Park.

This years was the 36th event, with organisers saying it is the “most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet.”

July 10 marked the 100-year anniversary of the all-time hottest world record temperature of 134 degrees, set in Death Valley where the average high in July is 116. A total of 96 competitors from 22 nations attempted the run which equals about five back-to-back marathons.

Last year’s winner was 40-year-old Floridian Mike Morton, who finished in 22 hours 52 minutes.

Key to the athletes’ survival are the race’s 500 crew members. Most runners choose between two to six people, including friends, family and fellow ultrarunners, to join them on the race route. Some runners get paired up with volunteers the weekend before the race.

Competitors often pass signs which read “Caution! Extreme heat danger.” Many runners, who travel to the event from all over the world, try to lighten the strain by dressing in fancy dress.

One man was pictured at the event yesterday dressed in a tutu while another could be seen in a funny hat and shorts.

However, the clothing worn by the runners show just how careful they have to be, with sun stroke and dehydration a very real possibility, says the Daily Mail.

Portuguese runner Carlos Alberto Gomes de Sa has won the 2013 Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile race through Death Valley, Calif., with a time of 24 hours, 38 minutes and 16 seconds, according to the race’s official website. The second was Grant Maughan of Australia with the result of 24 hours 53 minutes and 57 seconds, then came Oswaldo Lopez with 25 hours, 27 minutes, 3 seconds.

It took the fastest runners more than 24 hours to complete this race. The final competitors will finish after two or three days of running. Along the way, the Badwater Ultramarathoners will battle the hottest weather on the face of the planet.

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