When the Badwater 135 was approved to run in July, it looked like a race had finally won out over the coronavirus. But just days after confirming the race was a go, the running community was hit with another event cancellation, and the 135-mile ultramarathon through Death Valley in California was called off a little over a week before it was set to run on July 6 to 8. Now, as with so many other races across North America and around the world, runners will have to wait until 2021 to tackle the Badwater course.
The Badwater 135 has been held each year since its first running in 1987, and it takes athletes 135 miles (217K) from the Badwater Basin in Death Valley — the lowest point in North America at 86m below sea level — up to 2,530m on California’s Mt. Whitney. By the end of the race, participants travel through three mountain ranges and run 4,450m of cumulative vertical ascent.
This year’s event was cancelled due to COVID-19, and although the U.S. National Park Service had approved the race, a spike in coronavirus cases forced a change of plans. With more than 100 participants signed up for the event, many of whom were travelling from Ohio, New York, Florida, Texas and elsewhere, it was decided that it was in the best interest of everyone concerned to call it off and wait until 2021.
The plan for 2020
The Badwater 135 organizers released a COVID-19 Mitigation Plan ahead of their race to ensure that all runners knew exactly what to do on race day to make the event as safe as possible for everyone involved. This included a virtual pre-race meeting, waves of about 10 runners leaving every 30 minutes and serious restrictions on the number of spectators. Runners were told to arrive at the race venue “exactly 25 minutes” ahead of their designated start times, and they were even told to carry masks on the course with them at all times (although they weren’t required to wear them while racing). There were many other restrictions planned for this race, but they ultimately weren’t enough to convince local officials that it was safe enough to hold the event.
What’s up for 2021
The 2021 Badwater 135 is scheduled for July 19 to 21. There were 103 racers confirmed for the 2020 event, and they’ve all been given guaranteed entry into next year’s race. These racers have until January to decide whether they’ll run in 2021, and until then, race organizers won’t know how many additional runners they can allow into next year’s event.