Get familiar with the Badwater Ultramarathon, 'the world's toughest footrace'

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Is This The World's Toughest Ultra Marathon?


By JOHN DORN

Surely you're familiar with popular marathons like the ones in New York, Boston and various other large cities across the nation. But one lower-profile footrace makes those exhibitions seem trivial -- and you probably haven't even heard of it.

The Badwater Ultramarathon is a 135-mile race that ends roughly 8,500 feet higher than where it starts. Taking place in California's Death Valley in the heat of the summer, temperatures routinely rise near 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

The fastest-ever finish was recorded in 2007 by Brazilian Valmir Nunes, who crossed the tape at 22:51:29. Over recent history, about 70 to 80 people choose to compete in the race. Twenty to 40 percent of racers typically fail to finish.

The race is underway in California, and it's sure to be a grueling day for each and every participant. Temperatures are already creeping toward the 120 mark. Scroll through some shots of the trail from social media below.







Check out some more Badwater shots from years past in the gallery below.

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Badwater Ultramarathon
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Get familiar with the Badwater Ultramarathon, 'the world's toughest footrace'
DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, CA JULY 16: Dean Karnazes of Ross, California runs stiff with pain as he ascends the last few miles of Whitney Portal Road to the finish of the AdventurCORPS Badwater 135 ultra-marathon race on July 16, 2013 outside of Death Valley National Park, California. Billed as the toughest footrace in the world, the 36th annual Badwater 135 starts at Badwater Basin in Death Valley, 280 feet below sea level, where athletes begin a 135-mile non-stop run over three mountain ranges in extreme mid-summer desert heat to finish at 8,350-foot near Mount Whitney for a total cumulative vertical ascent of 13,000 feet. July 10 marked the 100-year anniversary of the all-time hottest world record temperature of 134 degrees, set in Death Valley where the average high in July is 116. A total of 96 competitors from 22 nations are attempting the run which equals about five back-to-back marathons. Previous winners have completed all 135 miles in slightly less than 24 hours. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, CA JULY 16: Hiroyuki Nishimura of Japan ascends Whitney Portal Road to the finish of the AdventurCORPS Badwater 135 ultra-marathon race on July 16, 2013 outside of Death Valley National Park, California. Billed as the toughest footrace in the world, the 36th annual Badwater 135 starts at Badwater Basin in Death Valley, 280 feet below sea level, where athletes begin a 135-mile non-stop run over three mountain ranges in extreme mid-summer desert heat to finish at 8,350-foot near Mount Whitney for a total cumulative vertical ascent of 13,000 feet. July 10 marked the 100-year anniversary of the all-time hottest world record temperature of 134 degrees, set in Death Valley where the average high in July is 116. A total of 96 competitors from 22 nations are attempting the run which equals about five back-to-back marathons. Previous winners have completed all 135 miles in slightly less than 24 hours. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, CA - JULY 16: Lane Vogel (R) of Jacksonville, Florida ascends Whitney Portal Road through the Alabama Hills toward the finish of the AdventurCORPS Badwater 135 ultra-marathon race on July 16, 2013 outside of Death Valley National Park, California. Billed as the toughest footrace in the world, the 36th annual Badwater 135 starts at Badwater Basin in Death Valley, 280 feet below sea level, where athletes begin a 135-mile non-stop run over three mountain ranges in extreme mid-summer desert heat to finish at 8,350-foot near Mount Whitney for a total cumulative vertical ascent of 13,000 feet. July 10 marked the 100-year anniversary of the all-time hottest world record temperature of 134 degrees, set in Death Valley where the average high in July is 116. A total of 96 competitors from 22 nations are attempting the run which equals about five back-to-back marathons. Previous winners have completed all 135 miles in slightly less than 24 hours. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, CA JULY 16: Ben Gaetos (L) of Los Angeles, California, the first Filipino to run the event, leaves the town of Lone Pine to begin the final ascent, up Whitney Portal Road, to the finish of the AdventurCORPS Badwater 135 ultra-marathon race on July 16, 2013 outside of Death Valley National Park, California. Billed as the toughest footrace in the world, the 36th annual Badwater 135 starts at Badwater Basin in Death Valley, 280 feet below sea level, where athletes begin a 135-mile non-stop run over three mountain ranges in extreme mid-summer desert heat to finish at 8,350-foot near Mount Whitney for a total cumulative vertical ascent of 13,000 feet. July 10 marked the 100-year anniversary of the all-time hottest world record temperature of 134 degrees, set in Death Valley where the average high in July is 116. A total of 96 competitors from 22 nations are attempting the run which equals about five back-to-back marathons. Previous winners have completed all 135 miles in slightly less than 24 hours. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, CA - MAY 23: A view of Badwater Basin from Dante's View on May 23, 2014 in Death Valley California. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, CA - MAY 23: A view of Badwater Basin from Dante's View on May 23, 2014 in Death Valley California. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Maria Wieser, of Italy, takes a drink of water while sightseeing in Death Vally National Park, Friday, June 28, 2013 in Badwater, Calif. Excessive heat warnings will continue for much of the Desert Southwest as building high pressure triggers major warming in eastern California, Nevada, and Arizona. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, CA - MAY 23: A view of Badwater Basin from Dante's View on May 23, 2014 in Death Valley California. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Valmir Nunes of Brazil, heads to the finsh line as teammates celebrate his record setting victory in Kiehl's Badwater Ultramarathon with a time of 22:51:26 in Lone Pine, Calif., Tuesday, July 24, 2007. The race start line is at Badwater, Death Valley, which marks the lowest elevation in the Western Hemisphere at 280 feet below sea level. The race finishes after 135 miles at the Mt. Whitney Portals at 8360 feet. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Tim Kjenstad, of Henderson, Nev., runs in Kiehl's Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, Calif., Monday, July 23, 2007. The race start line is at Badwater, Death Valley, which marks the lowest elevation in the Western Hemisphere at 280' below sea level. The race finishes after 135 miles at the Mt. Whitney Portals at 8360'. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Racers poses for pictures before the start of Kiehl's Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, Calif., Monday, July 23, 2007. The race start line is at Badwater, Death Valley, which marks the lowest elevation in the Western Hemisphere at about 280' below sea level. The race finishes after 135 miles at the Mt. Whitney Portals at 8360'. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
** ADVANCE FOR JUNE 23-26 WEEKEND EDITIONS ** Ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, of Seattle, runs near the summit of Mount Si, with the town of North Bend, Wash. far belowhim after running four miles up the mountain in a Friday, May 12, 2006 photo. What some consider to be an all-day hike, Jurek ran in less than hour, just one way he is training for the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon coming up on July 24, 2006 in California. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Gary Hilliard, 52, of Sierra Madre, Calif. starts Kiehl's Badwater Ultramarathon running with an American flag in Death Valley, Calif., Monday, July 23, 2007. The race start line is at Badwater, Death Valley, which marks the lowest elevation in the Western Hemisphere at 280' below sea level. The race finishes after 135 miles at the Mt. Whitney Portals at 8360'. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Arthur Webb, of Santa Rosa, Calif. celebrates near the start of Kiehl's Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, Calif., Monday, July 23, 2007. The is Webb's 10th race. The race start line is at Badwater, Death Valley, which marks the lowest elevation in the Western Hemisphere at about 280' below sea level. The race finishes after 135 miles at the Mt. Whitney Portals at 8360'. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
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