23 Incredible, Grueling Images From An Ultramarathon Through Death Valley

A nonstop race through Death Valley on foot in the summer — there’s nothing mankind has devised that eclipses the theater of the annual Badwater Ultramarathon. A vast array of competitors try their best — even a 50-year-old double amputee — and not everyone makes it to the finish line. Because if they did, race organizers would have to find a way to make Badwater even harder.

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96 competitors gather at the starting line on Monday morning.

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It typically takes just over 24 hours to win the race.

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Aside from the extreme heat, dust and strong winds are a common obstacle.

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Scotland’s Chris Moon lost an arm and a leg while clearing mines in Mozambique in 1995, and this was his fifth time running Badwater. The 50-year-old’s previous-best finish was last year’s 41 hours, 50 minutes. He finished in 45 hours, four minutes this time around.

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Death Valley’s average high in July is 116 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Keith Straw, 58, running his fifth Badwater. (Yes, he’s wearing a tutu.)

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The Badwater 135 ends at Mt. Whitney, meaning the race has a cumulative vertical ascent of more than 13,000 feet. Severe back pain is one of several common ailments that arise for runners.

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Shannon Farar-Griefer, 52, of Hidden Hills, California (lying down), was competing in her seventh Badwater. She reached the second checkpoint at Stovepipe Wells (41.9 miles) in 11 hours, 45 minutes, but dropped out of the race shortly thereafter.

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Oswaldo Lopez, 41, of Madera, California, gets a much-needed splash in the face — runners are allowed to have support teams. He would finish in third place, 49 minutes behind the eventual winner.

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Sukhee Park, 46, of South Korea pauses to catch his breath as he heads to the finish line. This was his first Badwater, and he finished in 23rd place.

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Harvey Sweetland Lewis III, 37, from Cincinnati, makes the final ascent up Mt. Whitney, leaving his support crew in his wake. This was his third Badwater, and he finished in fourth place with his best time yet (25 hours, 49 minutes, 50 seconds).

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Jay Smithberger (right), 44, of Granville, Ohio, a half-mile from the finish line. He placed 15th overall.

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First-time competitor Grant Maighan of Australia came in second place, 15 minutes behind the winner.

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Another Badwater rookie, Carlos Alberto Gomas De Sa from Portugal, won the race in a time of 24 hours, 38 minutes, and 16 seconds.

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Meredith Dolhare, 39, from North Carolina, laughs after finishing in 20th place in her first Badwater.

Sometimes, all you can do is laugh.

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