Intriguing Stories at the 2019 Western States 100

AJW's TaproomFor the past five years, I have written an article focusing on intriguing stories at the Western States 100. Here are my articles from 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. This year, as with every year, there are no shortage of compelling stories that I will be following. Here are my top four most intriguing stories at this year’s race:

The Race at the Front

Last year, both the women’s and men’s winners won in dominating fashion. Jim Walmsley ran off the front for most of the day and broke the previous course record by over 16 minutes and women’s winner Courtney Dauwalter ran the second-fastest Western States of all time en route to her one-hour, 13-minute victory. Both are returning, and so will there be a double repeat? You have to go back to 2012 for the last time there was a repeat female winner and all the way back to 2003 for when there was a repeat winner for both genders. As I look at it, this could be the first time since then that both winners repeat. It’s been an age of parity at the front of the pack for the better part of a decade and this could be the year that changes.

Scott Mills Goes for #20

Back in 1982, at the age of 31, Scott Mills ran his first Western States finishing in 22nd place with a time of 21:29. Twenty years later, at 51, Scotty finished his 10th Western States, remarkably, in a nearly identical time of 21:22. This year, 17 years after capturing his 10th, 68-year-old Mills is seeking his 20th finish. In a truly extraordinary example of longevity, Scotty has inspired a generation of ultrarunners and I suspect that as he enters the track later this month to take his 20th lap around, there will not be a dry eye in the place. When he does cross the line, he’ll become only the seventh person in race history–after Tim Twietmeyer, Gordy Ainsleigh­, Dan Williams, Mike Pelechaty, Charles Savage, and Jim Scott–to earn a 2,000-mile buckle.

Ian Sharman 10 for 10?

I remember it like it was yesterday. In the 2010 Western States, I was running out of the Auburn Lake Trails aid station at mile 85 when this sprightly, young-looking British lad came up behind me, “Mind if I pop on by?” It was Ian Sharman running his first Western States. After he passed, my pacer turned to me and said, “That dude finished in the top 25 at the Comrades Marathon a couple weeks ago. We won’t be catching him.” Later this month, Sharman will try to become only the fifth runner in race history after Bjorg Austrheim-Smith, Doug Latimer, Ann Trason, and Nikki Kimball to finish Western States 10 times and to do so finishing in the top 10 each time.

The Changing Face of Western States

When the gun goes off in Olympic Valley, California on the morning of June 29, the field will be significantly different than it’s been in the past. First, of the 369 starters, 82 of them, or 22% of the field, will hail from countries other than the United States. For those of us who’ve been around a while, this is extraordinary as we have observed Western States explode into a truly international event. Second, among those 369 runners beginning their journey to Auburn, 272 of them, an incredible 74%, will seek their first Western States finish. (Of course, these numbers could shift a bit with last-minute waitlist movement.) As a Western States veteran and a fan of the race and sport, I wish all these international runners and first timers good luck as they begin what will most surely be one of the most extraordinary days of their lives.

Bottom up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Moonraker Brewing Company in Auburn, California. Known for their incredible variety of IPAs, Moonraker also makes an outstanding sour beer that was recently released and which I was lucky enough to get my hands on. Wave Theory is a Leipzig Gose-style sour ale that is strong in alcohol and deeply rich in flavor. One of the lightest sours I have ever tasted, Wave Theory is a fantastic beer even for those who don’t quite have the palate for sours. If you’re gonna’ be in the area for Western States later in the month, be sure to get some.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • What storylines, especially lesser known stories, will you be following at this year’s Western States 100? Leave a comment to share so more of us can also follow them.
  • What do you think about the women’s and men’s races for the win? Do you think Jim Walmsley and Courtney Dauwalter could both repeat as champions?
  • Do you think Scott Mills and Ian Sharman will be able to achieve their respective goals?
  • Are you one of the international or first-time Western States runners? Leave a comment to let everyone know where you’re from and what you’re looking forward to most about the race.

Ian Sharman on his way to his ninth top-10 finish at the 2018 Western States. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

There are 20 comments

  1. Atlee Burpee

    Great article. AJW, once upon a time, I think you wrote an article of your favorite things to do, favorite places to eat, etc. in the Auburn area, for ultra runners. Do I remember correctly? Any chance you can post a link to that article?

  2. Ryan

    So excited to follow along with this race. I’ve also become a huge fan of the Mocko Show and can’t wait to see him take on Western States!

  3. Tropical John

    I would add Kyle Robidoux of Roxbury, Massachusetts to this story. Kyle has retinitis pigmentosa and is legally blind, yet has finished both the Vermont 100 and the Yeti 100. He will be the first blind runner to run at Western States. He will be allowed to run with a guide and several of the best runners in the country (Scott Jurek, Krissy Moehl, Amy Rusiecki) will be taking a stretch at being his guide.

  4. Ian Sharman

    Amazing that so many have already done 20 finishes (I thought Scottie must be the second). But 4 runners already have 10 x top 10 men or women – you missed out Bjorg Austrheim-Smith. Time for a PR this year!

  5. AT

    The Men’s Race is building up to be a serious throw down..seriously this list is crazy!

    Curious to see how Pat Reagan and Morgan Elliott fare..SRU stand up..

  6. Joe G

    Jim is definitely gonna be tested this year, between Tank, Matt Daniels, Tom Evans and I think David Laney is coming in very fit, should be interesting but I still think he pulls away in the 2nd half.

    On the women’s side Kaci Lickteig seems to be back in full form this year and Clare Gallagher is racing great, would love to see them challenge Courtney a little.

    Will be a fun day of pushing refresh on twitter that’s for sure!

  7. Mike

    The amazing thing about Scott Mills is getting an entry 20 times. It will be almost impossible now for anyone to repeat this. Good luck to all of this years runners.

  8. Paul Leonard Charteris

    The internationality of this field is something to be celebrated. It’s confirmation of the high regard that trail runners all over the globe hold this race. Great to see so many first-time WSER entrants lining up too. Good luck to all that make it to Squaw.

  9. Joe Z

    First-timer here, I feel incredibly lucky to get the chance to run Western States! Given the difficult of getting in, it feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Interesting tidbit–I tailored my training strategy based on the possibility that I will never get another chance–I trained conservatively and farther in advance than I otherwise would have to reduce the risk of missing the race due to injury. Perhaps the optimal strategy for enjoyment rather than speed.

    It will be crazy to be in the race rather than following along online…is there another sport where the amateurs and professionals can compete together on the biggest stage? Can’t wait to meet everyone and soak it all in :) :) :)

  10. Tony

    Just my feeling this year but lack of excitement in Auburn. I feel it maybe just my focus on other things but no buzz this year.

  11. Patrick

    Western States seems to be doing a nice job of letting lots of new runners in while still getting great talent at the front. Kudos to their board.

  12. Andrew S

    It only somewhat recently became extremely difficult to get into. Basically the only way for 20 now would be an unprecedented run in the Top 10 or Golden Tickets.

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