The AdventureCorps Badwater Ultra-marathon brings close to 100 racers each year to run 135 miles through Death Valley, the hottest place on Earth.
The race is not an open invitation. Each year hundreds apply. The race is by invitation only and a board of directors headed by race director Chris Kostman chooses the racers.
On paper, the top five look good. Oswaldo Lopez from Fresno, Calif. finished second 23:32, better than his winning time in 2011. Harvey Lewis III from Ohio finished fourth, 26:15. Mark Matyazic finished fifth, 26:24.
Two runners in the top five from last year will not be running this year. Mike Morton finished on top, 22:52 and Zach Gingerich finished third, 25:49.
The field is wide open for runners such as David Ploskonka, who finished in eighth place, 28:31 or Pam Reed, who has won in the past and could very well step up this year.
Kostman said the racers get faster each year, but so do the leaders of the race.
“Each year there are about five I feel that can take it. Even out of those five we sometimes get a DNF which surprises us. I don’t get this question a lot because it is such an accomplishment just to be on the start line. In some ways who wins is an afterthought. My favorite quote on the matter is from Dean Karnazes after he won in 2004, ‘I did not win Badwater, I survived it the fastest.’ He will be up there this year.” Karnazes is from San Francisco.
Kostman weighs in on the race with his top four runners and comments.
Eduardo Calisto is from Brazil. He won the Brazil 135 twice. This will be his first Badwater.
“I have to put odds on him. The Brazilians always show up prepared and ready. They take it seriously because it costs a lot of money to come up here,” Kostman said.
Charlie Engle, a U.S. runner from North Carolina, has run the race five times and finished in the top five. His best time in 2009 is 25:45. Kostman says he is a tough runner and has something to prove.
“Engle is coming back after spending a few years in prison and has something to prove after being locked up. He has always been in the top five.”
David Goggins is from California, and is an active duty U.S. Navy Seal. He has finished twice, and his last time out he finished in the top five with a time of 25:49. Kostman believes him to be a top contender.
“He is very focused on high performance. He is the definition of hard-core.”
Oswaldo Lopez is the top pick for Kostman. Lopez is from Fresno, Calif., and has run the race four times. In 2011 he won. He has placed second in the other three races. His best time was 23:32 and he finished in second with that time in 2012.
“If I was going to put my money on anyone it would be Oswaldo Lopez. He is built for it and very muscular. He has the best attitude of everyone in the race and his crew is on the money.”