The ultra-marathon Badwater 135 still carries its name even though the route no longer passes anywhere close to Badwater Basin, the race’s namesake. Earlier this year, the National Park Service decided to study the safety of the Badwater Ultra and other extreme sporting events within park boundaries. The study is estimated to take about a year to complete, meaning that all extreme events have to be put on hold. Or changed. The Badwater 135 changed its course.
As Cheryl Chipman, the Park Service spokesperson, told Southern California Public Radio, no major event prompted this study to take shape, but concerns for safety are becoming more prevalent as the event grows in popularity. In fact, there have never been any major injuries since the origin of the run in 1987, Chris Kostman, head of AdventureCorps, one of the event sponsors, told the LA Times. If anything, it draws more visitors to the area, be it support teams and/or spectators. Maybe they are the ones needing medical attention due to their lack of training in the 116F average mid-July temperatures?
This year’s course has been modified quite a bit. Instead of starting at Badwater Basin, the lowest place in the United States, then climbing to Lone Pine and the Mount Whitney Portal, the route will now start in Lone Pine and take several dead-end arms in which runners will simply have to turn around and run back the way they came. Runners will climb a cumulative 19000ft instead of 13000ft.
To get an idea of what it takes to run the Badwater 135, watch the documentary about the 2000 race, Running on the Sun.