Destinations Marathons

A Badwater Race Comes To The East Coast

Badwater Cape Fear
Written by Charlie

The Badwater 135 is the famously-known “world’s toughest footrace” that starts at Badwater and stretches 135 miles of brutal desert to the portal of Mt. Whitney (except this year – read this post). Since the beginning of the Badwater 135 Ultramarathon, other events have been added by organizers that include bicycling through Death Valley – several times! Now, for the first time, a Badwater event will be landing on the East Coast of the US.

BadwaterBadwater Cape Fear


  • Distance – 50KM and 51.4 miles
  • Date – March 22, 2014
  • Place – Bald Head, NC
  • Cost – $175 (50KM) / $195 (51.4 mile) – these prices are good through March 1
  • Qualifications – Unlike the Badwater 135, there are no qualifications to run this event
  • Website Badwater Cape Fear

Having participated in the Badwater 135 (in Death Valley), I have seen first hand how well the event is handled. The organization that handles these events is Adventure Corps and they do a fantastic job. Even though this is an inaugural event, this should be incredibly well organized.

The Course

The course for this race has what is called a 12 mile “warm-up” on roads and trails before launching out on the sand for the remainder of the race – 19 miles for the 50KM and 39 miles for the longer distance. For the 50KM race, it will be one beach loop. For the 50+ mile distance it will be two beach loops. In an effort to keep the course as beautiful and lonely as possible, there will be just a few aid stations (but runners will pass them several times). That means it is going to feel quite secluded out there! For runners like me, that sounds like the perfect course! 🙂

Badwater Cape Fear

The course on Bald Head Island

The location for the race is on Bald Head Island. There are no motorized vehicles allowed on the island so the only way to reach it is via ferry from Southport. The ferry ride takes 20 minutes, leaves just about every hour, and costs $25 per person round-trip. It looks like a very beautiful place for a vacation and a lovely stretch of beach to run on.

The beach part is what makes this a Badwater event! While it may be beautiful, it will be very challenging. Running in sand for 19/39 miles will be a big test of endurance. Believe it or not, running in the slushy snow is great training for this! Both terrains will work to strengthen your ankles and give you practice with your footing. A couple of years ago, the winner of the Winter 100 Beast of Burden in Lockport, NY was a runner who had never seen snow. And we had a lot of it (I ran that year as well). He trained for the snow by running in the sandy beaches of Brazil. So, it does work!

Getting There

The nearest airport to the town of Southport (where you catch the ferry) is in Wilmington, NC. It is about 40 minutes away from Southport. Both Delta and US Airways fly to Wilmington. Delta flies into Wilmington from Atlanta and LaGuardia (NYC) while US Airways has connections from both Philadelphia and Charlotte. Award availability is decent with both airlines. Even the cash option is not too bad – from Rochester to Wilmington, NC is under $200. In a situation like that, a better option would be to use a fixed-point travel card (like the Capital One Venture card or the Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard) or Delta’s Pay-With-Miles that would only require spending 20,000 miles instead of 25,000 for an award ticket (Pay-With-Miles is a 1 cent per mile redemption method on Delta).


There are no hotels on the island, just rental homes. You could stay on the mainland and use points but the ferry cost to go back and forth may be too high to allow for that. There are some spectacular looking homes available for rent (in fact, many of them are available on Airbnb and you can get one night free if booked by tonight).


This looks like a race I want on my bucket list! The beauty, the course, the seclusion, the challenge, the race staff – all of these things predict that this should be a fantastic event! It may be a little soon for most of you to sign-up for this race for this year, but you should think about it for 2015.

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.