In an apparent response to the extraordinary increase in demand, the Western States 100 announced today that it is implementing a restructuring program designed to control access and maintain credibility within the ultrarunning community. Citing “extraordinary external pressures,” Race Director Craig Thornley stated in a conference call overnight that these changes are simply “the cost of doing business.”
First off, organizers have decided to do away with the 5 a.m. starting time and, instead, are moving to a “flex” starting time. In an attempt to add some spontaneity to the event, one hour before the start Gordy Ainsleigh will blow on his silver-plated kazoo, thereby giving runners one hour to prepare. Twenty-five-time finisher and long-time WS board member Tim Twietmeyer says, “The flex start time is something I have long supported and now the time is right. Let’s face it, we have to evolve or die.”
The race organizers have also signed a contract with the group who produces the Burning Man Festival every year outside of Reno to manage the pre-race events. Reno native and Board President John Trent says, “The folks at Burning Man really know how to manage a crowd, deal with hype, and capitalize on high demand. We believe that we can be the ultrarunning version of Burning Man and, as such, we plan on developing a week-long series of seminars, workshops, and concerts to provide Western States runners with a complete experience.”
Long-time Devil’s Thumb Aid Station captain and Western States Board member Dennis Zilaf is also particularly excited about the race’s new presenting sponsor, McDonald’s. After years of attempting to coax the Golden Arches to embrace race sponsorship, Zilaf was finally able to convince the burger giant to sign on. “After years of seeing runners crash and burn at my aid station, I have concluded that nothing will get them back on the trail more quickly than a burger, fries, and a shake from McDonald’s.” Additionally, the McDonald’s sponsorship will provide an influx of much needed cash for the race.
Finally, in a move that has been years in the making, John Medinger, the voice of Western States, will now have his finish line announcements streamed live around the world. As a result of a ground breaking deal signed with Google, Tropical John’s dulcet voice will be streamed, in real time, to every Google+ account in the world. “Everybody knows the power of Google+,” John says, “With my commentary streaming across the airwaves, the world will truly know what it feels like to have the magical feeling of finishing Western States.”
The Western States Board understands that not all of these changes will be popular. However, they remain steadfast in their commitment to transformative evolution. Long-time board member Tony Rossman asserts, “Look, we are smart people looking out for the Big Picture and we understand that what is popular is not always right and what is right is not always popular. We’re willing to take our lumps to make our race the best it can be.”
AJW’s Bryon’s “Beer” of the Week
As part of Western States’s restructuring effort, the Board has partnered with Anheuser-Busch to make Michelob Ultra the official beer of the Western States Endurance Run. While widely marketed as a low-calorie beer, 12 ounces of this “beer” actually packs in 95 calories… a wholly adequate carbohydrate replacement for the depleted and dispirited runner. What’s more, Michelob Ultra’s mild… some would say minimal flavor is believed to have started the trend of minimally flavored hydration beverages. Surely, it was trendsetting in removing electrolytes from rehydration beverages. If some easy drinking, low-ABV beers have earned the right to be called to be called “lawnmower beers,” I’d argue that Michelob Ultra’s ultimate ease of imbibing make it the world’s first true “ultramarathon beer.”
Call for Comments (from Bryon)
- What do you think of the changes Western States has on tap for this year?
- More generally, should tradition reign supreme or give way to evolution in ultrarunning?
- Are you seriously taking this article seriously?