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The Badwater 135 is a grueling 135-mile (217-kilometer) ultramarathon from Death Valley to the summit of Mt. Whitney in California. From July 23-25, 2018, Birmingham’s own Micah Morgan came and conquered the race. Clocking in at 30 hours and nine minutes, she finished third in the female division and ninth overall. Learn how she trained, and find out where she fuels up in the ‘Ham. (Hint: think cupcakes.)
Who Is Micah Morgan?
Morgan lives Cahaba Heights with husband Cary Morgan (a physical therapist and owner of Cadence Run Coaching), her two stepchildren and two cats. When she’s not running, she’s a full-time nurse practitioner. In her free time, she hangs out with family—her brothers, her parents and her husband’s parents all live in Birmingham. She loves music and Broadway shows and going to concerts at Oak Mountain.
Morgan trains with a group under the umbrella of the Birmingham Track Club, including a smaller group of five close girlfriends. She also runs with her husband five days a week.
The Making Of A Birmingham Ultra Runner
Morgan developed a love of running early, starting with running cross country in the seventh grade. In high school, she played volleyball and softball and ran on the track team. She played college softball and then returned to running, completing her first marathon shortly after college.
But she was destined for an even more extreme form of long distance running. About 20 years ago, she watched a documentary special on the Badwater 135.
“Deep down I felt this burning, and I thought, I am going to do this race one day. I don’t know how I’m going to get there, but someday I’m going to do that race. So that’s where it started.”—Micah Morgan
It was her husband, Cary, who ultimately pushed her to try her first ultra race, signing her up for one in her sleep.
“I woke up, and he said, ‘Oh by the way, I signed you up for an ultra.’ Then we found that was my niche, and it was where I was better. And I started to really enjoy it.”—Micah Morgan
Qualifying For The Badwater 135
“Badwater has two sister races, Badwater Cape Fear and Badwater Salton Sea. I did Badwater Cape Fear in March of 2017, and I won that race. By winning it, I automatically qualified for the Badwater 135.” Morgan said. “I had just not run 100 milers yet. So last year we spent running three 100 milers. As long as I completed those, I was able to run the race.”
Training For The Big Race
“We did some overnight runs. On the weekends, we did high-mileage runs, up to 30 miles or 30-plus miles each day. A random weekend could have looked like 15 miles on Friday, 30 on Saturday and 25 on Sunday.”—Micah Morgan
“We did a lot of sauna training at Hotworx. They’ve got bicycle, rowing machines and yoga classes that you can do. I did some traditional sauna sitting at the YMCA too. We did a lot of runs that make you uncomfortable.”
“We did some hilly runs at Oak Mountain—still nothing compared to what was out there (at the Badwater 135). We learned really quick: we have hills in here Birmingham, not mountains.”—Micah Morgan
Teamwork Makes The Dream Work
Morgan ran the 135 miles at Badwater, but she had a support crew with her, too. Her husband, crew chief, was joined by Owen Bradley and John Cobbs, who have a lot of ultra running experience under their belts, as well as Mike Schor, another Birmingham runner.
“I owe them everything. They kept me hydrated and fed. They kept my spirits up. They pulled me out of some low moments by trying to make me laugh or giving me a salt supplement, an electrolyte or a popsicle. Or they just flat out let me have it and said ‘Hey, you’re in the race of your life. It’s now or never.'”—Micah Morgan
“I had to run the first 42 miles by myself. Every two miles the car would stop. We would exchange a water bottle, and they would make me take a goo chomp or a bite of chip.
“The heat was so exhausting. I was finishing a water bottle every two miles. So it’s dire that your team is there from the beginning. But at mile 42, a pacer could run behind me the rest of the way,” she said.
How A Birmingham Ultra Runner Fuels Up
“My favorite bakery to fuel up hands down is Dreamcakes. I also love Magic Muffins,” Morgan said. “As far as favorite restaurants in town, I love Ovenbird, Taco Mama—any Mexican food. I love Indian food. I love The Fish Market.”
“But if I can load up on cupcakes, I’m hands down loading up on cupcakes at Dreamcakes.”—Micah Morgan
With so many miles under her feet, we think Morgan can load up on as many cupcakes as she wants. If you want to fuel up like an ultra runner, get the details on Dreamcakes and Magic Muffin in Bham Now’s best bakery guide.