Every runner has a story—but every reporter has their limits. Here are tales from just a few of the race’s many incredible finishers:
#89 Albert Vallée
How’s this for reaching one’s goals: Albert Vallée’s self-professed “dream” was to complete Badwater under 30 hours. Tuesday afternoon, he reached the Badwater finish line at 29:59:18—right on time. It seems that most of Vallée’s dreams come true. This year alone, this ultrarunner from France has completed four long-distance desert races: in Morocco, Mauritania, Algiers, and now here in California.
#50 Mike Sweeney
Mike Sweeney clocked in Tuesday night at 36:54:15, his family and crew clearly proud of him after a difficult final stretch of the race. Sweeney had held the lead time for more than 80 miles, but began to suffer from hyponatremia a few miles before Darwin. He pulled a solid finish, however; a Badwater rookie, he finished in twelfth place, with his young son (also a crew member) videotaping the post-race celebration.
#9 Jody-Lynn Reicher
Jody-Lynn Reicher pulled in late Tuesday night, clocking in at 40:34:37. “I’m thrilled,” she said. “Now I can focus on adopting my new baby girl—we should find out when we get home.” Jody-Lynn is a massage therapist, a mom, a free-lance writer, a motivational speaker, and a former US Marine. This is her third time running Badwater.
#62 Holger Finkernagel and #7 Arthur Webb
Few sports in the world can boast highly competitive athletes over the age of 40. Far, far fewer are those sports featuring athletes over 60—athletes who can beat the pants off many of their competitors. But out here in the desert, anything is possible: two of this year’s runners to finish under 48 hours were over 60 years old. At age 62, Holger Finkernagel was the fastest finisher under 60 (43:07:08), with Arthur Webb, age 63, coming up the mountain an hour later (44:13:10).
This was Arthur’s eighth consecutive finish. He claims it was one of the most difficult: “If you receive my application next year, put it straight in the shredder.” But he was one of only 45 runners to finish under the 48-hour belt buckle deadline, and despite a little hobbling at the finish line, he looked like a million bucks. Age, it seems, teaches us to take our troubles in stride. As one of his crew members reported, “we laughed so hard on the way up Whitney that we had to sit down on the pavement.”
#15 Shannon Farar-Griefer
“Did I do anything else exciting? Did I throw up a lot?” Shannon laughed as she flashed her omnipresent smile to the cameras at the finish line. This was another big finish for Shannon, who was the second woman to complete a Badwater double in 2000—running the full race, summitting Mt. Whitney, and then running back to Badwater for a total of 292 miles. That time, she ran for 7 days straight, and slept less than 7 hours, but this race, she said, was even harder. Yet despite a particularly tough spell toward the end of the race, Shannon clocked in at 47:06:27, receiving her first-ever belt buckle and achieving another personal record.
#42 Frank McKinney
Early Wednesday morning, Frank and his large crew linked arms through the finish line, giving Frank a time of 48:49:20. Laura, his beautiful young daughter, was alongside him, grinning uncontrollably. She turns seven today, and had flown in yesterday evening from Florida to celebrate both her dad’s finish and her own birthday. McKinney raised a total of $44,000 for charity to compete in this race, $11,000 of which will go to the Challenged Athletes Foundation. This was his first Badwater run.