The True Spirit of the Race

Let’s be honest, not selfish nor vindictive. It’s time to heal ALL wounds and open our resources for the successful continuance of ULTRA Sports, specifically, in Death Valley. It takes a great deal of time and “know-how” to promote, successfully, these ULTRA event, such as the ‘Badwater 135’. It is not in the best interest of ‘The Sport’ that “mature” individuals should allow themselves to be swept-up in a “fire-storm” of misinformation. It would appear, that the sole purpose, of such wasted energy, is to discredit and destroy “common grounds”. What a shame. Too many harsh and unsavory words have been assailed. I would like to let it rest, there is nothing to gain in harboring ill will!!!. I’m sure that the “last word” is out there, somewhere. Here is mine. I know that it is rather long but I feel that I should be heard, Hopefully some will concur:)) My being recognized as the ‘First BW to Whitney Summit’ then I will be the first to say: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!! The future of “The Sport”, depends upon it! I have NO special interest involvement, other than the continuing of ULTRA events in DVNP. But, with the highest level of cooperation, integrity and fierce competition. Every individual involved should think: “Fair and common to ALL”. Thank you, in advance, for your friendship and continued support.

First and most important: I am stating, emphatically, that  Chris Kostman is not the “culprit/bad-guy”! It is important to recognize and accept the fact: Race Directors/Officials will always be criticized, especially when enforcing the “Rules of Engagement”: written, implied, or otherwise. It usually erupts when a “special interest” is denied the continuance of “procedures” favoring a specific team, and in conflict with the other competitors. This practice is very common but does not warrant being accepted, It is the duty and responsibilities of the Race Officials to maintain the “primary purpose”   of the event. The personalities and conduct, of these individuals, destroy the basic, but waning, concept of fair-play. Unfortunately: “winning is the only thing” has eroded ideals of being a “good-sport”. The violators, themselves, are the real losers. It’s to the environment, of which they are competing and “altering”, to their advantage and not other runners, is, in-itself, a different contest! Not a good idea. This is not to say that the mechanics of “putting one foot in front of another”, over such arduous conditions, is not recognized. But, it is important that these elite, established, and outstanding athletes, recognize and understand their responsibilities of maintaining a “Level Playing Field”. These same participants must also NOT challenge the authority and judgement of any Race Official’s action. Right or wrong! There is NO “Instant Replay” and, if such were available, the “call” would have remained the same: DISALLOWED!

All Athletic Teams must NEVER forget that they are the guests of the ‘Event”. And as such, their entry fee does not allow the abuse of the Course, or its purpose. At the discretion of the Event’s Officials, judgements, to “challenges” may occur, sometimes in conflict with the entrant and Organizer. The condemnation, in the recent BW135 (Chris Kostman/Race Director) was, in my “ancient philosophical approach”, appropriate but too lenient. I would have given a Full Refund, on the spot, disqualified the “team” and notified the DVNP as to my actions. For the record, that team would have been listed as a: NO SHOW!! Not pleasant, but that’s the way I operate, if you don’t like tough management, (and Chris Kostman is a tough organizer) then you have other options but not better challenges.

The BW 135 is a TOUGH race, and tough “direction”, only the very best, of heart, dare apply. Not every applicant will be accepted, it’s a logistics nightmare. The entrant space is limited. It is only natural, desiring to be part of these great events. And, equally so, to demand of all parties, the utmost of fair-play. Mother Nature sets the stage, don’t try and “alter” it. Do it right or don’t do it at all! Anyone that attempts to cross Death Valley, in an organized event, MUST direct and comply their “procedures” so as to be consistent and common to ALL athletic teams. Remember, endorsement by the Race Officials, depends upon your cooperation, ONLY!. As old as I am, I’m quite sure that: given a Refrigerated Water Truck, Beautiful Ladies holding an Umbrella over this decrepit body and, NO time limit: I could (probably) make it today. It’s important to recognize and understand, while accepting the purpose, intent and value in preserving a “natural environment” compliance. Mother Nature’s “Child”: Death Valley, will have it NO other way. Make it HOT, DANGEROUS and UNWELCOMED!! Needless to say. being foolish and unprepared could place your name as just another statistic in the ledger of Inyo County Coroner, “Badwater Mayor”, BW ULTRA ledger/veteran, Ben Jones, MD. Sorry, but I prefer not to have him or anyone else, looking down at my toes before “my time”!

Elite athlete or not, the circumventing of the Race Director’s “management” that defeat the very purpose of meeting, head on, the notorious and hostile environment of Death Valley, should NEVER be permitted. In 1974, on my first attempt to the “Challenge”, we (Me and, my long time friend, Dave Gabor) ATTACKED the”course”. Dave almost died, it was a year before he recovered. I learned quickly: Gently “fold” my way through this treacherous and untested, environment. I accepted Her guidelines, the rest is a matter of record. But, in today’s (24:36) it is a whole different world: Everyone wants a better performance. But, back in ’74-’77, it never occurred to me of being anything other than: “an extension of the ENVIRONMENT!” As ULTRAS grow in number and continually confront and accepts the challenge, in its true nature, Death Valley National Park, and beyond, will, forever, be the “Remarkable Quest”. The ultimate reward is the achievement of the “Quest”: 135 miles of interesting conflicts, most of which are within ourselves. Many individuals have died on these desert floors, and I’m sure that it wasn’t an easy way to die!! All ULTRAS that dare accept the challenge of traversing these hazards, of Mother Nature, do so within Her “natural guidelines”. These elements are protected and supported by the Race Officials. Their judgement and management is vital for the safety and success of these events. Therefore, fair-play and compliance guidelines, that are common to all participants, is essential! Anything else is unacceptable! Water tankers, large or small, is not natural nor common to all. The Officials’ responsibilities are broad and undefined. Every day of our lives, we make on the spot decisions. I’m sure that some were wrong. The Race Director’s decision was not improper! “Conduct” favorable to any particular runner, especially a Super Star, is understandingly noted but, not acceptable. The “Natural hostilities of the environment”, in-it-self, preclude “altering its’ (DVNP) position: DEFIANCE!!! The desert is not a friendly / forgiving arena. Obviously, SAFETY is of the utmost concern. The ‘BW 135’ is an amateur Ultra running event, NOT a Meg-$$-Corporate Challenge. The true challenger is that individual, that has trained: mentally, physically and spiritually, AND ready to accept the risks of their “Quest”. Gadgets are NOT WELCOME, in concept or reality. How lucky, it was for me, @30 years ago, to “try again and again”, not to have any adversarial conflicts! Other than good old Mother Nature. She spanked me very hard! Today, I’m wiser and thrilled that so many others have followed my BW to Whitney “Mystics”. Anything other than “Natural”, is in violation of “THE TRUE SPIRIT”.