Badwater 135 and Badass Course Records with Michelle Barton

The World’s Toughest Races

Racing is tough. We push ourselves physically and mentally to go faster, further, or faster AND further than we have before. But Ultra Trail Racing is in a whole other category, with courses that stretch for over 50 and sometimes even 200 miles in beautiful, yet hostile environments even on the best days.


Michelle Barton, Ultra Runner and Co-Host of the Training For Ultra and Trail Runner Nation podcasts, joins us this week to talk about her experience and accomplishments with Ultra Trail Running.

Badwater 135

Michelle has run some incredible races including Badwater 135, from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney; the Javelina Jundred, a 100 mile self proclaimed desert trail run costume party; and Caballo Blanco joining the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico. She has also set over 24 course records. 

Extreme Challenges

Michelle’s running appears in a chapter she wrote in Chicken Soup for the Soul, about her experience running Badwater 135 and the extreme challenges she dealt with to finish the race.

Love of the Outdoors

In this episode, we talk to Michelle about how her love of the outdoors led to her running and how her running has taken on bigger and longer challenges over the years. And she also has words of encouragement for those who would like to dip their toes into the waters of Ultra Running.


Questions Michelle is asked:

2:02 First Four:

  1. How old are you?
  2. Where were you born?
  3. Where do you live now?
  4. What is your favorite workout? 

2:50 What got you started running and when did you transition to Ultra distances?

5:30 Is the race you do inside Yosemite National Park?

6:26 What has your dad accomplished recently?

7:30 What are some of the course records you have set?

9:25 Why did you drop out and what did you to win it the following year?

11:05 What is the learning process like for ultra running?

12:26 Why is Badwater such a difficult race? 

15:52 How and why did you finish?

18:09 What was the prior longest race you had done?

19:37 What did you wear?

20:11 Did you have long sleeves?

20:42 Is there a less intensive version of Badwater?

21:39 How many Badwater races are there?

21:56 What year did you win and set the course record?

22:12 What was your time and were you with your race partner the whole time?

22:34 What’s the difference between  ultra running and marathons besides the distance?

23:19 What was it like running the race that came out of the book Born To Run?

27:36 How many ‘Gringos’ participated and how far did Mexicans travel to do the race?

28:23 Did you feel safe running in Mexico?

29:44 How can people register for it?

31:24 How do you manage the logistics?

32:28 How did you get involved with the TransRockies?

36:09 How old is your dad now?

36:26 Does he win his age groups?

37:03 Do you think races will expand age groups?

38:41 What shoes do you use?

42:28 How is running in minimalist shoes different from traditional running shoes?

43:48 Are you a professional athlete?

44:15 Who are some of your sponsors and what does it take to become a pro?

46:51 What is your training like now and what races are on your calendar?

48:56 Does having goals help you stay motivated?

49:56 Have you experienced hallucinations while racing ultras?

50:55 What races are on your Bucket List?

52:43 Anything else you’d like to add?

55:54 Final Kick Round:

  1. What is your favorite local training run or outing (location, starting point, parking, distance, terrain and safety issues)?
  2. Favorite book(s), video or resource? 
  3. Who or what would you like to have featured on the Run To The Top podcast?



“Even though you stop for a little bit, it doesn’t mean your race is over. You can get it together and move on and you might feel much, much better.”

“Ultra running is so much mental because you know that even if your prepared and you train and run 100 mile weeks, it seems like you can never be completely prepared.”

“I always did my best racing in a minimal type of shoe, but it always had a slight heel lift. Now it seems like the trendy thing is to go with shoes that don’t have that lift. Once you have your heels lifted, it throws your whole posture out of alignment and maybe people don’t realize that.”

“I know that my best racing is at the 50K, 50 mile, maybe 100K, but since I’ve done so many of those, I’d kind of like to do the things I’m NOT great at because it’s more of a challenge.”

“Don’t be afraid to just go out there and figure it out. The worst thing is maybe you won’t finish your first time, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s a learning experience.”


Take a Listen on Your Next Run


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Mentioned in this podcast: 

Run To The Top Winners Circle Facebook Community

RunnersConnect Facebook page

RunnersConnect Running Retreats

Trail Runner Nation Podcast

Training For Ultra Podcast

Luna Sandals

Leona Divide 50 Miler

Badwater 135

Badwater Salton Sea

Caballo Blanco Race

Copper Canyon Ultras

TransRockies Series

Mt. Baldy Run To The Top Race

Gran Fondo Highwood Pass 

Iron Legs Race Canada

John Muir Trail

UTMB Homepage

The Tor des Géants

Aliso Creek and Wood Canyon Loop Trail 

Movie: Running On The Sun

Book: Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners

Dean Karnazes Amazon Author Page

Doug Malewicki’s Amazon Author Page

Gordy Ainsleigh

Western States 100


Follow Michelle on:





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