WESTERN STATES 2021 (162KM +5370M) RACE PREVIEW: HISTORY, COURSE AND FAVORITES.

WESTERN STATES 2021: LOOKING FOR A RECORD TIME. Our TRAIL RUNNING USA bring us today the preview of the iconic American race: the Western States 100, that will be cellebrated this weekend in the Squaw Valley in California.

The the world’s oldest 100 mile American trail race comes back this year, after the pandemic, being still one of the most important ultra trail races in the world and if no the most important in the USA with its 100 miles and 18000 feet of climbing (5400 meters).

WESTERN STATES 2021: THE RACE AND ITS HISTORY

The 47th running of the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run is coming up on Saturday, June 26, 5 a.m. start at Squaw Valley, Calif., finish at Placer High School, Auburn, Calif. 325 trail runners out of the 369 maximum, not from so many countries as previous years still due to the COVID-19 restrictions in some countries, but with majority of the USA top athletesf to compete.

WESTERN STATES ENDURANCE RACE: THE ORIGIN

In 1974, with the inspiration and encouragement of Drucilla Barner, first woman to win the Tevis Cup and Secretary of the WSTF, Tevis veteran Gordy Ainsleigh joined the horses of the Western States Trail Ride to see if he could complete the course on foot. Twenty-three hours and forty-two minutes later Gordy arrived in Auburn, proving that a runner could indeed run the entire trail within the 24-hour time limit of the Tevis Cup – 100 miles in one day.

In 1975, a second runner, Ron Kelley, attempted the same feat, only to withdraw within two miles of the finish with ample time remaining. In 1976, Ken “Cowman” Shirk ran the 100 miles, finishing just 30 minutes over the 24-hour mark.

In 1977, 14 men from four states participated in the 1st official Western States Endurance Run, which was held in conjunction with the Tevis Cup Ride. Runners were monitored by Dr. Bob Lind at the three veterinary stops set up for the horses, and although the race organization transported the entrants gear, runners were responsible for producing all of their own supplies, except water. Three runners finished the course: Andy Gonzales, age 22, in the record-breaking time of 22:57, and Peter Mattei and Ralph Paffenbarger, ages 53 and 54, who tied in 28:36 (and the 30-hour award was born!).

In the fall of 1977, the Board of Directors for the Western States Endurance Run was formed as part of the Western States Trail Foundation. It was made up primarily of the handful of runners and riders who had helped monitor the progress of the 14 pioneers earlier that summer. The Run organization later became its own entity and is now known as the Western States Endurance Run Foundation.

1978 heralded a dramatic increase in both interest and participation in the Western States Run. Culminating a year-long effort by the inspired Gang of Four (Phil Gardner, Mo Livermore, Shannon Weil, and Curt Sproul) to create an independent event, the race took place in June, a month earlier than the Tevis Cup Ride. The event mushroomed to include 21 aid stations and six medical checks, thanks to an ever-growing corps of loyal volunteers and the support of the Placer County Sheriff ‘s Communications Reserve and the Search and Rescue Unit. 63 adventurers ran the race, and the first woman, Pat Smythe, finished in 29:34.

For the last forty years, the race has been enjoying a growing reputation, that was once again highlighted when it was the only USA race to be included as part of the Ultra Trail World Tour, where it remains up to this day. Herebelow you will find the list of champions over these years.

WESTERN STATES ENDURANCE RACE: THE COURSE

The Western States Endurance Run is conducted along the Western States Trail starting at Squaw Valley, California, and ending in Auburn, California, covering a total of 162k/D+5370m. The Run begins at 5:00 a.m. on Saturday of the last full weekend in June at the west end of Squaw Valley. Runners must reach the finish line no later than 10:59:59 a.m. on the following day in order to be eligible for an award. All entrants must strictly adhere to the Performance Rules, Rules for Pacers, Rules for Crews and to the pre-event briefing by Run Management to avoid disqualification and to remain eligible for an award.

The Western States Endurance Run follows the middle portion of the famous Western States Trail, a nationally dedicated recreational trail that stretches from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Sacramento, California. One of the most arduous organized running events in the U.S., the Western States 100 is truly the “Ultimate Challenge” for the long distance runner. Entry in this event should not be taken lightly!

Beginning in Squaw Valley, site of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games, the trail ascends from the valley floor (elevation 6,200 feet) to Emigrant Pass (elevation 8,750 feet), a climb of 2,550 vertical feet in the first 4½ miles. From the pass, following the original trails used by the gold and silver miners of the 1850’s, runners travel west, climbing another 15,540 feet and descending 22,970 feet before reaching Auburn, a small town in the heart of California’s historic gold country. Most of the trail passes through remote and rugged territory.

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WESTERN STATES 2021: THE FAVORITES

As we all know, the 2020 edition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on that, the  top 10  for men and women from the 2019 Western States 100 are invited to return automatically. Moreover due to the still existing travel restrictions, this year we won’t see many international runners at the starting line, and from the original maximum 369 runners, 325 have confirmed their participation.

From these 10 women from the 2019 edition, 8 of them confirmed their participation, include 2019 winner Clare Gallagher, who in 2019 won the race with the second-fastest time in race history; Brittany Peterson (WS100 2nd in 2019 and Black Canyon 100k winner 2021), Kaci Lickteig (WS100 3rd in 2019), Magda Boulet (WS100 winner 2015), Beth Pascall (UTMB 5th place in 2019), Ragna Debats (Transvulcania and Marathon des Sables winner in 2019) and Ruth Croft who lately won the overall  Tarawera Trail as we told you here. will be also racing these 100 miles on the weekend. Not to forget Camille Herron silver in the USA 100 miles campionships with 14:42, 24h world champion who is already training specifically there for more than one month.

Jim Walmsley and Courtney Daltwater, winners of WSER 2018. Photo: UTWT

On the men’s side, also 8 athletes including Jim Walmsley (WS100 Record holder) the WS100 record holder with this 14:09:28 from 2019. This year, the cowboy arrives to this weekend after certain period of time where he has been injured, as he published yesterday in his Instagram account. Some issues in his knee made him having to cross train for a while, so lets see what he has this weekend. Jared Hazen (WS100 2nd 2019 and sub 14:30), Matt Daniels (WS100 4th in 2019 and  Black Canyon 100k winner in 2019), Stephen Kersh (WS100 7th in 2019), Patrick Raegan (100k World Championships 3rd Place in 2016 and WS100 8th place in 2019) Mark Hammond (WS100 5th place in 2019), Jeff Browning (WS100 3rd 2016, 4th 2017, 5th 2018 and 8th 2019), and Kyle Pietari. But they will not be alone and  Tim TollefsonAlex NicholsHayden HawksMax King might well also be able to dispute the victory this year in California.


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