A Vision for the Future: Western States 100’s New Mission Statement

AJW dives deep into the Western States 100’s new mission statement.

By on May 6, 2022 | Comments

AJW's TaproomEarlier this year, the Board of Directors of the Western States 100 released its updated mission statement incorporating a vision statement and a six-part description of their values. As a long-time fan of the event, and a nonprofit executive director myself, I was particularly impressed with the document and intrigued to learn more about it.

The Western States 100 Mission Statement is, “To deliver a world-class ultrarunning experience to every athlete.”

Following that simple statement is a vision statement in support of the mission: “To be a leader in the sport of ultrarunning and promote its personal and community benefits through trail stewardship, research, and providing a life-changing experience.”

As someone whose life has certainly been changed due to my participation in the event, as both an athlete and volunteer, the final phrase of the vision resonated powerfully with me.

Western States - start

The start of the 2021 Western States 100. Photo: iRunFar/Alex Potter

As anyone who has been involved with nonprofit organizations knows, mission statements provide the foundation upon which such organizations are built. In contrast to for-profit organizations, nonprofits base their goals and objectives on how well they accomplish their missions.

In essence, the mission statement should be the North Star of the organization. In the case of the Western States 100, their mission is to deliver a world-class experience that is both aspirational and inspirational — one that I have experienced first-hand.

Emerging from the mission and vision, the statement also articulates the values that support that mission. Excellence, safety, respect, fairness, integrity, and community form the backbone of the event’s values and provide an enduring understanding of what is most important to the race organizers and volunteers.

I spoke earlier in the week with Western States 100 Board President Diana Fitzpatrick, and asked her to describe the process by which the board came up with the mission, vision, and values of their organization.

Tim and Diana Fitzpatrick 6

Diana Fitzpatrick after finishing the 2014 Western States 100, with her husband, Tim, and son Chris. Photo courtesy of Diana and Tim Fitzpatrick.

“We have a relatively large board with a tremendous diversity of opinions, so we needed to make sure we got everyone involved without the process taking forever. We really wanted a streamlined approach.” Fitzpatrick noted with a chuckle.

Beginning shortly after the race in 2021, the board established a committee to manage the rewriting of the mission. A detailed survey was distributed to the entire board during July and August, with the goal of answering some key questions. Who do we serve? Who do we aspire to be? What is important to us? The committee then committed to the mission, vision, and values structure and set to work on the language.

“We spent time poring over the surveys and several themes stood out,” Fitzpatrick told me. “The words ‘leadership,’ ‘excellence,’ and ‘community’ came up again and again.”

With the mission description itself, the board was committed to using outward-facing language as the previous mission was more inward-facing. Describing how the event delivers a world-class experience became central to the process and then the three key pillars that have long been a part of the event — trail stewardship, research, and the race itself — created the backbone of the vision.

I told Diana that I found the values section to be particularly interesting and asked her to elaborate a bit.

“In the ‘excellence’ section we felt it was important to include the tension that sometimes exists between tradition and innovation as this is something we know Craig [Thornley, the race director] deals with every single day. Additionally, in the ‘respect’ section, we expanded on our previous language to be explicit about our commitment to inclusivity. Finally, knowing how much fairness and integrity have been a huge part of Craig’s work over the years, we wanted to reaffirm our commitment to those.”

Craig Thornley

Craig Thornley (left), Western States 100 race director, and AJW at the finish line in 2018. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

At the January 2022 board meeting, Fitzpatrick and her committee presented a draft document to the board for feedback. After a few additional modifications, the statement was approved in March at the board’s first in-person board meeting in over two years.

As someone who has been part of crafting several mission statements in my career, I found it to be incredible that in this case the process, from start to finish, took less than nine months.

Equipped with a revised mission statement, the Western States 100 is poised to continue setting the standard for endurance events around the country and the world. The passion and commitment of the board and management of the event were clearly on display in this process and provided a harbinger for a tremendously promising future for the event and the sport in the years ahead.

Bottoms up!

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Call for Comments

What do you think of the new mission statement? Do you feel it reflects the ethos of the sport of trail running?

Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.