The world’s toughest footrace – a 135-mile test of endurance through the heat of Death Valley in July and with a combined ascent of 17,000 feet and combined descent of 12,700 feet – extended its invitation to 100 of the world’s best ultrarunners during a Facebook live ceremony Thursday.
The 2017 edition of the STYR Labs Badwater Ultramarathon is expected to become a showcase for 29-year-old, two-time defending champion Pete Kostelnick who broke the course record last year (21 hours, 56 minutes, 32 seconds).
Last summer, Kostelnick ran from San Francisco to New York and averaged more than 71 miles a day to shatter the coast-to-coast record by more than four days. The financial analyst covered the 3,067 miles in 42 days, 6 hours and 30 minutes.
Kostelnick is expected to have some company in his quest for a three-peat in the race which starts at Badwater Basin, the lowest spot in North America at 282 feet below sea level, and ends near the base of Mt. Whitney.
Madera’s Oswaldo López, the 2011 champion, is among the 68 males entered in the July 10-12 race. López finished 9th last year, and has three second-place finishes (2010, 2012 and 2015) and a third (2013). He did not finish in 2015.
Cincinnati school teacher Harvey Lewis, the 2014 champion, will return. Also back will be Australia’s Grant Maughn, whose best finish is second.
Other male competitors of interest:
▪ Brothers Juan and Federico Sánchez of St. Helena will return. Juan had heart surgery and missed the race in 2014, when Federico ran. This will mark the first time the brothers will compete in the race at the same time.
▪ Paco Manzanares of Chihuahua, México first competed in 2014. He will return this year.
▪ Sacramento’s Ray Sánchez, who finished fifth in 2014, will return for his 10th Badwater.
▪ Pebble Beach caddy Miguel Jiménez, who finished an impressive seventh in his debut in 2015, will return for the second time.
▪ Puerto Rico’s Luigi Dessy will return for the fourth time.
Among the record 32 women in the field is Brenda Guajardo of Austin, Texas. She finished last year 10th overall, and was challenging eventual women’s winner Aly Venti through the first half of the race.
Guajardo, who has had some ultrarunning success in Europe where she has defeated fields that included men, finished last year’s Badwater in 28 hours, 40 minutes, 13 seconds.
Sanger’s Monique Jacques, known in local running circles as Runner Moe, qualified for this year’s Badwater Ultramarathon by winning the Badwater Salton Sea 81-mile run as part of a two-woman team last year.