Death Valley Marathon

Blood, sweat and tears!

2 February 2019, California



The idea, as usual, came about quite spontaneously.


First, we really wanted to swim together (in the end, #Project Lucha is symbolically associated with swimming), but the turn of January and February, even in sunny California, is not a time for swimming. The ocean is icy and choppy, and the real swimming season begins in April.

Therefore, as 2019 is awash with running races for us anyway, we decided that, if we could not swim, we would run a marathon together.

We had already done a half marathon in Luxembourg together, and found it to be a great experience.

We drew up a shortlist, eventually choosing the ominous-sounding (but intriguing!)… Death Valley Marathon ;-).

Super – decision made, so we sign up! And fast, because the number of places is limited (only 350 people). Money transfer, confirmation, we’re now committed!


And then the concerns began to seep in... The more we read, the more doubts we had...

The insane heat recorded in the Death Valley National Park made it daunting for us to think about how far we would have to run.

Many people in previous editions of the event did not finish it because they found it too hard…

In the end, we decided that we would just treat it as a huge and exciting adventure, and not worry about times, or the distance.

With this new, more positive attitude, we knew we would achieve our goal.


However, just two weeks before the marathon, the whole thing fell under a huge question mark due to the prolonged government shutdown in the US, as there was a risk that there would be insufficient time to restart the park’s operations in order to meet the safety requirements. The Death Valley National Park itself was not shut, but many park facilities were closed to the public.

Then, to add insult to injury, as soon as the government shutdown ended, we got sick (Maria had a throat infection, and I almost broke a toe on my right foot – it was all blue and swollen, and very painful).

But, as we had committed to this, we said that there was no way out – we were running and that was it!



Death Valley is said to be the most sacred place on earth.

It is also the largest national park in the United States, and has the lowest depression in North America. The lowest point is 85 meters below sea level.

Just behind the entrance to the park is Zabryskie Point, one of the most beautiful views in the valley. The rocks were formed in such an unusual way that they resemble the sand shimmering in the rays of the sun at the bottom of the sea. The unusual color and light play are breath-taking. From here, there is absolutely no life in sight: not a blade of grass, not a single lizard, and absolutely nothing green.

Death Valley is also the driest area in the Western Hemisphere.

Given all this, we couldn’t believe it when, on 2 February 2019, it was raining – the only day of the year to see rain!


The marathon began at 8 in the morning. It was raining before this, but stopped for the start and even cleared up slightly.

However, this only increased the humidity in the air; we could taste salt and it was hard to breathe.

The route follows Highway 190 through the heart of Death Valley. For the first 3 kilometres (and the last 3), the road runs through the Mustard Canyon and then out onto the highway.


At the very beginning, we were doing quite well, so we decided to crank up the pace a bit and then keep it stable. We ran steadily and the humidity did not bother us too much.

Suddenly, the weather broke and the wind began to blow heavily, followed by rain.

On the one hand, the cooler air seemed to offer salvation; on the other, the wind was so strong that every step was getting more and more difficult.

In addition, we could feel the breath of the competition on our backs. A few girls were running behind us, which was very motivating for us.

The wind in the desert is a completely different experience to the wind in the city. It is so strong that it feels like every blast will knock you out of your traction gear.

The most difficult was the last kilometre. And that is when the young Brigit Noon overtook us...


Eventually, we ran over the finishing line together, holding hands, thirteenth in the general classification, fourth of the women, and the first in our age categories.

30% of the participants did not finish the race at all.

It was the most difficult marathon we have ever run. Our key to success was that we had each other and a positive attitude.

And that feeling, when your eyes fill with tears and your whole body trembles with exhaustion, but you’ve achieved your ultimate goal, together... such feelings are never forgotten.

Marina Martinez Sanchez