While I’ll probably never be one of the lucky/unlucky few that run the Badwater Ultra, 135 miles traditionally from Death Valley to the start of the Mt Whitney trail, I’ve always had a fascination with the race. Maybe it’s because I really can’t really imagine running that far in those extreme conditions, but yet having a (very) small part of me wondering if it’s something I could do. For now, I’m just in awe of anyone that attempts it…or any race of that length for that matter.
Unfortunately, because of a rather sudden change by the new superintendent of Death Valley National Park, the 2014 edition of Badwater won’t be allowed in the park, and is instead being routed to surrounding areas. The LA Times had a good write-up on this a few days ago. AdventureCORP, the company that runs the race, also has a lot of additional detail on their website, highlighting their past safety record and positive economic impact the race has had on the area.
While I’ve never been there for the actual race, I did have the pleasure of visiting Death Valley on the way to climb Mt. Whitney last August. We took the obligatory picture of the car thermostat (117° that day), and I was really struck at how beautiful of a setting it is. In my mind I was expecting more of a flat and sandy landscape, but the rocky badlands were anything but that. Had it not been for the Badwater race, I’m not sure I would have had the same curiosity to visit the park.
Anyway, I can only hope that the National Park Service comes to their senses soon and lets this great race continue. Doesn’t the government have bigger things to worry about than a race that has a flawless safety record and has brought nothing but good publicity (and $$) to the area?
If you need a primer on Badwater, here are a few good documentaries I would recommend:
- This 2013 documentary is available on YouTube, and follows a few different ultra runners attempting their first Badwater race
- The AdventureCORPS YouTube channel has a number of good short videos on past races
- Running On the Sun is a great documentary of the 1999 race. I think in the past it’s been available for Netflix streaming, but doesn’t appear so right now (just DVD). Here’s the trailer: