The Badwater Ultra Marathon, dubbed “the most difficult run in the world”, was won by Harvey Lewis in a time of 23:52:55. Lewis, a teacher at the Cincinnati School for Creative and Performing Arts, covered the 135 miles of California high desert over 50 minutes quicker than his nearest competitor, Grant Maughan of Australia. Alyson Venti, an Oceanography Ph.D. student from University of Miami won the women’s race in 28:37:28.
The course, famous for traveling from the lowest point in North America, Badwater, to the trailhead of the highest mountain in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney, changed drastically this year due to permitting issues within Death Valley National Park. Over 30 years of safe and successful events were held in the park by Badwater’s parent company AdventureCORPS. They also host an equally crazy 508 mile bike race from the California coast into Death Valley. The Park suspended all event permits to conduct a safety audit, forcing the Badwater run to start somewhere other than Badwater or be cancelled.
Lone Pine, the closest town to the Whitney Portal, was chosen as the place to start the Badwater run this year. While the race organizer’s claims of the race being “new and improved” may be a bit of an over-statement, the race still features 135 miles of extreme temperatures and a large variety of topography with more vertical ascent and descent than before. The race will certainly miss the broiled, caustic salt flats of America’s most morbid valley, but the course didn’t get any easier.
While the 2015 edition of the Badwater run will surely go back to the traditional course if given the opportunity, the success of this year’s race could lead to a new legacy of conquering The Owens Valley’s beautifully grueling topography on a yearly basis.