For most of its history, the Western States Endurance Run has been consistently criticized for having a high entry fee. Often accused of being greedy or perhaps even a little corrupt, the Western States organizers have regularly defended their entry fee as only being a fraction of what it actually costs to get a runner from Squaw to Auburn. Today, however, the race’s board announced that they are responding to public pressure and implementing five significant cost-cutting measures going into this year’s race.
Here, from the Board of Trustees press release this morning, are the five new measures:
- A decade ago, the race really needed a good website. In order to meet the increasing demand for the race and the accompanying web traffic, the race was pretty much forced into a position of needing to be in constant communication with its constituents. Today, a decade later, times have changed. As Race Webmaster Ian Doremus puts it, “Websites, as informational tools, have become pretty much irrelevant.” But what about the race results? Western States pretty much invented real-time results. Well, Ted Knudsen, the master mind behind Ultralive.net said, “There is really no need for a website to post real-time results. What we’ve learned from all these years is that no one from around the world is very interested in how runners progress through the course. It seems we’ve been wasting our time all along.” So, beginning with Memorial Day training weekend, Western States will shut down their website.
SAVINGS: $6,500 annually
- Ask anyone who has ever run Western States about the highlights of their experience and they will invariably mention the aid stations. Some, in fact, have referred to the Western States aid stations as a 100-mile buffet. But, alas, that buffet comes at a cost. Scott Wolfe, who coordinates the aid station supply distribution process two weeks before the race, estimates that each aid station, and there are 21 of them, spends between $500 and $1,500 on supplies. “To be honest, it’s become ridiculous,” says Wolfe, a two-time finisher of WS100 and long-time supporter of the race, “If you ask me, I think we’re coddling the runners too much. I mean, we’re serving things like water out at these remote aid stations.” After much consideration, last week the Board made the decision to reduce the number of aid stations from 21 to three. Beginning with this year’s race, aid will only be provided at Robinson Flat, Foresthill, and Green Gate. Additionally, to realize even more savings, the river crossing cable apparatus has been eliminated and 25-time finisher Tim Twietmeyer will finally realize his dream, “I’ve always wanted to see a legitimate swim component added to this race.” Well, beginning with this year’s race, he will.
SAVINGS: $12,000 annually
- While it has become an expectation in many ultras these days, Western States has not always been run on a marked course. In fact, Gordy Ainsleigh, the race founder, after he got his qualifier earlier this year at Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile, implored the race organizers to return to the unmarked course. “Look, you guys,” Ainsleigh said, “these days every runner has one of those GPS thingies mounted on their cell phones so they can just follow along with that. Why waste all the money on streamers, gasoline, and course-marking materials?” And the Board listened. So this year, Western States will be run on an unmarked course. But, in order to keep people safe, the race has come up with an ingenious way to allow runners who think they are lost to post a selfie to the race’s Facebook page, which will be monitored by experienced Western States runners who can direct the runners back to the course based on the location of the picture. To this, Gordy responded, “What could go wrong?”
SAVINGS: $7,500 annually
- Many people may not know that Western States rents warehouse space in downtown Auburn, California to keep their supplies and equipment. This spacious warehouse also has an expansive parking lot and easy access to all of the amenities of downtown Auburn. At the same time, the rental costs to rent the track and lockers at Placer High School have increased significantly. And so, putting two and two together, the board has decided that for this year’s race, they will move the finish line from Placer High School to the warehouse parking lot. “From my perspective,” says Western States Board President John Medinger, “This is a no-brainer. We pay for the space, we have the room, and it makes breakdown after the race so much quicker. And don’t worry, we’ve set aside a corner of the parking lot on which everyone can still camp. The blacktop gets a little sticky when it’s hot, but that’s probably the least of someone’s worries after they’ve run 100 miles.”
- Everyone knows that by far the largest expense the race faces every year is the cost of the hand-made belt buckle that is presented to every finisher. However, in recent years, through thorough research, the race organization has concluded that Western States finishers don’t actually care that much about the actual buckle. In fact, surveys suggest that many people never wear the buckle and some finishers even sell their buckles on eBay. So, after much consideration, the Board has decided to replace the actual belt buckle award with a custom-designed, password-protected, belt-buckle app that will be automatically uploaded to every finishers’ smartphone and will allow for photos to be posted on up to 12 social-media sites within seconds of their finish. “We just feel that this is the right direction to go,” says Race Director Craig Thornley. “People these days seem more interested in posting a picture of their belt buckle on social media than their actual buckle. So, we figured, why not give it to them and save some money in the process?”
And there you have it! The Board that has for years been cajoled and criticized has listened to the people and responded. I, for one, commend them for their courage and innovative spirit.
TOTAL SAVINGS: $66,000
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week is National Bohemian, affectionately known by hipsters everywhere as “Natty Boh.” A smooth-drinking lager-style beer, Natty Bo is the kind of beer you want to drink on opening day of baseball season. Which, by the way, is coming right up.