The 2010 AdventureCORPS Badwater Ultramarathon began today, with runners from 14 countries battling it out in the infamous furnace of Death Valley, California. At time of writing, Jorge Pacheco (California) held the lead with an approximate thirty minutes over Marco Farinazo (Rio De Janeiro) followed by Zach Gingerich (Illinois).
As night falls over Panamint Springs with crew headlights winking on the steep valley descent, tension has mounted among racers as they buckle down for the long night ahead. The lead runners have hit the 72 mile mark (the equivalent of three back-to-back marathons) but the "World's Toughest Foot Race" has only just begun.
The 135-mile endurance race started early this morning in the salt pan of Badwater (elev. 282 below sea level) and will end tomorrow at Whitney Portals on Mt. Whitney (elev. 8360). Temperatures soared up to 119˚ F (hot enough to melt the rubber off racer's shoes), and remained that way for much of the day. The unique topography of the valley creates convection currents that keep temperatures hovering at 105˚ F even at night. However, the searing heat is only part of what makes the Badwater Ultramarathon so extreme. It is also the only race to begin in the lowest point of the Continental U.S. and end in the highest.
Tonight, the endurance of Pacheco, Farinazo and Gingerech will be tested to the utmost limits. Pacheco currently holds a forty-five lead over the record pace. The question is whether he can hang on to it.