“PAIN IS WEAKNESS LEAVING THE BODY”……BY DAVID ROSS

The Badwater seed was firmly sown whilst I was on a trip to Marrakesh taking part in the marathon there on 26th January 2015. A lengthy conversation after the marathon by the pool that took place with a complete stranger at the Hotel El Andalous was the initial catalyst. This is how the chain of events led to my eventual decision to run this legendary race…….! Some people rock your world and my great friend Rachid Afouzar has been a massive inspiration to me ever since I first met him. Rachid survived an accident after being hit by a bus whilst out running one day he’d asked me to join their group of Ealing Eagles runners’ taking part in the Marrakesh marathon, as I’m a self-confessed running junkie it took a mere nanosecond to say “yes”.

Badwater Basin

Feeling the 110 deg F heat already ! 

This would be my second foray to this alluring place and it’s mystical marathon. I had great memories of having run it 5 years prior in 2010 and was very enthusiastic about returning to this magical land, especially having a well informed and well connected local guide as Rachid was the font of all knowledge.There were several elite Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes also staying at the Hotel El Andalous which was inspirational. I even remember having to help one of the Kenyans to find his room, and chortled to myself whilst carrying his suitcase as it was almost bigger than him! It was whilst I was staying at this hotel that I met some real characters post-race at the hotel pool. I met a fellow Zimbabwean named Gary Mundell, who had come out to do the marathon with some friends. I was born and raised in Zimbabwe so we struck up an instant rapport which included conversations about numerous legendary ultras. He asked me whether I’d run the Western States, Leadville, and Wasatch – the answer to this was “yes.” I told him I’d done all of these awesome 100’s and had even managed to get the much sought after Silver Buckle (Sub 24hrs) for the WSER. He then asked if I’d done Badwater……I hesitated and quite loudly said “No”! He then asked if I’d ever considered this. “No, not really,” I replied. He said “Well here’s the deal if you ever get in you have my word here and now that I will come and crew you.” I embedded that thought somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind, and the seed was well and truly sown now. 

On the flight home from Marrakesh I earnestly started thinking about the feasibility of doing Badwater, but the very thought of it brought me out in a cold sweat, as I’d seen quite a bit of footage of it on YouTube and read numerous accounts of the race by legends such as Scott Jurek and Dean Karnazes, but I could never fathom how or why anyone would honestly want to subject themselves to hours of sheer purgatory by running along a blazing highway that stretched through the middle of the hottest place on earth Stovepipe Wells (on route) where a temperature was 56.7 deg C in 1913.

Temperature

Some like it hot… !

Thoughts of Badwater were banished for a while, until the dying flames were rekindled. My wife Melanie asked me whether I’d like to go and hear a talk hosted by Mark Hines, the renowned ultra runner who had taken on several cold / hot weather races like the Yukon Arctic Ultra and 6633 as well as the epic MDS. Anyway this talk really had me transfixed as his renditions about the trials and tribulations of running these epic races and the sense of karma he seemed to purvey left me thinking again about Badwater. This time I covertly started watching numerous YouTube feeds about the Badwater runners. Reading more about this epic race really made me realise just how tenacious the human spirit could be. It was just something I had to prove to myself and my restless spirit. The cravings had started in earnest now and I knew then that I had to get my fix. I’ve always had an addictive personality, and running ultras has just given me such a sense of inner peace. To me it’s the true test of character to put oneself through hell and back and just keep going no matter what, so I made up my mind then that I was definitely doing this race.

GWR-Fastest-marathon-in-a-wetsuit-(2)_tcm25-19760

GWR “London Marathon 2013” 3.25hrs, 4mm wetsuit 

I was about to find out that the going was just about to get tough, but I was massively determined to ‘slay the beast,’ and from that moment of clarity I decided I was going to get across the line and achieve what I never thought was possible. It was a moment of sheer exhilaration and blind panic all rolled into one. So….. one fine sunny day I decide to bite the bullet, and I log on to my PC and type in the Badwater web address. Right, what do I do to enter this? Having read about all the specifics, I go to the BW application form and painstakingly cobble together my running history, which fortunately for me also included my Centurion Gland Slam 2014 win, having also broken the aggregated Slam record by over 13hrs. I plough on, completing details of the various 100’s that I’d done within the last 5 years and finally complete my background history. I chuckle out loud as I complete the online entry and mention that I held the Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon in a wetsuit (London Marathon 2013) of 3hrs 25mins wondering what Chris Kostman (Race Director) would think about this. I’m at least quietly confident that he’ll be having a chortle when he gets to that bit of my application and hopefully feels that if I am crazy enough to attempt such records, I’ll be man enough to complete Badwater! 

About 2 hrs later the covert application is done, and now all I could do was to sit back and wait patiently.Like a coiled rattlesnake I wait for what seems like ages and questions formulate in my mind as to whether to tell Mel or to keep it secret. I decide finally that discretion is the better part of valour so I keep this to myself and one or two close friends, after all if I don’t get in this isn’t going to be an issue. The main problem is that we had already booked a trip to do the Davos K78 in Switzerland over the same time period. I’d proposed to Mel at Jacobshorn in 2010 the day before the Davos K42 (whilst dressed in a Kilt), having changed in a loo at the top o