On Moving the Badwater Ultramarathon

#runningmeme stop whining, it's not that hot

Recently, the National Park Service placed a temporary moratorium on races in Death Valley, which means that the 2014 Badwater Ultramarathon will have a different route.

Now, I would be completely behind this if the races were damaging the environment, endangering indigenous species, or otherwise hurting the park. I mean, the National Park Service is supposed to protect the parks, right?

But the reason for the moratorium has nothing to do with protecting the park. The National Park Service wants to do a study to see if these Death Valley races are dangerous.

Let me save you a few hundred thousand tax-payer dollars: Of course these races are dangerous. Climbing Mt. Everest is dangerous, too, in case you were wondering. Also dangerous: hiking in any forest with bears.

The Badwater Ultramarathon, like all the races that take place in Death Valley, are extreme sports. They are designed to push the human body to the limit. And if you’re not properly trained and prepared, they will push your body past its limit.

And let’s be clear. The Badwater Ultramarathon is an extremely difficult race, but the majority of participants don’t die or suffer grave injuries as a result, and many people have finished it.

Yes, these races are dangerous, even potentially fatal. But why is the National Park Service concerned with that? The risks associated with these races are the responsibility of the race directors, and the runners and cyclists who participate.

All races are dangerous, whether they take place in extreme temperatures or down the street. Is there such a thing as a race that’s too dangerous? Maybe. But the Badwater Ultramarathon has demonstrated for more than a decade that humans are more than capable of completing this race.

And if a race is too dangerous, it’s the responsibility of the race directors, not the National Park Service, to make the appropriate changes.

What do you think about the National Park Service’s decision?


  1. I didn’t know they stopped it for this year. I agree it should be the responsibility of the race directors and runners. Maybe they should require a physical test prior to signing up. I feel this might be in general a good idea for races.

  2. Mr. Tired of the Hype says:

    Calling the new course ‘new and improved’ is an insult to anyone who has done the real Badwater, not the watered down crap that Kostman puts on for $1000 a head. That goes for his other bogus events too. The real Badwater goes the traditional route from Badwater to the SUMMIT of Whitney.