Defending Badwater 135 women’s champion Ashley Paulson has smashed the women’s course record she set last year, chopping nearly two and a half hours off her 2022 time to finish first overall at this year’s race.
Paulson, of St. George, Utah, completed the course—an infamously hot and grueling 135-mile (217-km) run through California’s Death Valley to Mount Whitney—in 21:44:35. In doing so she not only demolished the women’s record she set last year (24:09:34) but finished more than 20 minutes ahead of this year’s men’s champion, Simen Holvik of Norway (22:28:08). Temperatures during the race have been known to soar well above 100 F (37 C).
Placing second in the men’s category and third overall was last year’s winner, Yoshihiko Ishikawa of Japan (23:52:29), who has two Badwater 135 victories under his belt. He was followed by fourth-place finisher and second-place women’s runner Sonia Ahuja of Thousand Oaks, Calif., who trailed Paulson by nearly two hours, finishing the course in 25:42:51. Rounding out the top five finishers was 2021 champion Harvey Lewis of Cincinnati, who completed his 12th Badwater 135 in 27:26:49, finishing third among the men. Rounding out the women’s podium was Maree Connor of Lambton, Australia (27:49:24).
Victoria Brown, the only Canadian in the field of 100 runners, finished strong, running 30:11:52 to place fourth among women and claim 13th place overall. It’s been a stellar year for the Whitby, Ont., ultrarunner, who in March broke her own 48-hour Canadian record and 72-hour world record while competing at the GOMU (Global Organization of Multi-Day Ultramarathoners) six-day world championships in Policoro, Italy.
With her commanding victory this year, Paulson becomes the first woman to win back-to-back races at Badwater since Japan’s Sumie Inagaki won the event in 2011 and 2012.
Paulson’s win last year came amid some controversy. In 2016, the professional runner and triathlete accepted a ruling from the United States Olympic Committee National Anti-Doping Policies (USADA) banning her from competition in triathlon events for six months, the result of an anti-doping rule violation. She had a positive result for ostarine, a selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM), during a random sampling. Follow-up tests found ostarine in a contaminated supplement the athlete was taking. In an analysis of Paulson’s GPX files and other data, derek murphywho runs the site marathoninvestigation.comconcluded that her Badwater data was clean and showed no evidence of cheating.
Yoshihiko Ishikawa wins Badwater 135 for the 2nd time
This year’s race, which started Tuesday at 8 pm PDT, and lasts 48 hours, marks the 46th running of the Badwater 135. Considered by many to be the world’s toughest foot race, the ultramarathon begins at 85 meters below sea level—the lowest elevation in North America—and takes runners up to 2,548m of altitude.