The worst water

The Badwater Ultramarathon is a 135 mile footrace through Death Valley to Mount Whitney, starting 300m below sea level and rising to 8360m above. Death Valley is pretty much a toaster oven and the race is in mid-July, so the temperature hovers around a balmy 120°F.

It sort of boggles my mind that races like this exist. I read lots of running related things in my travels across the internet and it comes up every once and awhile because of how absurd it is. I think it really highlights the fact that serious endurance athletes are a very special breed of people. With the select few that do things like this, I believe there is a progression that really kicks in after finishing a marathon and wanting something harder and harder to push yourself more and more until you end up toeing the line at an event like Badwater. Personally, I exist in the part of the running community that obsesses over quantifiable times and standards and goals, and it’s interesting to see the people that do the exact opposite. It’s definitely a different type of competition where winning, beating others and running fast are all secondary concerns to simply finishing a race that’s designed to be as difficult as possible. Very primal, man vs nature, wrestling a grizzly bear with your bare hands type stuff. Most of the marathoners that I know never finish and say, “wow, I feel like running more. If only this race were longer…”

I live in Hawaii and all of the 10+ mile runs that I’ve attempted at any sort of decent pace before the sun has gone down have ended pretty horribly with me feeling dehydrated, lightheaded and having to walk. I don’t do well running in hot climates and can’t imagine the thermostat being turned up another 30 degrees or so beyond what I run in (but at least it’s a dry heat!). What’s always impressed me about watching videos of races like Badwater is how normal the racers look. Most people who arrive on the starting line aren’t elite athletes, there are older people and guys with noticeable pot-bellies and one man who apparently does the race every year wearing a pink tutu. While I’m sure none of them are out of shape and all of them train in some fashion, it always startles me how a bunch of average-looking people can just go out and do something like this. I think it says a lot about how important mental toughness can be.

He probably just had a ballet lesson before the ultramarathon and didn’t feel like changing.

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1 Response to The worst water

  1. Fearless Leader ugogal says:

    We have an ultramarathoner coming to class next week…you can ask him about this. I cannot imagine running further than 26.2, though I plan to do that in May. Crazy!

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