It was the last Sunday in June in 2004 and I was standing in the Placer High School cafeteria experiencing what is, to this day, one of the highlights of my ultrarunning career. The day before, I had completed the Western States 100 for the second time and I was in front of the awards-ceremony crowd to receive my buckle. Also in the front of the room on that day (they still held the awards ceremony indoors back then) was then-six-time Western States champion Scott Jurek (who’d win Western States once more the next year, in 2005, to accumulate his storied seven wins) and the race runner-up that year, Dave Mackey, from Colorado.
Dave came to Western States that year after an incredible spring season. Running his first 100-mile race ever, the adventure racer/rock climber turned ultrarunner impressed the locals with a gutsy race from start to finish. In an age of high-mileage training and regular racing, Dave practiced moderation that year, rarely topping 60 miles per week in training, cross-training at least twice a week, and only racing a few times leading up to the race. I even recall running a bit with Dave that year at the Western States Memorial Day Training Camp when he decided to stop his run and walk it in the last three miles, saying simply, “I’ve run enough for one day.”
At the 2004 Western States, Dave ran stride for stride with Scott through much of the first 30 miles while 28-year-old Hal Koerner lurked a few minutes behind in third. However, by the time they reached Last Chance (mile 43), it had become a two-man race. On the steep descent down to Deadwood Canyon and the subsequent lung-busting climb up Devil’s Thumb, Dave made his move into the lead and by Michigan Bluff (mile 55) he had a 90-second gap on Scott. The crowd at the bluff wondered, Could the kid from Colorado dethrone the multi-time champ?
Alas, Scott reeled Dave in on the run into Foresthill and re-took the lead on the descent to the Rucky Chucky river crossing on his way to a then-course-record win in 15:36. Dave held on for second in 16:30 which was, at the time, the fastest-ever second-place time.
In the cafeteria on that Sunday morning when they handed Scott the microphone for the traditional winner’s speech (the winners used to give speeches at the awards ceremony), I was awed by his words. After thanking the race organizers, the volunteers, his pacer and crew, Scott turned to Dave and said, “And, lastly, I want to thank Dave Mackey. This guy right here deserves a piece of this course record. I can say for sure that were it not for the push Dave gave me, the guts with which he ran, and the way in which he tested us all, I would not have run as fast. Thanks, Dave!”
And then the place erupted in massive applause as Dave flashed his trademark toothy grin.
Last weekend, Dave ran and finished his first ultramarathon since having his leg amputated in November of 2016 as a result of a severe leg injury the previous year. As he ran, I thought back to Dave at the 2004 Western States. If he ran with guts and “tested us all” back at Western States in 2004, he most certainly did that last weekend at the Bandera 50k, too. Thanks for inspiring us all, Dave!
AJW’s Beer of the Week
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Who has a Dave Mackey story from his first go at Western States in 2004?
- Did anyone run with Dave last weekend at Bandera as he returned to ultramarathon racing?