Lottery Thoughts and a Challenge

Ahead of this weekend’s Western States 100 and Hardrock 100 lotteries, AJW offers some words of wisdom to the many who won’t be chosen.

By on December 2, 2022 | Comments

AJW's TaproomThis weekend, two of North America’s most popular 100-mile races will conduct their annual lotteries. The Western States 100 lottery includes over 7,100 would-be participants while the Hardrock 100 lottery has just over 2,400 hopefuls. Given the size of each race’s starting field, the vast majority of runners who have qualified and entered will not be selected to run.

Way back in 2009, my good friend and current Western States 100 race director, Craig Thornley, wrote an excellent piece on his blog about his experience attending the Western States 100 lottery. Back in those days, folks had about a 20% chance of being selected. In his article, Craig wrote about the negative feeling and generally frustrating vibe that overtook the room as the lottery took place. In an otherwise hopeful and optimistic sport, the lottery had taken on a decidedly downtrodden tone.

Michel Poletti and Craig Thornley

Western States 100 race director Craig Thornley (right) with Michel Poletti (left), UTMB founder. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

This year, of course, the number of disappointed runners will far exceed the thousand or so that were left out back in 2009. In fact, given the exponential growth of the sport, this year will mark the largest number of applicants ever who have qualified and applied for one or both lotteries and not gotten in. As difficult as that is to accept for some, it is the reality—and it’s not likely to change any time soon. As a result of this, as someone who’s been around the sport for a long time and been privileged to have run both the Western States 100 and Hardrock 100, and don’t intend to run either of them again, I would like to offer up a challenge to the throngs who don’t get in.

After you dust yourself off from the disappointment and inevitably look for whatever race you plan to run in 2023 to qualify for the lotteries again, celebrate with those who did get in. Rather than drowning your sorrows and complaining about the lottery procedures, share in the excitement of the lucky ones and then think about how you might be able to participate in one or both of these iconic events — not as a competitor — but perhaps as a pacer, crew, volunteer, or goodwill ambassador.

Mike Acer Western States with pacer

Mike Acer finishes the 2021 Western States 100 with his pacer and crew. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

The Western States 100, for example, will most certainly need to call on an army of volunteers to get out onto the trail in the winter and spring to work on the rehabilitation efforts that are necessary in the wake of the disastrous Mosquito Fire, which impacted over 16 miles of the course this past September. The Hardrock 100 is always looking for volunteers to come to Silverton in the weeks before the race to help with course maintenance, aid station preparation, and staging of the more remote aid stations.

And, for those of you who are more technologically inclined, consider offering to volunteer with race coverage, either with iRunFar or the Western States 100 livestream. Whatever you do, I plead with you, don’t fall victim to the negativity that often befalls lottery weekend.

It goes without saying that we are living in difficult times. Division and conflict are all around us. As ultrarunners, I think we can provide a beacon of hope. The choice is ours, we can be bitter and jealous of the chosen few who find their way into the Hardrock 100 and Western States 100, and be resentful of their good fortune, or we can move on and celebrate all that is wonderful in our community, and turn lemons into lemonade. For the love of all that is right about our sport, this year, let’s choose the latter!

Bottoms up!

Hardrock 100 - Sherman Aid Station Volunteers

Volunteers at the Sherman Aid Station during the 2021 Hardrock 100. Photo: Logan Jones-Wilkins

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Backpocket Brewing in Coralville, Iowa. Their Slingshot Dunkel dark lager is, quite simply, a fantastic winter beer. Brewed in the classic German Dunkel tradition, Slingshot is malty and rich, with a nice touch of smokiness. It goes perfectly with any kind of sausage and can warm up even the chilliest winter night.

Call for Comments

  • Have you volunteered at an ultra before? How did you find the experience and is it something you’d recommend?
  • Are you entered in either of the weekend’s big lottos?
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.