Beth Pascall led the women’s race at the 2021 Western States 100 more or less from start to finish, coming across the line in seventh overall in 17:10:42, the second-fastest women’s time in race history. In the following interview, Beth talks about what it was like running out in front all day, what was different from her 2019 race, and what it was like being such a big part of a historic day for women at the Western States 100.
Be sure to read our results article for the full race story and for links to other post-race interviews.
Beth Pascall, 2021 Western States 100 Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here, with Beth Pascall after her win at the2021 Western States 100. How are you Beth?
Beth Pascall: I’m not too bad, thank you. All considered.
iRunFar: I’ve just gotta say, wow. That was an incredible performance, the second-fastest women’s time on a not an ideal day out there, how did you feel?
Pascall: It was hard.
Pascall: Honestly, beyond the first 24 miles, which were enjoyable, it was hard. A lot harder than coming forth two years ago.
iRunFar: Why was that, was it because of the conditions or was it because you were out in front leading, what was hard about it?
Pascall: I think I was just pushing—I was pushing the whole way I guess. Not really pushing, but I never felt comfortable and good for a prolonged period of time. It was like a yo-yo of highs and lows, like all day. Some big lows.
Pascall: You know when you are just like overheating and you sit down at an aid station and you’re like, okay I have to take a minute now and just properly ice up and yeah, but every time I managed to bounce back.
iRunFar: So it’s not like a magical day where everything felt good the whole way?
Pascall: Oh, absolutely not. No.
iRunFar: Was there a lowest moment along the way?
Pascall: Cal 2, I think it was.
iRunFar: Okay, about mile 70?
Pascall: Yeah, running down Cal Street, it started off well and then I think I just got really, really hot. And had to have a bit of a sit down.
iRunFar: At the aid station or out of the aid station?
Pascall: At the aid station, yeah. And then it felt a bit better after that.
iRunFar: Now you were basically out in front by yourself for the whole run, did you ever feel pressure? Like when you needed to take that pause for a minute or two and collect yourself you were like, oh my God there is Ruth [Croft] or Katie [Asmuth] or whoever is right behind you, were you thinking that or were you just…?
Pascall: I was thinking that all day but it never, I mean when I stopped it wasn’t like, shall I stop, shall I not? I’m like, I need to stop. And look after myself.
iRunFar: Do you think that helped you have such a, just tremendous performance?
Pascall: Yeah, yeah, certainly I spent a lot of time at aid stations compared to what I might have done on a cooler year or another race. So yeah, taking the time and backing off when I needed to back off, yeah.
iRunFar: So you didn’t fight through it necessarily? You actually went with the race a little bit?
Pascall: I don’t think you can fight through it, I think if you try to fight through it when you really feel like you’re overheating, it won’t end well.
iRunFar: There was a lot of that yesterday and today.
Pascall: Yes, yeah.
iRunFar: But, it’s just really hard to fathom running such an incredible time through that heat. You were here in 2019, you think you have a sub-17 in you in good conditions?
Pascall: I mean for sure, if it had been 2019 conditions yesterday then yeah, why not? But you can’t keep coming back just hoping to run a time. I’m very happy just with the result from yesterday.
iRunFar: Oh, 100%. What changed from 2019 until now for you to be able to up your game that much?
Pascall: I think mainly I’m just fitter. Yeah, two more years of good, solid training in my legs, I’m fitter. I mean, even early on yesterday I didn’t feel like I went out any harder—like my effort level was the same as 2019 and I was probably in 10th at Robinson or something then but this time I was in the lead so I think that is purely fitness. And then in part perhaps, tactically I’m a bit more competent to go out and be at the front and not be super worried about being in the front. Yeah.
iRunFar: Do you think you want to come back here and take another crack at this?
Pascall: I can’t even think about that right now. As I said, it was hard. Like physically, emotionally it was, it’s just such a big deal. The thought of pushing myself that hard again, anytime soon is… I just can’t…
iRunFar: Whether it’s here or somewhere else?
Pascall: Exactly. I don’t want to think about it.
iRunFar: No. Is there anything else on your calendar for this year just in case you happen to come around?
Pascall: Well, UTMB I guess. Hopefully, nine weeks’ time I’ll be up for some more.
iRunFar: Hopefully it’s not as hot there, we’re in trouble if it is right?
Pascall: Yeah, we’re in trouble.
iRunFar: Obviously you have the second-fastest time for women ever here, you were seventh overall?
Pascall: Yes I think so.
iRunFar: And there were three women in the top 10 and just even further back, 10 of the top-21 finishers were women. What does it mean to be part of a day where the women really excel?
Pascall: I just feel proud to be part of it and I’m so happy for all the other girls who are right up there. I mean, everyone who took part but yeah, it’s super exciting to be part of that. Yeah, yeah it’s really cool. It’s great for women’s running, ultrarunning.
iRunFar: If you could, was there a moment out there that you really enjoyed, out on the course or finishing, was there a high to go along with those lows?
Pascall: I mean, the final mile was special. It was only really at, I got some intel at No Hands Bridge that I had a reasonable gap on Ruth so at that point I could actually relax. And before then I was just super stressed, the whole time. So when I knew it’s actually going to happen, barring disasters, yeah, the last few miles just felt amazing.
iRunFar: So you actually got to enjoy it?
Pascall: I got to enjoy it, yeah and I wasn’t looking behind like on the road.
iRunFar: Like 2019 with Clare [Gallagher] and Brittany [Peterson]. That would be a different experience. Do you think you would’ve had a sprint in you if it had come to that?
Pascall: I’m not sure to be honest.
iRunFar: Well congratulations on a historic performance out there.
Pascall: Thanks a lot, Bryon.
iRunFar: Look forward to seeing you down the trail.