Monday, August 24, 2009

The Brazil 135 Mile Ultramarathon

135 miles.  30,000+ feet of cumulative, will-breaking ascent.  28,000+ feet of cumulative quad-busting descent.  A mere 10 miles of "flat" surface.  By the time you reach the finish  line, you will have completed a course that is analogous to climbing up and down Mount Everest.  It is the Brazil 135 (or "BR135").

The Badwater 135 Mile Ultramarathon is not the only 135 mile extreme condition event out there.  In fact, the Badwater World Cup, an international series of 135 mile races held in exotic locations under extreme conditions, is comprised of three such events - Badwater, the Brazil 135 and the Arrowhead 135.  The goals of the Badwater World Cup are, among other things, to establish the "Badwater Distance" of 135 miles as a standardized distance worldwide, and to encourage runners to challenge, and learn from, themselves in epic races in, extreme conditions.

The Brazil 135 is held in the Serra da Mantiqueira mountains (a sub-range of the Andes Cordillera) in the state of Minas Gerais.  Considered the most difficult foot race in Brazil, it is run on the hardest, most challenging segment of the Caminho da Fé (Path of Faith or Way of Faith), the most difficult Brazilian pilgrimage path.  The primary objectives of the Caminho da Fé pilgrimage are the experience of moments of reflection and faith through the exercise of walking - the integration of man with nature and with religion.  The Way of Faith is a route marked by yellow arrows and consists of stretches of dirt roads, asphalt, trails within farms and railroad tracks.  It includes municipalities in the state of Sao Paulo (where it ends at Aparecida in the basilica) and also the state of Minas Gerais.  It takes, on average, 12 to 15 days to finalize the pilgrimage on foot, or, if you choose to participate in the Brazil 135, you have 60 hours.

In the first installment of BR135 in 2006, 4 of the 10 starting runners completed the journey from Sao Joao Boa Vista City to the finish line at Paraisopolis.  The following year 9 of the 15 starters would finish, with Valmir Nunes taking first place in 27:26:30.  In 2008 and 2009 BR135 experienced a participation explosion.  50+ would compete in 2008.  60+ in 2009.  In 2009, 42 made the 60-hour race cut-off, with Marco Farinazzo (the 2009 Badwater 135 winner) setting a course record of 26:43.  It may be difficult to visualize what type of challenge this event offers.  The elevation profiles below should provide a glimpse of just what type of pilgrimage BR135 will be.

Entire BR135 Course Profile

First Segment - Sao Joao da Boa Vista City to Serra dos Limas' Hill

Second Segment - Serra dos Limas' Hill to Inconfidentes City

Third Segment - Cities of Inconfidentes to Estiva

Fourth Segment - City of Estiva to Finish Line (Paraisopolis)

Highest Point - Pico do Gaviao Hill (Eagle's Peak)


  1. Wow!! What a foot race! Amazing elevation changes.

  2. So basically you can bake at Badwater or freeze at Arrowhead or get your quads knocked out of you at Brazil. Nice collection of races.