The Badwater Ultramarathon is considered the most demanding and extreme footrace on the planet.
It’s 135 miles — non-stop. It starts July 15 in the blazing heat 280 feet below sea level in Death Valley and ends with a brutal climb 8,300 feet up Mt. Whitney.
“It’s a very, very special experience. Pushing yourself to those limits – it’s something that I am,” said Eric Meech, a San Diego city lifeguard who ran his first Badwater in 2011.
At Badwater, temperatures can reach 130 degrees. Runners have 48 hours to finish the race, but there’s no sleeping. It’s so tortuous — runners have been known to hallucinate.
“You come across people – we call it the walking zombie. They look horrible. You can tell that the heat and distance has gotten to them. You may just be looking in the mirror too,” said Meech.
La Jolla resident Russ Reinbolt has trained with Meech and is getting ready to run his first Badwater.
“People have been asking me how I feel. I tell them my confidence is just a little bit higher than my fear,” said Reinbolt.
Race officials accept 100 runners each year — while turning away hundreds more.
Just finishing is victory enough for many runners.
“You’re not crazily going out to run across Death Valley. People die doing that. But the preparation and the forethought with nutrition and hydration and your physical conditioning are what get you through there,” said Meech.