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Badwater 135: Kaylee Frederick’s Journey – Part 1

Badwater 135 Kaylee Fredrick Youngest Ever Finisher
Kaylee Fredrick
Year started: 2012, Trail Running in 2019
Next race: October 22, 2023 / Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile / Boalsburg, PA
Favorite gear:

Nathan handheld

Early Beginnings

Kaylee Frederick’s journey to the Badwater 135 is nothing short of remarkable. Her entry into the world of running began at the age of 7, where she displayed an incredible competitive spirit, often claiming the title of the first overall female in local 5K races. Her competitive nature was evident even in her youth. However, it was a request from her elementary school music teacher that truly ignited her passion for running. At the age of 13, her music teacher proposed running a half marathon together. Initially hesitant, Kaylee was reassured by her teacher’s words, “We’ll just run, and if we have to walk, we’ll walk.” This race proved to be a turning point in her life.

First Ultramarathon at 14

By the time she turned 14, Kaylee had already completed her first ultramarathon, a challenging 50K race. This initial experience was far from easy as she battled knee pain early on. Determined to finish, she walked 30 miles of the race and, after seeking physical therapy, astonishingly ran a 50-mile race just one week after being cleared. Her resilience and determination were on full display. 

Setting Her Sights on 100 Miles

Kaylee’s exposure to the idea of running 100 miles came while crewing for a friend’s first 100-mile race. Inspired by the 100-mile community’s incredible mental fortitude and willingness to push through pain, she decided to take on her first 100-mile race at the age of 16. It was a grueling experience, but it taught her valuable lessons that would serve her well in the future.

Discovering Badwater 135 and the Journey to Qualify

During one of her early marathons, Kaylee met Keith Straw, a multiple-time Badwater 135 finisher known as the pink tutu runner. Keith saw something special in Kaylee and believed she had the potential to become the youngest Badwater 135 finisher. This belief inspired her to set her sights on the prestigious foot race. In July 2022, Kaylee’s fascination with Badwater deepened, and she embarked on a remarkable journey to secure a spot in the renowned race. Initially told she was too young to apply at 17, Kaylee didn’t give up. With Keith Straw’s support and a recommendation letter, she persevered. She even refused a full refund for Badwater Cape Fear, demonstrating her unwavering commitment to the organization. Kaylee ran the Salton Sea race to further establish her credentials. Eventually, the Badwater 135 board reconsidered its rules, allowing 18-year-olds like Kaylee to apply.

Family Support and The Moment of Acceptance 

Kaylee emphasized the vital role her family played in her running journey. Her mother, in particular, had been a constant pillar of support, crewing for her at every race. Her sister, though not a runner, was equally supportive of Kaylee’s pursuits. When Kaylee received the news of her acceptance into Badwater 135, she was overwhelmed with joy. The realization that she would be running in one of the world’s most prestigious ultramarathons left her in disbelief.

Preparing for the Ultimate Challenge

Preparation for the Badwater 135 was no easy feat. Kaylee invested both time and money, getting a gym pass and using the sauna to acclimatize to the extreme heat of the Badwater Basin. Crossfit workouts with added layers toughened her for the grueling race. In May 2023, Kaylee, her mother, and Keith Straw visited Badwater Basin to scout the course, an awe-inspiring experience. With unwavering support from her mother (known as Captain Mom), guidance from experienced 14-time Badwater runner John Radich, and camaraderie with friends Fran Brown and Andrew Boyd, Kaylee embarked on her journey toward the Badwater 135 start line.

Preview for Part 2: Conquering Badwater 135

The next chapter of Kaylee Frederick’s extraordinary journey will delve into the heart of the Badwater 135 race itself. The scorching heat, unforgiving terrain, and the unwavering determination of the participants will come to life as we follow Kaylee through the ultimate challenge she had tirelessly prepared for—conquering the Badwater 135. Stay tuned to witness the triumphs and tribulations of a young athlete striving to etch her name into the ultramarathon and Badwater 135 history.