Top: Mari and Jorge at the finish. Bottom: Mari waits at the finish, warmed by portable heaters.

First Time Finisher: Maria Lemus

By Greg Minter

Maria (or "Mari" as her friends call her), has what you call a "strong will." You need that at Badwater. It's long. It's hot. It's an unpleasant place to run 135 miles. It's an unpleasant place to drive 135 miles.

Wonderfully supported by her crew of Jorge Pacheco, Gloria Rios, Chris Rios, Mark Giebel, and Patty Giebel, Mari's focus is clear. To push herself to do as well as she can.

"Mari knows exactly what she wants," says Mark. When he and wife Patty arrive, she's just outside of Stovepipe Wells, and it's a welcome break for Jorge and Gloria, who've helped her from the start and over the first 40 miles on their own. At that point, Maria wants someone to run with her, and Patty (who'd been running already that morning near their home in Bishop) jumps out onto the road. For twelve hours.

They make their way through Panamint and start making regular crew changes. At Father Crowley's; near Keelor; at Lone Pine, which she passes through at 8:14pm on Tuesday night. While most are struggling their way up the Whitney Portal road, Maria seems to have been rejuvenated. "She's doing great," says Jorge. Her pacers have a tough time keeping up with her for the last mile, and are sweating and breathless themselves when she crosses the finish line just short of midnight.

She covers the 13 miles of 8% grade from Lone Pine to the Whitney Portals in 3 hours and 26 minutes, and crosses the finish line in an amazing 39:50:24. That's great for any runner, and phenomenal for a first timer, the fourth place female finisher overall.

But that's not all! After receiving her medal, she heads down, showers, then returns to see the finish of friend and sometime trail buddy Shannon Farrar-Greifer, who crosses the line in 45:34:44. "I have to see Shannon!"

"This was just amazing," says Mari. "You learn so much about yourself at this race. What to eat, what to drink. It's just hard."

Congratulations, Maria, on a job well done.