The Badwater Ultramarathon is one of the most challenging races of any kind. Having paced/crewed there a few years ago, I have a deep appreciation and fondness for this race. Part of the allure is the desert, the heat, the distance – it all plays a big role in creating what has been called the “world’s toughest footrace.”
Badwater in Jeopardy
However, for the first time, this year’s Badwater Ultramarathon had to have a new route that avoided Death Valley National Park. The Park had refused to give permits for this year’s race citing concerns of traffic and environmental hazards. Now, they have issued a new ruling that has said that no daytime events can take place in the park from June 14 – September 9. That they are willing to allow events to take place at night shows that traffic is not their primary concern with the new ruling.
That is a huge blow to the iconic Badwater 135 as running through Death Valley in the heat of summer has long been a draw to the endurance athletes that toed the line. In all the years of the running of Badwater, the race has been handled with the utmost safety and professionalism . There is a high bar to gain admittance to the starting roster of this race, including finishing at least three 100 mile races. If that is “all” you have done, chances are you still will not make it in as the list of applicants is full of people who have serious qualifications. One such person that comes to mind ran it the year I was there – he had run the circumference of the US in two years time!
Runners know what they are getting themselves into and they are more prepared than almost any amateur athlete anywhere. There is medical staff that is along the route and many of them have even run this event themselves. The race committee puts on a fantastic, safe event and it has been a great way to showcase Death Valley.
However, the park has now decided that they have been sending “mixed messages” to other tourists when it comes to being active in the park during those months. If you have ever been to Death Valley in July, you know that very few people are going to feel all that active in the outdoors! “By permitting events to take place during summer months, the park has provided a mixed message to park visitors and other users.”
Anyway, Badwater, in its famous course, now looks to be in jeopardy. The race organizer, Christ Kostman, has said it will go on but there will obviously be some changes.
HT: Runner’s World