The 2024 Hardrock 100 is history! Check out our in-depth results article for the full race story, as well as our interviews with champions Courtney Dauwalter and Ludovic Pommeret.

AJW’s Top Five Memories of the Past Decade at the Western States 100

AJW recounts his five favorite memories from the past decade of the Western States 100.

By on June 28, 2024 | Comments

AJW's TaproomIt is hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since I last ran the Western States 100. In June of 2014, I ran the race for my 10th and final time.

I wrote a race report about it and also did an extensive interview with Bryon Powell to document the day. Since that time, I have returned to the event every year to volunteer, crew, pace, cheerlead, and just generally be a part of the annual spectacle that is Western States.

As we are on the eve of the 2024 running of the race, I thought it would be fun to look back on my top five Western States memories of these past 10 years and count them down from fifth to first.

5. Diana Fitzpatrick Finishing in Under 24 Hours at Age 60 in 2018

There is perhaps no ultramarathon that maintains the meticulous records that Western States does. And, for a race that has been held for 50 years, there are many historical performances that have gone down on the trail between the starting line in Olympic Valley and the finish line in Auburn, California.

In 2018, then-60-year-old Californian Diana Fitzpatrick became the first woman over 60 to ever run Western States in under 24 hours. Her time of 23:52 not only earned her a coveted sterling silver belt buckle but also placed her in a remarkable 23rd place overall in the women’s race.

We also note Fitzpatrick’s dedicated service to the organization. She has served on the Western States 100 Board of Trustees since 2012 and has been its president since 2019.

Tim and Diana Fitzpatrick 6

Diana Fitzpatrick finishing Western States in 2017, the year before her age-group record-setting run. Photo courtesy of Diana Fitzpatrick.

4. Steven Moore Breaking the Men’s 50-And-Over Age Group Record in 2019

In 1988, then-50-year-old Doug Latimer became the first person in Western States history to complete the race 10 times, and he did so in under 24 hours each time. This earned him the now-famous 10-Day Buckle. In that 1988 race, Latimer also set a 50-and-over course record of 18:43:58 that assumed an almost mythical Holy Grail-type status over the years.

Coming into the 2019 race, it was the longest-standing age-group record at the race by a long shot. That year, Texan Steven Moore set his sights on the record, and with careful preparation and flawless race-day execution, he took down Latimer’s 41-year-old record with a time of 18:14:57. It was a sight to behold as Moore circled that track and triumphantly crossed the finish line.

2019 Western States 100 - Stephen Moore

Then-51-year-old Steven Moore setting the men’s 50-to-59 Western States 100 age group record in 2019. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

3. Kaci Lickteig and Stephanie Case’s Boat Ride in 2017

In 2017, I was volunteering at the Rucky Chucky River Crossing when 2016 women’s winner Kaci Lickteig came into the aid station and promptly slumped in a chair. From just about everyone’s perspective, it looked like she was planning on dropping out of the race. She looked tired, cold, and had none of the sparkle in her eye that we have all come to expect from her.

As luck would have it, Lickteig’s coach, Jason Koop, was there and began talking to her. Her long-time pacer Miguel Ordorica joined the conversation, and slowly, Lickteig’s smile returned. When Stephanie Case, a fellow competitor, sat down next to Lickteig and began digging into a pile of McDonald’s french fries, Lickteig was intrigued.

As Case stood to leave, she said loudly, “C’mon Kaci, come for a boat ride with me!” At that moment, Lickteig stood up and stumbled down to the river to cross in the raft with Case. Several hours later, in a time of 24:02, she crossed the finish line.

This year, Lickteig is going for her 10th finish.

Stephanie Case and Kaci Lickteig after 2017 Western States 100

Stephanie Case and Kaci Lickteig after finishing in 2017. Photo: Larry Gassan

2. Clare Gallagher and Brittany Peterson’s Race for the Win in 2019

There have been many dramatic showdowns over the years at Western States, but none more dramatic than the 2019 women’s race between Clare Gallagher and Brittany Peterson. At mile 78 that year, early leader Courtney Dauwalter was forced to abandon the race due to injury. Gallagher and Peterson, who were in second and third place at the time, were immediately thrust into the top two positions.

From there, they battled stride for stride for the next 15 miles, arriving at the Pointed Rocks aid station together with just 5.5 miles to go. On the downhill trail from the aid station to No Hands Bridge, Gallagher opened a small lead on Peterson that she would never relinquish.

After nearly five hours of running shoulder to shoulder, Gallagher prevailed over Peterson by 11 minutes. Her split time from Pointed Rocks to the finish of 51 minutes remains the fastest time ever run by a woman over that stretch and sits only three minutes behind Patrick Reagan’s men’s record split.

2019 Western States 100 Finish line - Clare Gallagher - Brittany Peterson

Clare Gallagher (left) and Brittany Peterson after going one-two at the 2019 Western States 100.

1. Gunhild Swanson Finishing with Six Seconds To Spare On the 30-Hour Cutoff in 2015

The final hour of Western States, dubbed the Golden Hour, has been a time of high anxiety and drama over the years. In 2015, it was off the charts. I was standing on the track with about 15 minutes left on the clock when a murmur rose in the crowd. Then-70-year-old Washingtonian Gunhild Swanson had arrived at Robie Point and had 15 minutes to cover 1.3 miles.

Unbeknownst to those of us in the crowd, men’s race winner Rob Krar had wandered out to Robie Point and was now running with Swanson, urging her on in flip flops. When Swanson finally entered the track, she had just over 70 seconds to run the final 250 meters to the finish.

With a crowd of hundreds urging her on, Swanson made it across the line in 29:59:54. To this day, it is the most extraordinary sporting moment I have witnessed.

Gunhild Swanson - 2015 Western States 100

Gunhild Swanson after finishing the 2015 Western States 100 in 29:59:54, six seconds before the race cutoff at 70 years of age. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

I wonder what memories await in 2024?

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Fountainhead Brewing Company logoThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Fountainhead Brewing Company in Sacramento, California. Puffy Shirt Pale Ale is a smooth American Pale Ale brewed in the classic California tradition. Balanced with crisp hops and just a hint of malt, Puffy Shirt strikes that fine balance that all classic American Pale ales need to do.

Call for Comments

  • What is your favorite Western States 100 memory?
  • Who do you think will put in the most memorable performance this year?
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.