Since I last ran the Western States 100 in 2014, I have spent the subsequent years volunteering, spectating, and supporting runners at the race. As anybody who reads this column knows, Western States is like Christmas for me and my love for the event has only grown in the years since I finished running it. With the growth of that love, I have also been privileged to witness some amazing things at the race and each year one of those things stand out for me as the ‘moment’ of each year’s event. Which begs the obvious question: what will be this year’s moment?
In 2015, I distinctly recall the buzz at the Placer High School track at around 10:55 a.m. on Sunday morning. We had all heard that there were still three runners on course making their way from Robie Point through the streets of Auburn to the Placer High School track. By 10:58, two of them had finished when a roar arose from the street outside the track when 70-year-old Gunhild Swanson, with race winner Rob Krar by her side, entered the track. A little bit more than a minute later, Gunhild triumphantly crossed the finish line in an official time of 29:59:54, six seconds before the race cutoff. (Watch Gunhild’s post-race interview.)
That was the moment of 2015.
Then, in 2016, I was supporting a runner in the race and while doing so was following along the excitement as first-time runner, Jim Walmsley, was running over 30 minutes ahead of course-record pace through mile 80. At about 6 p.m. that evening, I had just parked my car at the Cool Fire Station to get prepared to head over to Green Gate when I saw on Twitter that Walmsley had inexplicably missed the critical left turn onto the Quarry Trail and run all the way down the road to the crossing with Cool/Foresthill Road. A picture of Jim became available soon thereafter of him standing in stunned silence on the road, with his shoes off, and a distant gaze in his eyes. (Watch Jim’s post-race interview.)
That was the moment of 2016.
Finally, last year, in 2017, I found myself down at the river crossing doing volunteer race coverage for iRunFar. My main job was to cover the last five or so of the top-10 women but I also took that opportunity to really take in the ‘river scene’ for the first time. Well after all the top-10 women had come through, then-defending women’s champion Kaci Lickteig and her pacer stumbled into the aid station. Upon getting there, Kaci plunked down in the chair and told us she was dropping. Over the next 30 minutes, her pacer Miguel, her coach Jason, and I attempted to console and cajole her back on the course. Finally, the inimitable Stephanie Case came running into the aid station and sat down with us. Her crew gave her a bag of McDonald’s French fries and she asked Kaci what was wrong. A few moments later, when Stephanie stood up to leave, she said, simply, “Come run with me, Kaci!” And Kaci got up and left with her on the way to a triumphant 24:02 finish.
That was the moment of 2017.
As we prepare for another extraordinary year at Western States, what will be the moment of 2018? As usual, time will tell.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week come from Shoe Tree Brewing Company in Carson City, Nevada, where the world-famous Western States buckles are produced. I recently had the opportunity to enjoy a four pack of their delectable Shoe Horn (unfiltered) Double IPA and it was simply extraordinary. Almost an East Coast/West Coast blend, Shoe Horn is fantastically balanced and eminently drinkable.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- What were your most memorable moments of the Western States 100 in 2016, 2017, and 2018?
- And what about going into deeper WS 100 history? What other stories stand out for you?