Earlier this week, the Western States Endurance Run announced the qualifying races for the 2017 run. Each year since 2013, the organizers of Western States have refined their qualifying-race list to provide a diverse set of races to allow runners opportunities to qualify at both the 100k- and 100-mile distance. Providing a blend of domestic and international races, the qualifiers have succeeded in expanding the reach of the event while maintaining the integrity upon which the race was founded.
As just about everyone knows, entry into Western States has become increasingly competitive as interest in the sport has grown. In order to keep pace with the growth, the run has done an excellent job of narrowing the qualifying window without sacrificing their long tradition of egalitarianism. In any given year, runners of all abilities have the opportunity to qualify for this iconic event on their own terms and in their own way. Provided they run a qualifying race in the allotted time, they can enter the lottery. It is clear, transparent, and fair.
The qualifying races themselves, of course, then have the added responsibility of providing a true test of ultramarathon running worthy of consideration by the Western States Board. Gone are the days of a flat-and-fast paved 50 miler run in 14 hours being good enough. Now, to qualify for Western States, one must truly be qualified. This, in turn, I believe, has led to higher finishers’ rates and fewer medical issues as just about everyone who arrives at the starting line in Squaw Valley is prepared for what lies ahead.
In the past I have been a somewhat outspoken advocate of requiring Western States runners to have previous 100-mile experience. However, in recent years, I have changed my mind as the data shows there is no evidence that previous 100-mile experience gives a runner any better chance of finishing than a first timer. In fact, in some cases, first timers have fared better than the experienced runners.
As a long-time advocate of Western States, I am thrilled with the rigor and discipline the race organization employs in determining their start lists. As more and more people have flocked to ultramarathon running, it gives me great confidence to know that our greatest event is keeping an eye on the long-term future of not only their race but the sport as a whole in ensuring a healthy and productive event for decades to come.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Auburn, California, the home of Western States. Knee Deep Brewing Company’s Citra Extra Pale Ale puts a nice twist on the American Pale Ale variety. With a blast of hoppy fruitiness, Citra captures a touch of IPA in a mellow APA. A very smooth-drinking beer, this one would be nice to have along during a hot afternoon along the American River.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- What do you think about the races that have been chosen as qualifiers for the 2017 edition of Western States?
- And how do you feel about the evolution of the Western States qualifying races through time?
- If you are a Western States finisher, do you think the race you used to qualify ‘proved’ you were capable of finishing?