x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Dubai resident eyes record after taming extreme Badwater Ultramarathon

Dr Catherine Todd, an Australian professor of electrical engineering at University of Wollongong Dubai, claimed the top spot in the women's category at the 2013 Badwater Ultramarathon in California.

Dr Catherine Todd, a Dubai resident, crossed the finishing line in 29 hours, 55 minutes and 29 seconds. Photo Courtesy-Catherine Todd
Dr Catherine Todd, a Dubai resident, crossed the finishing line in 29 hours, 55 minutes and 29 seconds. Photo Courtesy-Catherine Todd

A Dubai resident who claimed the top spot in the women's category at the 2013 Badwater Ultramarathon in California is thinking of making a return.

Dr Catherine Todd, an Australian professor of electrical engineering at University of Wollongong Dubai, crossed the finish line in 29 hours, 55 minutes and 29 seconds, emerging first among the race's female competitors. She beat her previous time by more than six hours. The 217.3-kilometre race, in which competitors go from Death Valley to Mt Whitney, was held July 15-17.

"Badwater is an extreme race with a lot of preparation leading into the event," she said. "I would like to race next year and of course continue to get faster finish times, including trying for the record, but let's see what next year brings."

The course record for the women is 26:16:12.

Dr Todd accomplished her goal of being the first woman to finish, and a time of under 30 hours.

"It feels fantastic," she said. "I am so happy and could not have got a better result. It all went to plan and all the hard work paid off."

She tackled the race which began at 282 feet below sea level and continued up and down three mountain ranges, ending at an elevation of 2,548 metres, the highest point in California. Fifteen of the 96 runners did not finish.

"I focused on getting to the end of each phase and kept my focus on the finish line, and finishing strong," she said. "My crew were excellent. They helped keep me going as well as knowing how much support I had from Dubai, Australia and around the world."

Aside from the personal challenge of such a race, Dr Todd ran in support of a charity assisting in the rehabilitation of her friend, Richard Holland, who was badly injured in a road accident in Dubai.

Runners are allowed just 48 hours to complete the course, which is a challenge even among ultra-marathoners. Participants had to endure unrelenting sun while scaling a cumulative elevation of 3,962 metres. Daytime temperatures reached 49°C.

The 34-year-old expatriate has run 10 100-mile marathons and three 135-mile marathons, including last year's Badwater race.

"This time the race went much better having had the experience of last year," she said. "We did everything right in terms of dealing with the heat, challenges of nutrition and better pacing.

"It was an ideal race. I was not sick at all this time and felt strong throughout it."

Dr Todd trained with members of her support team in the UAE. Her regime involved road, desert and mountain runs, including back-to-back ascents of Jebel Hafeet, starting out at 3am. As one of Dr Todd's sponsors, University of Wollongong Dubai contributed to the costs of her support crew and vehicle, providing assistance with nutrition, hydration and pacing.

Only 100 participants are invited to compete in the Badwater Ultramarathon.

"Badwater is such a great race and running community," she said. "It's great to be selected to race and be a part of such an amazing event."

rruiz@thenational.ae