Three Canadians complete Badwater

The 35th anniversary of the "world's toughest foot-race" featured 48 degree heat and a 5,800m elevation gain on a 217K course.

Lucy Ryan of of Coquitlam, BC had been dreaming about what many call the world’s toughest race for the last 16 years. When she first suggested to friends and co-workers back in 1996 that she might one day attempt the Californian desert foot-race, she was mostly met with scepticism and negativity. “I recall feeling sorry for my co-workers and the fact they wouldn’t want to challenge themselves,” says Ryan. “To me, that’s living!”

This year’s race featured three Canadian entrants, including the 44-year-old Ryan. The Badwater Ultramarathon is named after the basin in California’s Death Valley where the race is situated. The two day, 217K course begins below sea-level and climbs it’s way to Mount Whitney, finishing at an altitude of 2548m.

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Besides Ryan, Ontarians Jeff Ashizawa of Waterloo and Dave Carver of London finished the gruelling race, where temperatures regularly hit nearly 50 degrees celsius. Badwater has become infamous for it’s heat and extraordinary elevation climb. Ryan become painfully aware of the challenges posed by the heat early on, where she was nearly taken out of the race after suffering from shock due to exposure to the conditions. Her trusty race crew, which included her husband Larry, were able to treat her effectively and get her back on the course to carry on. All participants are responsible for providing their own race crew and support for the entirety of the race.

Carver, 50, was the top Canadian, finishing 21st overall in a time of 32:10:31. Ashizawa, 46, placed 51st in 38:18:23, with Ryan close behind in 38:35:17. Ryan is just the ninth Canadian woman to finish Badwater. This year’s winner was Mike Morton of Lithia, Fla., who finished in 22:52:55, just over a minute from the course record.

This year’s edition of the race included representatives from 18 nationalities. There were 96 finishers in total. The race started as an individual pursuit back in the mid-1970’s by Al Arnold, who required three attempts to successfully complete the course. The current incarnation of the Badwater ultramarathon is an invitation only event. The course record is 22:51:29.