I ran 7 of the 10 miles home from work last Wednesday. My bike had gone into the local bike shop for some repairs, so I ran from work to pick her up on the way home. It just so happened that last Wednesday was one of the hottest days in the UK for a while, around 28C. I left work around 3.45pm, and the sun was high, casting little shadow. I’d forgotten to bring my cap, and only had one bottle of water, but I was only running 7 miles, at my pace perhaps about an hour of steady running, so I wasn’t too concerned.
I got changed at work and stepped outside – immediately my skin prickled in the heat, and the air was dry and hot in my mouth. The air-conditioned office had lulled me into a false sense of the true temperature. I’ve not done masses of running in the heat, but know enough about conserving energy as much as possible, so I decided to take it slow. Within minutes my whole body was pouring with sweat, and despite trying to run slowly enough to only have to breathe through my nose, my mouth felt dry and my water seemed to be disappearing faster than I would’ve liked. I was a little concerned.
As I hit the 5-mile mark, I felt like my brain had finished boiling and been put into an oven to finish it off. My skull was throbbing, and I was very glad that I didn’t have far to go before I could get on my bike and hopefully catch some breeze to cool me down. When I got to the bike shop, the sweat was pouring off my head so much that I couldn’t see, my eyes red and stinging with the salt. The nice chaps in the shop sympathised, and refilled my water before sending me on my way with my fixed bike.
I smiled wryly as I rode home. An hour or so of running in 28C heat had tipped me into a very uncomfortable zone. I had been concerned, and would not have fancied going much further without more water and cooling my head off somehow. But I knew that as demanding as that had been for me, on the other side of the world there were 97 people running in up to double the heat that I’d just struggled with…
The World’s Toughest Foot Race
Last Wednesday was the final day of the Badwater 135 Ultramarathon, which had started at 8pm on the Monday night (local time) in California. It’s a race I first came across when reading Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes. And it blew my mind. After reading that book, my mind was truly opened to the world of ultra-running, opened to the idea that people can run such distances. Without realising it, somewhere in the soil of my mind, a seed took root. One day, I would love to take part on this race.
What is it?
The Badwater Ultramarathon is a 135-mile, continuous foot race from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney. Total ascent 14,600ft (4450m), total descent 6,100ft (1859m). That’s like climbing Ben Nevis three-and-a-bit times and running over 100 miles too.
What makes it so hard?
The heat. Although the average temperature in July is around 41C, it can peak as high as 54C. Sections of the route run along the main road, and competitors run on top of the thickly painted white line on the side of the road. Running on the tarmac can melt the soles of the shoes.
Who are the record holders?
Men – Pete Kostelnick (2016), 21:56:32
Women – Alyson Venti (2016), 25:53:07
Want to know more?
Watch – Above and Beyond – Badwater
Read – Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes