At 5:00 a.m. on June 24, 379 runners started the 2023 Western States 100. And what a day those dreamers and doers had.
Climbing from the Palisades Tahoe ski area in Olympic Valley, California, to meet the sunrise, the runners chased the historic 100.2-mile course through its 18,000 feet of elevation gain and 22,000 feet of loss. The course was made more wild by the past year’s weather, but the day otherwise benefited from favorable temperatures.
Incredible snowfall and the late 2022 Mosquito Fire impacted course conditions. The first 15 miles were impacted by snow, and then runners faced a newly unshaded 16-mile stretch due to the fire damage. But race-day temperatures were well off the common 100-degree-Fahrenheit highs of past years. It was the race’s fourth-coolest day in history.
Women’s winner Courtney Dauwalter (pre-race and post-race interviews) shattered the longstanding course record. Dauwalter’s 15:29 finish was incredibly 78 minutes better than Ellie Greenwood’s 2012 former course best. Favorable weather likely also contributed to the most sub-18-hour women’s finishes (9) in the race’s history. Men’s winner Tom Evans (pre-race and post-race interviews) from the U.K. broke free after Foresthill, mile 62, and finished in 14:40. It was the race’s fourth-fastest ever and made him a 24-minute winner. Read on for more details on how the race unfolded.
A special thanks to HOKA for making our coverage of the Western States 100 possible!
2023 Western States 100 Women’s Race
None of the first four women from last year’s race — Ruth Croft, Ailsa MacDonald, Marianne Hogan, Luzia Buehler — returned. That made Zimbabwe’s Emily Hawgood (pre-race interview) the highest returning finisher from 2022. Hawgood’s pretty much a race local now too, living in nearby Roseville, California. But it was 38-year-old Courtney Dauwalter (pre-race and post-race interviews) that came into the race as a favorite. She won here in 2018 in 17:27 and was looking to avenge a late drop at the 2019 race.
Dauwalter was first up the Escarpment. At 2,500 feet, it’s the race’s biggest climb and it happens right away in the first three miles. But 2022 UTMB winner Katie Schide (pre-race and post-race interviews) was right there too. Schide, an American who’s lived in France for the past seven years, hit the top in 46 minutes with Dauwalter and the two dropped into the Granite Chief Wilderness together. Already Dauwalter and Schide, age 31, had a three-minute lead on third-place Ida Nilsson (pre-race interview) from Sweden.
By mile 11, Lyon Ridge, Dauwalter and Schide’s lead on third-place Nilsson had ballooned to eight minutes. And then it got even bigger as the two completely broke away from everyone else. At mile 16, Red Star Ridge, no one was within 14 minutes of the front two. Nilsson, Hawgood, 2023 Black Canyon 100k winner Keely Henninger (pre-race interview), Taylor Nowlin, professional triathlete-turned-ultrarunner Heather Jackson, Canada’s Priscilla Forgie and Jenny Quilty, and 2022 sixth-place finisher Leah Yingling (pre-race interview) all ran inside the early top 10.
The Mosquito Fire limited crew access this year and everyone met their crews for the first time at mile 30, Robinson Flat. Dauwalter was in at 5:07 and out within a minute, and still on her 2019 splits. Schide took a longer break and changed shoes, exiting the aid station three minutes behind the leader. The two had completely broken open the women’s race. Nilsson, in her 100-mile debut, had been alone in third to this point, but was now joined by Henninger, Hawgood, and Nowlin.
At mile 34, Miller’s Defeat, the course record watch started. Dauwalter and Schide were under Dauwalter’s own 2019 splits and Ellie Greenwood’s 2012 course record pace. Dauwalter was five minutes up on Greenwood’s splits, and Schide was three minutes faster. Even more, the two were over 30 minutes in front of third-place Hawgood at mile 38. Dauwalter and Schide were out front for the win and the course record, and the other contenders grouped behind them.
Dauwalter was red hot up the Devil’s Thumb climb at mile 48, but Schide hadn’t given up much time. She took longer in aid and left six minutes after Dauwalter. Hawgood, Nowlin, and Henninger came in together next, now 40 minutes behind second-place Schide.
At Foresthill, Dauwalter was 25 minutes up on record pace. Schide conceded only another two minutes over the last stretch and was 11 minutes behind Dauwalter. While Dauwalter and Schide were still off the front, the race dynamic was heating up behind. The third- through eighth-place women were all in Foresthill together with only three minutes separation. Hawgood was there first among the chase group, but Hungarian living in Hong Kong Eszter Csillag (post-race interview) quickly jumped from eighth at mile 52 to fourth at mile 62. Nilsson was fifth, and Henninger, Katie Asmuth, and Nowlin were all there too.
Dauwalter ran 2:10 from mile 62 Foresthill to mile 78 at the American River. Only the men’s winner would run a quicker split on this day, and only eight men have ever run a faster split in the race — this was per the race organization’s livestream, which was citing Liam/@aidstationfireb on Twitter. Dauwalter was five levels better than everyone else, and she was boldly racing without a pacer too. Schide stayed comfortably in second, but fell further behind Dauwalter’s quickening pace and river conditions necessitated that everyone cross the American River in a boat this year.
From Foresthill to the river, Katie Asmuth vaulted into third, past Eszter Csillag and Ida Nilsson. Asmuth was seventh at Foresthill and picked up four spots on the downhill Cal Street stretch, outrunning common expectations in coming back from injury. All three women split faster from Foresthill to the river than Schide did and even if the front two were gone, the women in general were running really fast. There’s bound to be some bad luck in a 100 miler though, and Henninger fell just before the river and dislocated her shoulder. She would then drop from the race at mile 80, Green Gate, due to that injury.
Dauwalter’s incredible second half and incredible race brought her to the Placer High School track finish in 15:29. Dauwalter completely shattered the record books and set a new standard that is likely to last for a lifetime. Ellie Greenwood’s 16:47 course record had stood since 2012. Dauwalter will next race the high altitude 2023 Hardrock 100 in Silverton, Colorado, on July 14. Dauwalter is the Hardrock course record holder, too, but Western States plus Hardrock will certainly be a challenging double.
Schide challenged Dauwalter early, and outpaced the rest of the women’s field in doing so. Schide was in second for much of the day, ultimately finishing as runner up in 16:43. That was also under the old course record.
Csillag, who was fifth at the 2022 UTMB, had a remarkable second half to finish third in 17:09. It is the race’s fourth-fastest run ever. And she just edged out Asmuth, who moved up from last year’s ninth-place run to finish fourth in 17:21. Asmuth’s time was just inside of Ruth Croft’s winning time from last year, and is the race’s fifth-fastest ever.
Hawgood earned a second straight fifth-place finish. In 2022 she was able to finish fifth in 18:16 and in this year’s faster race Hawgood was fifth in 17:26. That time ranks eighth-best ever and is just faster than what Dauwalter ran to win in 2018.
Taylor Nowlin improved her finish place by one from prior year, but like Hawgood greatly improved her finish time. Nowlin was sixth in 17:40. One-hundred-mile debutante Ida Nilsson was seventh in 17:43, and Priscilla Forgie was just minutes back in eighth at 17:46. Leah Yingling was a repeat top-10 finisher in ninth at 17:49. For perspective, no year had seen more than three women finish under 18 hours before. But this year nine women finished under 18 hours. It is the new standard for women’s racing at Western States.
The 25-year-old Meghan Morgan took the prized 10th-place finish in 18:11, thereby guaranteeing a chance to automatically return next year.
2023 Western States 100 Women’s Results
- Courtney Dauwalter (Salomon) – 15:29:33 (pre-race and post-race interviews) (New course record; old course record – Ellie Greenwood, 16:47:19 – 2012)
- Katie Schide (The North Face) – 16:43:45 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Eszter Csillag (Hoka) – 17:09:20 (post-race interview)
- Katie Asmuth (Saucony) – 17:21:06
- Emily Hawgood (Adidas Terrex) – 17:26:22 (pre-race interview)
- Taylor Nowlin (Adidas Terrex) – 17:40:11
- Ida Nilsson (Craft) – 17:43:34 (pre-race interview)
- Priscilla Forgie – 17:46:34
- Leah Yingling (Lululemon) – 17:49:00 (pre-race interview)
- Meghan Morgan (La Sportiva) – 18:11:32
2023 Western States 100 Men’s Race
There’s nowhere to go but up at the start of the Western States 100, and Jia-Ju Zhao from China charged the opening climb. Despite snow, Zhao hit the top in 42 minutes. Slower to the top, Frenchman Mathieu Blanchard (pre-race interview) and Brit Tom Evans (pre-race and post-race interviews) turned to greet the brilliant sunrise together.
Zhao won the Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji 100 Mile in April 2023 and is a two-time winner of the Doi Inthanon by UTMB 100 Mile in Thailand. He pushed his early lead to five minutes at Lyon Ridge, mile 11, while 2022 fourth-placer Tyler Green (post-race interview) led the early chase group. Green had finished as high as second here before, in 2021, but was running more aggressively toward the front earlier than ever before.
From mile-15 Red Star Ridge to mile-25 Duncan Canyon, the chase group started to make up time on Zhao. Tom Evans, Chinese runner Jia-Sheng Shen, and Dakota Jones (pre-race interview) were among a group that cut four minutes from Zhao’s lead over just nine miles. Evans was third here in 2019 in 14:59, and Jones had just biked 680 miles from his home in Utah to the race start.
Zhao was quickly swallowed up in the next five miles to Robinson Flat, mile 30, and soon fell out of the top 10. A lead trio of Tom Evans, Dakota Jones, and Jia-Sheng Shen came into aid at 4:45, meeting their crews for the first time. At mile 30 and with Zhao falling backward, Anthony Costales (pre-race and post-race interviews) was fourth, and then he was with Tyler Green at mile 38 in fourth and fifth. The two would barely separate the rest of the race.
Evans and Jones dropped Shen on the climb to Devil’s Thumb, mile 48, and the two leaders came into aid together in 7:03. Four minutes back Costales had caught Shen on the big climb, and Tyler Green, Jeff Colt, New Zealand’s Daniel Jones, Ryan Montgomery, Mathieu Blanchard, and 47-year-old Ludovic Pommeret were inside the top 10. Those six were 14 minutes apart. 2022 third- and second-place finishers Arlen Glick (pre-race interview) and Hayden Hawks (pre-race interview) were back in 11th and 16th, respectively. After earlier moving up, Hawks had just lost several places and would later drop with injury at mile 55. Other top-10 finishers from 2022 Cody Lind, Scott Traer, and Alex Nichols were all noticeably outside the top 10 too.
As the race shifted to its mile-62 Foresthill hub, Evans gained some separation on Jones and entered the aid station first, but as Evans changed shoes and socks, Jones didn’t wait and exited first. Jones was now in the lead by himself for the first time and he was overheard voicing his intention to break Evans. Some 11 minutes back of those two leaders, Green and Costales were again together and in third and fourth. Shen and Jeff Colt were just minutes back of those two, and Colt was remarkably almost an hour faster than a year ago when he finished 11th.
Jones and Evans separated leaving Foresthill and anticipation ran high for their next steps. The two had been together for nearly the entirety of the race to this point. Jones wanted to make a move and Evans wanted to keep up with (the) Jones. The duel ended quickly and dramatically though. Tom Evans dropped hard down Cal Street, hitting what he said at the finish was a 5:54 minute/mile, and hit Cal 2, mile 71, in 10:12. That surge pushed Jones eight minutes back at mile 71. It was just nine miles from Foresthill to that split on Cal Street, but the front two had shattered and moved in opposite directions the rest of the race.
Evans ran alone to the river crossing at mile 78, and ultimately to the finish. Tyler Green, Anthony Costales, Jeff Colt, and Jia-Sheng Shen all overtook Dakota Jones on the way to the river too. Forget about Elm Street, Jones was having a bit of a nightmare on Cal Street.
Evans, the 2022 UTMB third placer, continued to put time on the field the rest of the way. He finished in 14:40 and that’s the race’s fourth fastest finish ever. The mark trails only Jim Walmsley and Jared Hazen in 2019, and Walmsley’s 2018 mark too. Evans was a runaway winner, but the rest of the top 10 was much more closely packed.
Tyler Green pushed on in second, and held off an Anthony Costales chase over the last 15 miles. Green finished in 15:04. It was his second runner-up finish and a big personal best for the course. He was able to finish with his baby boy on his shoulders. Green’s 15:04 was the race’s 11th-fastest finish ever. Costales was third in 15:09, the race’s 13th-fastest finish ever.
Jia-Sheng Shen and Daniel Jones both finished fast. Shen clocked 15:19 and Jones was fifth in 15:22. Mathieu Blanchard and Ryan Montgomery both overtook Jeff Colt late. Those three — Blanchard, Montgomery, and Colt — finished in 15:37, 15:38, and 15:42, respectively. Local runner Cole Watson bettered his 2022 14th-place finish with a ninth-place 15:54.
In 2019 the top 10 all went under 16 hours. This year’s 10th-place man Janosch Kowalczyk from Germany just missed matching that feat. He finished in 16:09.
Seven of last year’s top 10 returned, but only Tyler Green was able to again make the top 10. The 2022 top 10 finishers Ludovic Pommeret, Arlen Glick, Scott Traer, Cody Lind, and Alex Nichols finished 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th, and 28th this year, respectively. As earlier mentioned, 2022 runner-up Hayden Hawks dropped.
After running near or in the lead through Foresthill, Dakota Jones finished 17th in 17:00.
Early leader Zhao’s high risk, high reward start ended with a drop at Michigan Bluff, mile 55.
2023 Western States 100 Men’s Results
- Tom Evans (Adidas Terrex) – 14:40:22 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Tyler Green (Nike) – 15:04:09 (post-race interview)
- Anthony Costales – 15:09:16 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Jia-Sheng Shen (The North Face) – 15:19:42
- Daniel Jones (Asics) – 15:22:15
- Mathieu Blanchard (Salomon) – 15:37:02 (pre-race interview)
- Ryan Montgomery (Altra) – 15:38:35
- Jeff Colt (On) – 15:42:09
- Cole Watson (Hoka) – 15:54:36
- Janosch Kowalczyk (Adidas Terrex) – 16:09:19
Thanks so much to the following individuals who helped iRunFar cover this race: Marissa Harris, Lance Hartzler, Casey Wyatt, Rachel and Michael Barrington, Jaja and A.J. Ferrer Capili, Andy-Jones Wilkins, Makiko Yamashita, Jec Ballou, Kirk Edgerton, Martin and Alison Nash, Julie Sachs, Grace Lattyak, Peach Villalobos, Mike Dasalla, Rachael Sage, and Sonia Lachapelle. Our race production is a community production!