The 2004 Kiehl's Badwater Ultramarathon
Albert Martens: Turning Badwater into Living Water
The sound of a lone trumpet playing the theme from "Chariots of Fire" is all you can hear at the Whitney Portal. Then some clapping and shouts from Albert Martens' crew join the serenade. Martens turns the final corner and can now see the finish banners of the 2004 Kiehl's Badwater Ultramarathon.
Martens is moving forward, just not in a straight line. As he nears the tape stretched across the finish line, the trumpeters tune changes to "Oh, Canada." Overcome with emotion and fatigue, Martens breaks the tape and falls into the arms of a crewmember. He sobs his thanks to his crew. "You were great, you all were great."
Moments later, seated upon the plastic throne reserved for finishers of the toughest foot race in the world, his first words are, "So what do I get?" Race Director Chris Kostman places a well-earned finishers medal around Martens' neck and congratulates him. "We had no experience", says Martens. "We learned so much, we became a team, and without the team I couldn't have done it".
It is clear that the team spirit is strong. In fact, members of fellow runner Monica Scholz's team had joined the Martens crew to help get him to the finish. As did Martens himself, his original crew had their own obstacles to overcome along the way, including a flat tire and suffering through the breakdown of the air-conditioning in their van.
Martens is using the race to raise money for the poor people of Benin, Africa, a small country between Nigeria and Togo. The money will help fund the drilling of seven wells in southern Benin. Next year, Athletes in Action is organizing a run across the country of Benin that Martens will do with a soccer team from Canada. Following the run, the soccer team will play a match against the national team from Benin.
Martens, a veteran of many mountain marathons and runs in the Swiss Alps, had difficulty training for the heat of Death Valley. He is more likely to run in minus 40 degree temperatures at his home in Manitoba, Canada than experience anything like what he endured in this Badwater race. In fact, when running in the cold at home, he thinks about Death Valley to try and warm himself up.
"I was struggling for air coming up the last hill," said Martens. "My lungs were weak but my heart was good." Everyone will agree that Martens' heart is good.
To read more about Albert's "Turning Badwater into Living Water" efforts, download his four color PDF here.