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Runners Prepare To Begin The Toughest Road Race In The World

Two runners make there way on roadway in Death Valley, surrounded by desert terrain.
Two runners train for the Badwater Ultramarathon.
(David Becker
Getty Images)
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About 80 endurance athletes and their support teams are heading to Death Valley this weekend, gearing up to kick off the 44th running of the Badwater Ultramarathon, which starts Monday night.

It's billed as the toughest road race in the world, and for good reason. The 135-mile trek starts at the lowest point in North America — Death Valley's Badwater Basin, 282 feet below sea level — and ends at the trailhead to Mount Whitney, at an elevation of more than 8,000 feet. The fastest time ever recorded was 21 hours, 33 minutes by Japan's Yoshihiko Ishikawa in 2019.

So no big deal, right? Of course, the runners also have to deal with the triple-digit temperatures, which are actually forecast to be much cooler than the scorching 130 degrees recorded in one part of the valley just last weekend.

The event is invitation-only, and runners are vetted based on their athletic history and their ability to tolerate such grueling temperatures, said Race Director Chris Kostman.

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"You can literally, physically acclimate your body to the heat to the point where it's not that difficult, you know, as long as you sort of pace yourself carefully and eat and drink properly," he told us.

If you say so, Chris.

The race typically does have a high completion rate, and runners who cross the finish line before the 48 hour cutoff get a T-shirt, a big shiny belt buckle, and of course, unlimited bragging rights.

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