Death Valley: The ‘Baddest’ Sports Venue in the USA


Dunes in Death Valley National Park

I’m on spring vacation with my wife and children in, naturally, Death Valley.

dead sea

Lounging in the Dead Sea

While other folks seek their spring sun and sand dunes by the oceans, I have taken my family out to the hottest, driest, lowest area of the United States:  Badwater Basin is fully 282 ft (86m) below sea level.  The only place on this planet I’ve been ‘lower’ is the Dead Sea in Israel.

Hey, the Dead Sea:  combines desert and water.  That could be Spring Break Destination 2016!

In truth, I’ve been intrigued by such places my whole life.  The fascination may resemble that which grips some members of the sporting community:  those desirous of  scheduling endurance events in some of the more inhospitable places on the planet.

There is the Hotter ‘N Hell 100, which takes place Aug 29 2015 in Wichita Falls, Texas–not a place one normally goes at that time of year, and certainly not a place one normally goes to bike a century:  the average daily high is 96.6 F (35.9 C)!

And, of course, there is the famous Badwater 135, which takes place in Death Valley itself.  After a one year hiatus, it returns this year and will be run July 28 – 30.  A 135 ultramarathon run at the hottest time of the year in Death Valley!  No wonder the event bills itself as “the world’s toughest foot race.”  (there’s competition for that moniker; the Marathon des Sables, held in the Sahara desert, would quibble over this issue I’m sure)

There is some great sports medicine research that comes out of these very human attempts to push the limits.In the pages of the CJSM we frequently publish research on ultramarathons and some of the consequences of running them, most especially in, say,  Badwater Basin in July:  hyperthermia and exercise-associated hyponatremia are common subjects of original research published in the CJSM.

And though the start of the Badwater 135 is below sea level at Badwater Basin itself, the finish is on Mt. Whitney at 8300 feet.  The competitors in this race have to deal with potential altitude-related illnesses, yet another subject which is frequently looked at by researchers submitting to the journal. In fact, in the most current issue there is an author group from Taiwan that has published new research on acute mountain sickness.  I have previously written a blog post about this very study. I hope you enjoy it.

So far, so good with our own vacation.  Absent a mutiny by my family, I think we should emerge from our own excursions happy, healthy, and reinvigorated for some exciting work this spring.  More soon!


Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley

Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley

About sportingjim
I work at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio USA, where I am a specialist in pediatric sports medicine. My academic appointment as an Associate Professor of Pediatrics is through Ohio State University. I am a public health advocate for kids' health and safety. I am also the Deputy Editor for the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine.

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