After a long COVID-19-induced hiatus, it was clear that runners were tuned up and raring to race in this year’s Western States 100, which traveled the historic Western States Trail across California’s Sierra Nevada on Saturday and Sunday, June 26 and 27, 2021. In a year with near record-high temperatures, heat played a major role in performances. The day was a victory for some and heartbreak for others, with multiple top performers dropping from the race, and only 66% of all runners finishing, the lowest rate since 2009. The 100-mile race was a historic year for women, with three finishing in the top 10 in a competitive field that included multiple international runners.
The results were markedly different than the iRunFar group-think predictions, with Clare Gallagher, (pre-race interview) predicted to win, finishing in 17th for women, and Katie Asmuth, (post-race interview) predicted 16th, finishing in sixth. On the men’s side, notably Jared Hazen (pre-race interview) was predicted to be runner-up and was forced to drop; Drew Holmen (post-race interview) was predicted 17th, yet finished third in his first 100-mile race. More than a few tears were shed at the finish, both of joy and sadness and by runners and spectators alike.
Ultimately, the day went to Jim Walmsley (pre-race and post-race interviews) and Beth Pascall (pre-race and post-race interviews). Both Walmsley and Pascall ran ahead of the men’s and women’s respective course records for about half the race; despite a second-half slowdown, still both had outstanding performances.
It was exhausting for runners, crews, and spectators alike, with heat, quad-busting hills, and a blistering pace set by the leaders. Nearing the 30-hour limit on Sunday morning, supporters flooded the race’s finish line on the Placer High School track in Auburn, California to cheer on the final runners to complete the epic adventure in time. The energy was electric and the emotion high in this return to high-caliber racing, and it was clear that the community was excited to gather once again after over a year of social distancing and uncertainty.
To learn more about how the race unfolded, check out our in-depth results article.
Mountains rise above Olympic Valley, California the night before the 2021 Western States 100.
Spectators and runners take a photo the night before the race.
Hayden Hawks talks with a friend at the Hoka One One tent the morning of the race.
Tim Tollefson stands by the Hoka One One tent just minutes before the start.
With one minute to go, runners line up at the start.
After Paul Lind fires off a shot, runners take off up the Escarpment.
Runners make their way up the Escarpment; the first few miles of the race climb directly out of the valley to the ridgeline.
The moon sets behind the mountains of Olympic Valley, and spectators disperse to meet their runners at the first aid station.
About one mile before Michigan Bluff aid station, mile 55.7, runners are greeted by a sign to give them hope running out of the canyons.
Jared Hazen makes his way up the last hill before Michigan Bluff aid station.
Cody Lind makes his way up the last hill before Michigan Bluff aid station.
Spectators and volunteers stay cool at the Rucky Chucky river crossing, a critical point in the race for runners at mile 78.
Cody Lind is refueled by his crew before the Rucky Chucky river crossing at mile 78.
Jim Walmsley crosses the finish line in 14:46:01, his third time finishing first place at this race.
Spectators wait for the top men and women to finish around sunset at the Placer High School track in Auburn, California.
Corrine Malcolm and Dylan Bowman commentate the race organization’s live video feed.
A spectator sets up in a prime spot to watch top finishers come into the Placer High School track at sunset on Saturday night.
Drew Holmen tosses his hat, finishing third place in 16:23:09. This was his first 100-mile race.
Tim Tollefson finished a strong fifth place in 16:55:49 after a day of literal and figurative ups and downs.
Beth Pascall was the women’s champion, finishing in 17:10:42. Pascall finished seventh overall, one of three women in the top-10 overall finishers, a first for this event.
Audrey Tanguy placed sixth for women and 16th overall, with an emotional finish in 18:37:45.
Kuni Yamagata, 68, was the oldest male finisher, coming in during the Golden Hour, right before the 30-hour cutoff. Yamagata will also be running the Hardrock 100, only three weeks after Western States.
Mike Grimm crosses the line with less than 16 minutes to spare. Grimm has one previous Western States finish, and had 128 tickets in the lottery to enter this year.
Runners who finish under 24 hours are awarded with a custom-made silver belt buckle, while all those who finish between 24 and 30 hours receive a bronze buckle.
The top-10 men and women line up at the awards ceremony. It was a historic year for women, with three in the top 10, nine in the top 20, and 15 in the top-30 finishers.