This marquee of a local San Diego business seems to encapsulate the adventure of running the Death Valley Marathon, so we stopped to snap a picture for posterity's sake.

I think our wives always knew we had "gone postal" long before we even suspected it of ourselves...

The sheer diversity of weather in California. This photo was taken on the freeway while exiting out of San Diego in pouring rain. It rained for almost the entire five hours it took us to get to the mountain ranges surrounding Death Valley. Once around the mountain range and within Death Valley, not a drop of rain or potential for humidity. San Diego received a total of two inches of rain the day we left (Friday, Nov. 30) for Death Valley.


At this intersection, we completely left civilization, except for a few random homes scattered along the straight and bare highway leading to Death Valley. Phone (cell) reception is nonexistent from this point on.


The storm cloud formations as they near the mountains surrounding Death Valley, dissipate over the Valley and then reform over the eastern mountain range of Death Valley.

Accommodations for the Death Valley Marathon can be found at the Furnace Creek Inn, Furnace Creek Ranch (start of the marathon and half-marathon) and Stovepipe Wells.

We chose to stay at the Stovepipe Well Hotel, approximately 30 miles north of Furnace Creek Ranch.

The image above is of the sun setting over the mountain ranges of Death Valley. Notice the storm center separating over Death Valley and then reforming on the eastern side (right on photo) of the Valley as it comes in contact with the Valley's eastern mountain range.


Stovepipe Wells is a small way-station in the northern part of Death Valley, California. There is a motel with swimming pool, a gas station/general store, a gift shop, a ranger station and a restaurant/bar. Close to town are some fairly large and accessible sand dunes. The sand dunes are roughly 7 miles long in the east-west axis. They are located in the space between Salt Creek and Emigrant Wash. The US Postal Service ZIP Code is 92328 and the locale name is spelled Stove Pipe Wells in some postal renditions.

Above is an image of the Stovepipe Wells Saloon and Restaurant. Although the sign "Fresh Drinkin' Water" is a tongue-in-cheek humor, having fresh water in your car for drinking or for radiator overheating is highly advised.


Above is an image of the Stovepipe Wells Restaurant. For such a remote restaurant in an even more remote location of the United States, the menu was diverse and quite good. I had a wonderful plate of spaghetti and Chuck had the pasta dinner. The salads and fresh dinner rolls that came with the meal were wonderful. Although they didn't have an oil vinagrette dressing for Chuck.


Chuck wasn't too thrilled with my request that we go to bed at 8:00 pm (Pacific Time), but for me it was 10:00 pm (Central Time). But sleep did come and so did the 40-degree morning of the race.

The above image is of us driving back to Furnace Creek Ranch at approximately 6:00 am. Packet and bib pick-up was from 6:45 - 7:45 am and the race began at 8:00 am on the road in front of Furnace Creek Ranch.


Furnace Creek is the headquarters of Death Valley National Park, as well as two of its major tourist facilities, the Furnace Creek Inn and Ranch Resort. The golf course attached to the Ranch is the lowest in the world, at 214 feet below sea level. Most lodging is closed in the summer, when temperatures in the vicinity can surpass 125 degrees Fahrenheit (52 degrees Celsius). There is a visitor's center and a gas station in Furnace Creek. The village is surrounded by a number of campgrounds. The above image is of the edge of (yes, it's true) the Furnace Creek Golf Course.

Furnace Creek has the distinction of holding the record for the highest ever recorded temperature in the United States, as well as the highest ever reliably recorded worldwide, reaching 134°F (56.7°C) on July 10, 1913.


Furnace Creek has a booming population of 31 persons. Above is an image of the General Store within the Furnace Creek Ranch complex. Sign-in and packet/bib pick-up was in the Saloon, next to the General Store.

As the officlal website of the Furnace Creek Ranch Resort states, "This resort presents a complete contrast to the desolate desert landscape and consists of an oasis 18-hole golf course (the world's lowest course at 214 feet below sea level), four restaurants, a saloon, a cocktail lounge, retail outlets, a Borax Museum, spring-fed swimming pools, tennis courts, horseback riding, horse-drawn carriage rides, a children's playground, massage therapy, a 3,000 foot airstrip, a service station and conference and banquet facilities for 10 - 120. (Some services are available only on a seasonal basis.) Furnace Creek Inn & Ranch Resort is the perfect vantage point from which to explore Death Valley National Park!"


The above view is of the starting line of the half- marathon, marathon and 10K races. Runners leave Furnace Creek Ranch, heading north on Highway 178, run to their respective midpoints of their race and turn around and run back to Furnace Creek Ranch. Because of this out-and-back process of the race, it made this marathon seem much longer than any of the other marathons that I have run.


Todd Heon, Chuck Fabijanic and Lee Hoedl prepare for the long run across the desert valley. All three were part of the team Thrown Together at the End of the Road in the 2007 Wild Miles Relay in California.

The race began with a few announcements, an impromptu crowd version of America The Beautiful and then the marathon runners took off first, half-marathon runners next. They were staggered by 10 minutes and it was a shotgun start (no timing chip).


Located southeast of the Sierra Nevada range in the Great Basin and the Mojave Desert, Death Valley constitutes much of Death Valley National Park. It runs north-south between the Amargosa Range to the east and the Panamint Range to the west; the Sylvania Mountains and the Owlshead Mountains form its northern and southern boundaries, respectively. It has an area of about 3,000 square miles.


Many of Death Valley's narrow, serpentine roads were built in the 1930s and cannot be driven at high speed. Badwater, located within Death Valley, is the specific location of the lowest point in North America. (Surprisingly, the highest point in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney, is just 76 miles (123 km) west of Death Valley.) At 282 feet (86 m) below sea level, Death Valley shares most of the characteristics found in other places around the world that lie below sea level.

Generally, the lower the altitude of a place, the higher the temperatures tend to be. This is especially true in Death Valley, due to the mountains that encircle the valley. The valley radiates extreme amounts of heat, creating temperatures that are among the hottest on earth. The hottest temperature ever recorded in the United States was 134 °F (56.7 °C) at Furnace Creek (then known as Greenland Ranch), during a sandstorm (according to National Weather Service records), on July 10, 1913. The highest average high temperature in July is 117 °F (47 °C) with temperatures of 122 °F (50 °C) or higher being very common. The temperatures for the 2007 Death Valley Marathon ranged from 40 degrees (at race check-in) to approximately 65 degrees (toward the end of the marathon finish) - this is a typical temperature range for December in Death Valley.


Many may not know this, but Death Valley was a location for filming in the Star Wars films. After viewing some of the pictures, it is not surprising.

This particular photo was filtered and altered so as to draw out the surrounding mountain range in the distance. This particular image may be slightly blurry as it was taken in a moving vehicle, as Chuck didn't want to stop too often to let me shoot the landscape.

Mining was the primary activity in the area before it was protected. The first known non-Native Americans to enter Death Valley did so in the winter of 1849, thinking they would save some time by taking a shortcut to the gold fields of California. They were stuck for weeks and in the process gave the Valley its name even though only one of their group died there. Several short-lived boom towns sprung up during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to exploit minor local bonanzas of gold. The only long-term profitable ore to be mined, however, was borax; a mineral used to make soap and an important industrial compound.


The hot, dry climate makes it difficult for soil to form. Mass wasting, the down-slope movement of loose rock, is therefore the dominant erosive force in mountainous area, resulting in "skeletonized" ranges (literally, mountains with very little soil on them). Sand dunes in the park, while famous, are not nearly as numerous as their fame or dryness of the area may suggest. One of the main dune fields (shown above) is near Stovepipe Wells in the north-central part of the Valley and is primarily made of quartz sand. Another dune field is just 10 miles (16 km) to the north but is instead mostly composed of travertine sand. Yet another dune field is near the seldom-visited Ibex Hill in the southernmost part of the park, just south of Saratoga Springs (a marshland). Prevailing winds in the winter come from the north, and prevailing winds in the summer come from the south. Thus the overall position of the dune fields remain more or less fixed.


Habitat varies from saltpan 282 feet (86 m) below sea level to the sub-alpine conditions found on the summit of Telescope Peak, which rises to 11,049 feet (3368 m). Vegetation zones include Creosote Bush, Desert Holly, and mesquite at the lower elevations and sage up through shadscale, blackbrush, Joshua Tree, pinyon-juniper, to Limber Pine and Bristlecone Pine woodlands.

The saltpan is devoid of vegetation, and the rest of the valley floor and lower slopes have sparse cover, yet where water is available, an abundance of vegetation is usually present.

A view of Highway 190 that leads out Death Valley, across Townes Pass, down into the salt basin (white portion in the middle of the picture) and into the Panamint Mountain range.

The small town of Panamint Springs (see image below) is located at the other end of the salt basin, where the road begins to increase in altitude.

Should you ever find yourself cycling down from Townes Pass to Panamint Springs (which Chuck and I did in 2004), you are in for the ride of your life. Be sure you have your cycle brakes in working order.


Death Valley supports a variety of wildlife species, including 51 species of native mammals, 307 species of birds, 36 species of reptiles, three species of amphibians, and two species of native fish.

Small mammals are more numerous than large mammals, such as Bighorn Sheep, Coyotes, Bobcats, Kit Foxes, Cougars, and Mule Deer. Mule Deer are present in the pinyon/juniper associations of the Grapevine, Cottonwood, and Panamint ranges. Bighorn Sheep are a rare species of mountain sheep that exist in isolated bands in the Sierra and in Death Valley. These are highly adaptable animals and can eat almost any plant. They have no known predators, but humans and burros compete for habitat.

Taking time to grab a post-race celebratory lunch at the Panamint Springs Resort, at the base of the Panamint Mountain range, was worthwhile and hearty. In 2004, while cycling from Badwater Basin to the Whitney Portal, Chuck, Keith and I stayed overnight at the Panamint Springs Resort .


Be prepared. This is a view that you will see alot of as you are driving to and from Death Valley National Park. Be sure to fill up your gas tank and have water in your vehicle (should your radiator overheat - in the hotter months). Again, there is no cell phone service throughout this area.

And if driving the region is not enough, try your hand at cycling from Badwater Basin (lowest point in the United States) in Death Valley to the Whitney Portal (entrance to the climb of Mt. Whitney), only 135 miles from point to point. From there, strike out for a summit climb of the highest point in the contiguous United States: the summit of Mt. Whitney.

Chuck, Keith Sherwood and I took on this very challenge in 2004 and had a spectacular time. Enough so, that we continue talking about a repeat event.


A view toward Telescope Peak while driving on Highway 178. Telescope Peak is the highest point within Death Valley National Park, in the US state of California. It is also the highest point of the Panamint Range, and lies in Inyo County. From atop this desert mountain one can see for over one hundred miles in many directions, including west across Panamint Valley to Mount Whitney and the Sierra Nevada in California, and east across the Badwater Basin in Death Valley (the lowest point in North America) to Charleston Peak in the Spring Mountains of Nevada. Hiking trails from the base to the summit total 7 miles. The mountain was named for the great distance visible from the summit.


Although they probably already realize it, I would like to extend my thanks to the Fabijanic family for their hospitality when I was in San Diego. They have been friends of mine since my early college days and I would suspect they will remain life-long friends (as long as I don't involve Chuck in a crazy running/hiking/climbing stunt).

One final view of the clear skies and sunset over California. This image was taken as we reached the point of cell phone service outside of the Death Valley region. The drive from Death Valley to San Diego (Chuck's home) took approximately six hours and, in my opinion, was the most difficult part of running the Death Valley Marathon.

Special thanks to Chuck Fabijanic for his company throughout this adventure. It made the race and adventure that much more enjoyable and memorable. Chuck posted a 1:51:00 for his very first half-marathon and I was very proud of him at the end of the race. Of course, I have to state that here as he wouldn't believe me if I said it to his face.



Death Valley Marathon 2007. All rights reserved. Copyright 2007