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Badwater 135 cancelled just 10 days ahead of race start

It looked like the 135-mile ultra through California's Death Valley would go ahead, but race organizers were forced to pull the plug at the last minute

Badwater 135

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.

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I’m sorry to report that we just received word that Badwater is cancelled this year. We were so close with all permits approved but just not quite enough. The recent spike in cases of Covid 19 over the past couple days concerned Inyo County and the National Park Service. I’m sorry to everyone. Kelly and I are planning to still venture west with our teams in July. So long as its legal I plan to make the annual pilgrimage, just not the same exact time/date as when the race would have occurred. We’ll still have an adventure and will share. It’s been a bit of a disappointment day as both of my favorite races; Badwater & the Flying Pig Marathon were both canceled on the same day but we’ll make the best of it and definitely carry forward. Thank you for all of your support. @runflyingpig @badwaterhq #badwater135

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Badwater 135

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. 

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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. 

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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.

RELATED: Canadian high school teacher finishes 13th at Badwater 135

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.