Hal Koerner, Geoff Roes, Anton Krupicka, Kilian Jornet, Zach Miller, Leigh Schmitt, Erik Skaden, Mark Godale, Nick Clark, Rod Bien, Andy Henshaw, Justin Angle, Josh Brimhall, Craig Thornley, Andy Jones-Wilkins, Devon Crosby-Helms, Nikki Kimball, Meghan Arbogast, Tracy Garneau, Amy Palmiero-Winters….these are just some of the names being mentioned in the crazy-deep starting field that is the 37th Annual Western States Endurance Run (Saturday, June 26 – Sunday, June 27 in Squaw Valley, California). 18,000+ feet of climbing and 21,000+ feet of descent are crammed in between the start at Squaw Valley Ski Resort and the finish at the Placer High School track in Auburn, California.
[iRunFar has previously and will continue to provide extensive Western States coverage, so check out our Western States 100 Index for all the latest iRunFar articles on the race.]
The WSER is rich in history (a complete history of the Western States Trail, the Trail Ride, and the run can be found in the History section of the WSER website). In 1955, Wendell T. Robie and five horsemen rode the Western States Trail from Squaw Valley to Auburn, proving that horses could cover 100 miles in a single day. Robie later founded the Western States Trail Foundation and organized the annual Western States Trail Ride (a/k/a the Tevis Cup). In 1974, Tevis Cup veteran Gordy Ainsleigh decided to join the horses participating in the Western States Trail Ride to see if he could complete the course on foot, and arrived in Auburn 23:42 after the start. The following year Ron Kelley attempted the 100 miles on foot, but dropped two miles from the finish.
The first official WSER took place in 1977 and included 14 runners, only 3 of which (Andy Gonzales in 22:57, and Peter Mattei and Ralph Paffenbarger, both in 28:36) finished the race. It was the 1977 event that gave birth to the 30-hour time award. The Board of Directors for the Western States Endurance Run was formed as part of the Western States Trail Foundation in the fall of 1977. An increase in interest and participation in the WSER quickly followed. Soon, the race grew to include 21 aid stations and 6 medical checks. 63 runner participated in 1978, including the first woman, Pat Smythe, who finished in 29:34. 143 runners participated in 1979, and the event has since reached its full entrance quota.
From 1999 to 2005 the men’s event was dominated by Scott Jurek, including his course record 15:36:27 in 2004. Graham Cooper took the men’s title in 2006, and Hal Koerner in 2007 and 2009. On the women’s side, the great Ann Trason was virtually unstoppable from 1989 to 2003, winning 10 straight and 14 out of 15 (her only non-win occurring in 1999), and setting the women’s course record of 17:37:51 in 1994. Since 2003, the women’s event has been won 3 times by Nikki Kimball (2004, 2006 and 2007) and once by Annette Bednosky (2005). 2009’s edition was won by Anita Ortiz.