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Yoshihiko Ishikawa wins Badwater 135 for the 2nd time

The male course record holder celebrated his second victory, while American Ashley Paulson set a new female course record

Badwater 135

Note: This story has been updated.

The 45th anniversary of the Badwater 135 race wrapped up Wednesday, with no shortage of both heat and excitement. Yoshihiko Ishikawa of Japan took his second victory at the race, running negative splits to finish in 23:08:20. Ishikawa previously set the course record at Badwater 135 in 2019, in 21:33:01. He famously followed his win by proposing to his then-girlfriend, and the couple has since married.

In an interview with his sponsor, On running, Ishikawa likened running to an emotional haiku. “So much is condensed into every single run,” he says.

Pro triathlete and iFit instructor Ashley Paulson of Saint George, Utah, was the first female and third overall, with a new course record of 24:09:34. Paulson is coached by U.S. marathon and half-marathon record holder Ryan Hall.

Paulson won the “race she’d been waiting for so long to run” amid some controversy. In 2016, the athlete accepted a ruling from the United States Olympic Committee National Anti-Doping Policies (USADA) banning her from competition in triathlon events for six months, the result of an anti-doping rule violation. Paulson had positive results for ostarine, a selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM), during a random sampling. Follow-up tests found ostarine in a contaminated supplement the athlete was taking. Returning to sport after her ban, Paulson has completed 97 marathons and one Ultra Ironman triathlon, an event that is twice the distance of a regular triathlon.

In a July 24 analysis of Paulson’s GPX files and other data, Derek Murphy, who runs the site marathoninvestigation.com, concluded that her Badwater data is clean and shows no evidence of cheating.  

Kelly O’Dell and Harvey Lewis Photo: Instagram/harveylewisultrarunner

The famously gruelling Badwater 135 starts at Badwater in California’s Death Valley at 85 metres below sea level (the lowest elevation in North America), taking runners 135 miles (216 km) through Death Valley and up Mount Whitney, reaching 2,548m of altitude at its highest point. Temperatures have been known to soar well above 100 F (37 C). The cutoff time is 48 hours, and the average finishing time is 40 hours. As at the Western States Endurance Run, finishers receive a much-coveted belt buckle. There is no prize money for winners. The race is invitational, and 94 athletes started the event this year, with 77 finishing.

Fan favourite and last year’s winner Harvey Lewis, of Cincinnati, finished his 11th Badwater in fourth place with 27:16:05, while his partner, Kelly O’Dell, completed her first Badwater with just over an hour to spare, in 46:57:33.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Harvey Lewis (@harveylewisultrarunner)

Ultrarunner and race director Bob Becker, 77, of Fort Lauderdale, attempted to become the race’s oldest finisher. In a heroic effort, Becker made it across the line just over the 48-hour cutoff. The athlete made an attempt at the same title last year, but had to drop at mile 50. His dedication won the hearts of fellow athletes and supporters as he struggled to complete the last few steps of the race.

 

Two Canadians competed in Badwater 135 this year. Norma Roberts, 63, of Calgary, finished in 37:00:13 and was the 11th female, while Rich Peers, 51, of Kitchener, Ont. finished in 44:13:01.