The Badwater 135 – billed as the world’s toughest footrace – will likely live up to its billing when 100 of the world’s toughest ultra runners line up at Badwater Basin on July 23.
That’s because the men’s race will field the winners of four of the last seven races:
▪ Two-time champion Pete Kostelnick (2016, 2015), who holds the course record at 21 hours, 56 minutes, 32 seconds.
▪ Harvey Lewis (2014), the Ohio schoolteacher who finished third in last year’s race.
▪ Madera’s Oswaldo López (2011), the 30-39 age record holder with his 2011 winning time of 23:41:40. He dropped out past the 100-mile mark in last year’s race.
▪ Zach Gingrich (2010), a five-time competitor now from Oregon who last ran in 2012.
The race will feature (if everyone invited accepts and no one drops out) 33 women and 67 men who will represent 24 countries or nationalities.
Race director Chris Kostman and Badwater ambasssador Andrea Casella Kooiman announced the invitations via Facebook Live on the Badwater page.
“We can only take 100 people,” said Kostman, whose committee had to go through 2,000 applications. “Just being qualified is great, and we salute that.”
This year’s race will include fewer veterans in an effort to free up more spaces for first-time participants. Last year’s race had 65 veterans; the 2018 Badwater edition will have 50.
“I apologize in advance,” said Kostman. “There are a lot of solid 135 veterans who will not be receiving invitations today.”
On paper, Kostelnick, 30, would appear the favorite. But, he was the favorite going into last year’s race, but he didn’t recover sufficiently from a heavy race schedule that included running across the country in a record 42 days, 6 hours, and 30 minutes two months after the 2016 Badwater race. He finished fifth last year.
Lewis finished third last year, after running in the 24-Hour World Championships a couple of weeks before the race.
López, who has a fistful of second-place finishes, was disappointed he had to drop out of last year’s race and vowed to finish this time around.
Gingrich is known as a fast starter.
Other male runners of interest:
▪ Australian Grant Maughn, a yacht captain who recently maneuvered his ship through the Antarctic. He finished sixth last year, and has some high finishes.
▪ Sacramento runner Ray Sánchez, who finished eighth last year, has finished 10 consecutive Badwater 135 races.
▪ Ed ‘The Jester’ Ettinghausen returns. He is noted for running in a jester outfit, which includes a lighted jester hat during the night.
▪ Pebble Beach caddy Michael Jiménez, a seventh-place finisher in 2015, will look for another top 10 finish this time.
▪ Puerto Rico’s Luigi Dessy, who has been recovering from hurricane damage, will try to improve on his sixth-place finish from last year.
The women’s race appears to be wide open. Texan Brenda Guajardo, who lined up as a favorite in last year’s race, returns.
Last year, she broke a foot in her bone less than a mile into the race and had to drop out. The previous month, she beat all male and female runners in a 125-mile ultra in Italy.
Sandra Villines, last year’s female winner, is not running in this year’s race as she eases back into running after breaking the women’s transcontinental run.
An interesting invitee is Telma Altoon, who will be the first Armenian woman to run Badwater.
The Badwater participants’ list will be finalized on March 9, with May 1 as the deadline to withdraw. The bib numbers and starting times will be announced on May 15.
Hanford Cow Run’s growth spurt
Eunice Rosas, founder and director of the Hanford Cow Run, was experiencing growing pains last Sunday.
The former Fresno disc jockey was constantly asked if there were any extra tech shirts or cow bells for participants who signed up too late.
The answer was the same for everyone: “No, we’ve run out. We’ll have to mail those to you.”
The third annual edition of the half-marathon and 5-kilometer race – which is always held on the morning of the Super Bowl – had a combined 650 runners/walkers this year.
The total was 360 and 320 the previous two years.
“Hanford didn’t have anything that could reunite the running community,” said Rosas about the reason to start the race. “Local people always had to go north to Fresno to run, or go south.”
Rosas has relied on word-of-mouth and a jam-packed website to draw interest. Getting high-caliber participants like Fresno’s Jesús Campos and Elisa Angulo (who won the male and female half-marathon category this year) also helps.
Rosas believes children should be encouraged to take up running. That is why she included a children’s race last year, which drew 10. This year, 64 signed up.
“We want to make Hanford be the ‘it’ spot for running,” said Rosas.
Photos from the race will be posted by Sunday (Feb. 11) morning.
▪ The Fresno Valentine Run, a 5K and 2-mile event, will be held near the Shinzen Gardens at Woodward Park on Feb. 11. Details: https://runsignup.com/Race/CA/Fresno/FresnoValentineDayRun?aflt_token=HrZcYWJT57TH3GH4vWg7QL584fEmdOnK&r=Y
▪ The Valley Runner of the Year series kicks off with the 30-point Chocolate Run Feb. 17 at Fresno’s Woodward Park. The 5-mile race is part of the series, but there will also be a 10- and 2-mile races. Details: https://runsignup.com/Race/CA/Fresno/ChocolateRun
▪ Hanford FFF 5K and Flapjacks, a 5-kilometer race, will take place at Hanford’s Sierra Pacific High School starting at 7:30 a.m. on Feb. 10. Details: https://runsignup.com/Race/CA/Hanford/HanfordFFA5KFlapjacks?aflt_token=HrZcYWJT57TH3GH4vWg7QL584fEmdOnK
Juan Esparza Loera is a sometime-avid runner who has run 15 marathons. Send questions, suggestions, comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org