Paul Giblin took ninth at the 2018 Western States 100, making that three top-10 finishes in a row. In the following interview, Paul talks about his Scottish heritage and running background, why Western States has captivated him despite his genetic disposition against the race’s hot temperatures, how the race played out for him, and if he’s tempted to return for a fourth time with his 2019 M9 bib.
Be sure to read our results article for the full race story.
Paul Giblin Post-2018 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, we’re here at the finish line of the 2018 Western States Endurance Run. I’m with Scotland’s Paul Giblin who finished ninth for the second year in a row and also in the top 10 for three years running.
Paul Giblin: Thank you. It’s nice to be here. I’m slightly disappointed I’m ninth again, but it was a really tough day, so I’m not too disappointed with the outcome today.
iRunFar: This is our first time interviewing you, yet we’ve watched you race really solid races here three times, so I’m really eager to learn a little bit about you. You’re from Scotland. What part of the country?
Giblin: I’m from just outside Glasgow from the west coast. From the last three years I’ve been traveling to races and spending a lot of time wherever I can. I’ve been out in California usually for two months before the race if I can swing it.
iRunFar: Have you done that the two previous years?
Giblin: Yes, I’ve done it for previous years, so I’ve made some good friends up in Truckee and I can hang out there. It’s a nice place to be.
iRunFar: Awesome. It’s a really nice place to be.
Giblin: Yeah, it’s kind of got everything I need, so it’s really hard finishing the race and thinking I have to go home again.
iRunFar: So what’s the story professionally that allows you to travel for a couple months at a time?
Giblin: I coach ultrarunners, so I’ve got a fair bunch of athletes, and it’s mostly done online. I can do that from anywhere in the world which gives me some flexibility.
iRunFar: And any time of day after you’ve done your training?
Giblin: The minute I finish a race, I’m already thinking that I need to get plans done, so I was up this morning at 5 a.m. writing plans. It’s really difficult sometimes after you’ve been racing for 20 hours in some races, the last thing you want to do is sit on a laptop and write training plans.
iRunFar: Yeah, and think about someone else’s running or think about running at all.
Giblin: Exactly. You just want to switch off from running entirely for a couple of weeks.
iRunFar: So what’s the story with you and Western States? You like this race. You came here and finished top 10, and you keep coming back.
Giblin: The race just means a lot to me. I just kind of got caught up in the story of Western States. It’s the oldest 100 miler. I’ve kind of been the same with the West Highland Way Racein Scotland.
iRunFar: Which I really want to do someday.
Giblin: Oh, you should come and do it. It’s a really nice feel like Western States. It’s a big race, but it feels like a family race which is nice. It’s not like UTMB with thousands and thousands of runners.
iRunFar: I don’t think there are that many in Scotland anyway, although maybe there are.
Giblin: No, although it’s getting big in the UK, but not that many, no. Yeah, I obviously raced well at West Highland Way, but I just always wanted to do Western States the first time I heard about it. I kind of read into it, and that was it. I was lucky to get a place three years ago. That was it, really. Then you get a top 10 and you have to come back.
iRunFar: You keep getting that bib. I have to say though, Scottish blood and the California Sierra Nevada summer heat seem like oil and water?
Giblin: I know. I know. I’m thinking that myself right now to be honest. The weather a few weeks before has been fine with a maximum of 80 degrees or something that, so that’s what you hope it’s going to be. Yeah, it got a bit hot yesterday.
iRunFar: Then, the heat literally came on in time for the race.
Giblin: Oh, yeah, it was perfectly timed. It peaked on Saturday. It was excellent for the canyons. Yeah, that was pretty good.
iRunFar: Excellently hot. Let’s talk about this race. You were fifth or sixth two years ago, fifth two years ago, ninth last year, and ninth this year. Did you come into this race with goal time or goal placing? What was in your head?
Giblin: Yeah, I wanted to improve on the fifth place really, and I think I’m capable. But I have a bit experience with the race now, and I was just trying to hold back a little bit, because the times before in the race, especially the first year, I’ve felt pretty tired and sore by the time I got to Foresthill, and then that’s a long 40 miles at the end. I kind of wanted to get there still feeling like I have something in. Then, last year from Foresthill, I think I was 12th and I got to the river in fourth, and I actually ran it too hard. My legs were off and I was kind of struggling in the last miles, so I had all that running around in my mind, as well. The heat is a difficult one. You can’t just pretend it’s not there and think it’s going to be okay. I just tried to stay cool and not push too hard.
iRunFar: There was a fascinating dynamic this year in that all the way to the end there was this group of men right on that cusp of the top 10. Can you talk about that dynamic and what it was like to be a part of that late in the race?
Giblin: Yeah, there was maybe three of us at one point after Green Gate…
iRunFar: Within minutes.
Giblin: It actually helped at one point as I was racing somebody else for a good 10 miles. It kind of took your mind off the miles and from actually thinking about it. You were just back and forth with each other, so that was really useful. It was useful for him, too. He finished in front of me.
iRunFar: Useful for both of you.
Giblin: Yeah, it kept us moving. We came through it. You just don’t know what’s going to happen and if you’re going to spot someone in the corner because there can be carnage sometimes. But everyone seemed to move pretty well towards the last part—most people.
iRunFar: Yeah, it was really interesting. The front of the pack carnage wasn’t as present this year as previous years.
Giblin: Yeah, I was surprised myself actually. I’ll take everything I can get.
iRunFar: You were waiting for it.
Giblin: Exactly. Some explosions, please.
iRunFar: That could benefit me.
Giblin: Even for Jim [Walmsley]to run that time in those conditions is just incredible. Yeah, it was something special.
iRunFar: So M9 again—does that mean you’re going to come back to California again next year?
Giblin: It would be really hard not to. I don’t want to keep doing the same races all the time. That’s the trouble. But this is such a special race. It will be hard. I can’t say, yes, at the moment, but when it comes around November time and you get the email saying, “Can you confirm?” Hmmmmm…
iRunFar: The nostalgia starts running strong.
Giblin: I just love being here. I’ve got great friends in Truckee and great places to run and great California things—drink kombucha.
iRunFar: What California is known for. What else are you going to race this year?
Giblin: I’m not sure yet. I get really focused on one race and then I can’t think past beyond that race. I’m supposed to be going to UTMB. I’ve been over there for the past five or six years, and I don’t know if I’m desperate to do it again. But it would be hard not being in Chamonix around that time, as well. I love being there. Yeah, I’ll probably be in Chamonix I would think.
iRunFar: A little FOMO will take you there?
Giblin: Exactly. You know what it’s like. It’s incredible being over there.
iRunFar: Good energy there. Congratulations on your top-10 placing here for the third year in a row. #seeyouinOlympicValleynextyear?
Giblin: Absolutely. Thank you very much, and thanks for the interview.
iRunFar: Go get your silver buckle now.