After a tough year for its organizers, rectifying fire damage on the route, the Western States 100 is set for 2023. The iconic point-to-point, net-downhill course takes in 100.2 miles, 18,000 feet of climbing, and 22,000 feet of descending, as it starts at the Palisades Tahoe ski resort in Olympic Valley, California, and finishes at Placer High School in Auburn.
Environmental conditions will play into the race’s competitive story this year. With record snowfall throughout the upper elevations of the Sierra Nevada, the mountain range through which the race travels, runners will encounter plenty of snow over the course’s first quarter, along with numerous high water crossings lower down as all that snow melts. Some 16 miles of the course were burned over by last fall’s Mosquito Fire, leaving miles of shade-less terrain. And of course, there will probably be weather at play, with the event’s notorious heat likely to encompass the middle and lower elevations of the course.
The men’s race at last year’s Western States 100 was sharp, with just 50 minutes separating the first and 10th finishers. Seven of that stellar line-up are back this year, as well as some serious additions like the U.K.’s Tom Evans (pre-race interview), French-Canadian Mathieu Blanchard (pre-race interview), and Dakota Jones (pre-race interview).
Although there are notable absentees including reigning champion Adam Peterman and course-record holder Jim Walmsley, the depth of this men’s field suggests it could be an even tighter race this year.
As you’d guess, iRunFar will be there to report firsthand on all the action as it unfolds starting at 5 a.m. U.S. PDT on Saturday, June 24. Stay tuned!
A special thanks to HOKA for making our coverage of the Western States 100 possible!
Be sure to check out our in-depth women’s preview to learn about the women’s race and, then, follow our live coverage on race day!
Returning Top 10
The top 10 runners in the 2022 race were invited to return for 2023. Unfortunately, reigning champion Adam Peterman is out with injury, and seventh-place Vincent Viet of France has opted not to return. It also looks like fifth-place Drew Holmen has withdrawn, as he just finished fifth at the Trail World Championships 80k, held in Austria 15 days before Western States.
Last year’s second-place man, Hayden Hawks, was pretty jovial in his post-race interview about not being able to best race winner Adam Peterman. But without the reigning champion present on the start line, this could be Hawks’s year. Despite struggling with the heat last year, his finish time knocked two hours off his eighth-place finish from 2021, and there are lots of indicators that he could have more to offer on this course. Some of his previous top performances include a 5:18 win at the 2020 JFK 50 Mile and a win at the 2018 Lavaredo Ultra Trail. So far this year, he’s warmed up by winning the Canyons 50k and taking second at the Tarawera Ultramarathon 100k.
Arlen Glick surpassed a lot of people’s expectations when he took third at Western States last year. Although he went into the race with bag of form in the 100-mile distance — having won the Javelina 100 Mile, the Mohican 100 Mile and the Burning River 100 Mile all in 2021 — this was his initiation into mountainous ultrarunning. He took to it very well, running a stormer to place third, and has since logged more mountain miles, taking second in the Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile later in 2022, before returning to the 2022 Javelina 100 Mile to place third.
Tyler Green – 4th, 15:57:10
Tyler Green took fourth at Western States last year, and forced third-place Arlen Glick into an uncomfortable sprint finish as he closed on him in the race’s final moments. In terms of placing, he was back from his second-place finish in 2021, but improved his finish time by about 14 minutes in his third go at the race. In 2019, he placed 14th in a time of 16:51, in what was a very fast year. Following on from Western States last summer, he had a below par run at the 2022 UTMB, making it just inside the top 50, but showed he is back on form with a third-place finish at the 2023 Transgrancanaria. Last year in his pre-race interview he spoke about stepping back from his day job of teaching to focus more on track coaching and his own running, so that may have allowed him to come into this year’s race with better preparation than previous years.
Ludovic Pommeret (France) – 6th, 16:20:02
Ludovic Pommeret, sixth at last year’s Western States, went on to inspire veteran racers everywhere with a commanding win at the 2022 TDS at age 47 — almost an hour clear of second place on the demanding route. Some of his other top performances include a win at the 2016 UTMB, where he also took fourth in 2021, and a win at the 2021 Diagonale des Fous. He’s probably at the other end of the spectrum of Arlen Glick, in that his best performances have been on courses more mountainous than this one, but he’s still not to be underestimated.
Alex Nichols – 8th, 16:28:34
Alex Nichols took eighth at last year’s race in a time more than two hours better than his 10th-place finish from 2021. It was also quicker than his time from 2017, when he placed second, which is indicative of the depth of last year’s men’s field. In more than a decade of competing at the highest level, Nichols’s varied resume includes winning the 2016 Pikes Peak Marathon and the 2017 Black Canyons 100k, and taking second at the 2020 Bandera 100k. Last year he followed his run at Western States with a win at the Matterhorn Ultraks 50k, but doesn’t appear to have raced much yet this year.
Cody Lind took ninth at last year’s Western States, but, similar to others mentioned above, in a faster time to his fourth-place finish the previous year. He then followed Alex Nichols to the Matterhorn Ultraks 50k, where he placed third, and he’s had a promising start to 2023 with a win at the Valhöll Ultra Trail 80k in Argentina. Lind has a strong family affinity with Western States, where his grandfather, Bob Lind, was medical director and board member for two decades and he’ll no doubt be aiming to do the name proud yet again.
Scott Traer – 10th, 16:35:23
Like Arlen Glick, Scott Traer is well versed in winning flat and fast 100 milers, running as fast as 13:44 at the 2021 Umstead 100 Mile. He did, however, place fifth in the mountainous Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile back in 2019, as well as taking second in the 2022 Black Canyon 100k. Since last year’s Western States, he’s demonstrated his speed again with a win at the 2022 Javelina 100k.
More Top Men
Not many ultra-trail runners have made Kilian Jornet sweat to the degree that French-Canadian Mathieu Blanchard (pre-race interview) did at last year’s UTMB. The two battled it out all day for a close finish, in which Blanchard took second place — under the existing course record — thus earning his Golden Ticket into Western States. He’s been mixing it up a lot this year, taking second in the 146-mile Coastal Challenge Expedition Run stage race in Costa Rica, third in the Marathon des Sables, and running 2:22 in what looked like a fairly casual effort at the Paris Marathon.
The U.K.’s Tom Evans (pre-race interview) gained automatic entry through a third-place finish at last year’s UTMB. He previously placed third at Western States in the record-breaking year of 2019, in a time of 14:59. For context, that was 14 minutes faster than Adam Peterman’s winning time last year, and 48 minutes quicker than top returning runner Hayden Hawks’s 2022 second-place finish. Thus, he will for many be the favorite going into this year’s race. So far in 2023, he’s placed second to Anthony Costales at the Black Canyon 100k, and sealed a comfortable win at last month’s Ultra-Trail Snowdonia 50k.
Anthony Costales (pre-race interview) earned his place in Western States with a win at this year’s Black Canyon 100k, where he set a 19-minute course record, finishing four minutes clear of Tom Evans in second. His other standout performances include a win at Chuckanut 50k in 2019, where he also took second in 2021. He has 100-mile form too, having placed second in the 2021 Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile, and he won the 2021 Canyons 100k — run on a lot of the same trails as this Western States course.
Going back as far as the San Juan Solstice 50 Mile in 2010, Dakota Jones (pre-race interview) has been winning top ultramarathons since before he could legally drink a beer. More recently, he’s won his last two major outings, the 2023 Transvulcania Ultramarathon and the 2022 Javelina 100 Mile — the latter of which is where he earned his Golden Ticket, and ran under 13 hours for 100 miles. He had some great runs earlier last year too, including a third-place finish at the Hardrock 100.
Jia-Ju Zhao doesn’t appear to have raced in the U.S. before, but has bags of 100k and 100-mile wins to his name at home in China. He earned his Golden Ticket with a win at the 2022 Doi Inthanon 100 Mile, which he also won in 2021. He’s on form this year too, having won Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji in late April.
Jeffrey Colt finished just outside of the top 10 at last year’s Western States, placing 11th in 16:51, having suffered a bout of COVID-19 just before the race. It was a good effort for a bad day, and he likely has more to offer on the course. He went on to place 14th at the 2022 Trail World Championships 80k, as part of the USA squad that took team gold, and then earned his way back into Western States with a win at the 2023 Bandera 100k.
Cole Watson wasn’t far off the mark last year either, finishing 14th in the 2022 Western States. He missed out on the Golden Ticket at the 2023 Black Canyon 100k, where he placed fourth, but he more than made up for it with a superb win at the 2023 Canyons 100k, 16 minutes clear of Adam Merry in second. Other strong results include third at the 2021 Javelina 100 Mile, and he could have a good shot at breaking this year’s top 10.
Still More Fast Men to Watch
- Reed Breuer — 1st 2021 Rio Del Lago 100 Mile; 1st 2021 American River 100 Mile
- Rod Farvard — 4th 2022 Canyons 100k; 4th 2022 Bandera 100k; 23rd 2022 UTMB
- JP Giblin — 2nd 2023 Bandera 100k; 12th 2022 Canyons 100k
- Daniel Jones (New Zealand) — 1st 2023 Tarawera 100k; 10th 2022 Canyons 100k
- Ryan Kaiser — 1st 2022 Mountain Lakes 100 Mile; 3rd 2022 Leadville 100 Mile
- Janosch Kowalczyk (Germany) — 3rd 2023 Black Canyon 100k; 1st 2022 Mozart 100k; 6th 2021 CCC
- Can-Hua Luo (China) — 2nd 2023 Canyons 100 Mile; 2nd 2022 Doi Inthanon 100 Mile; 11th 2019 UTMB
- Adam Merry — 2nd 2023 Canyons 100k; 1st 2023 Chuckanut 50k
- Ryan Montgomery — 3rd 2023 Tarawera 100k; 2nd 2022 Javelina 100 Mile (They are entered in the nonbinary gender category, and will be competing in the male awards category per the entrants’ list and the race’s nonbinary entrant policy.)
- Jonathan Rea — 2nd 2022 Javelina 100 Mile; 1st 2022 Bandera 100k; 24th 2022 Western States 100
- Thomas Wagner (Austria) — 1st 2022 Eiger Ultra Trail 150 Mile; 8th 2022 Istria 100 Mile
Call for Comments
- What are your predictions for the top spots?
- Do you think anyone will threaten Jim Walmsley’s course record?