The Death Valley 300: Near Death and Resurrection On The World's Toughest Endurance Course

Author: Richard Benyo (294 pages, hardback)

Book review by Chris Kostman

Originally published in ULTRA Cycling, Spring 1993

This absolutely fascinating volume provides a wealth of info on a kindred sport to ours, ultra marathon running, as well as fascinating background on the natural and modern history of Death Valley and its environs. It is a welcome addition to any endurance athlete's library and should be of special interest to Death Valley visitors such as riders in the Furnace Creek 508 and other cycling events in that unlikely locale.

The primary focus of the volume is the first ever round-trip 300 mile run from the bottom of Death Valley, Badwater at -282ft., to the top of Mt. Whitney at 14, 494ft. This race, like many of history's greatest human endeavours, was the result of a somewhat beer-induced challenge. Richard Benyo, former editor of Runner's World magazine, and Tom Crawford, who had raced one-way on two previous occasions, were the challengers and this book chronicles their efforts in exacting detail. How detailed? Well, the book opens with the race story in mid-stream, at the point where Crawford first urinates blood. Later we learn of Benyo's varying rectal temperature and even of his heinous violations of athletic protocol such as having beer and pizza during the event. The book tells all.

Race Across America (RAAM) aficionados and veterans will find a kindred spirit lurking in the pages, as the following excerpt about Crawford's experience in the 300 mile run demonstrates:

"When he reaches the Isuzu and Nancy, he asks her for a hug. 'I need a hug, Nancy,' he says. Later he would explain that, surrounded by all that vast emptiness, he needed some human contact. When Nancy hugs him, he asks her to tell him that he isn't a lunatic for doing this thing. 'She looked at me,' Tom would recount days later, 'and she said that she couldn't, in all honesty, say that.' What she said was: 'I think you're crazy. But what you're doing is something no other person has done. You and Rich are just going for it. You're going for something special. And it's something nobody can understand except you guys—and maybe somebody who's been down there."

For more info on the Badwater Ultramarathon, visit