Ruth Croft won the 2022 Western States 100 in the third-fastest time in the event’s 49-year history. In the following interview, Ruth talks about how she pieced together a great race after what she called a challenging build-up, how she and her crew stayed both focused and entertained throughout the race, and if she’s satisfied with her two top finishes at this event.
For more on how the race played out, read our 2022 Western States 100 results article.
Ruth Croft, 2022 Western States 100 Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar, here with Ruth Croft after her win at the 2022 Western States 100. How are you Ruth?
Ruth Croft: I’ve felt better.
iRunFar: You have felt better?
iRunFar: You insisted on a little shade for the interview and that’s understandable.
Croft: Yeah, the sun’s a bit burning today.
iRunFar: You worked yourself yesterday.
Croft: Yeah, definitely. I think when I look back to last year, I felt like I was working a lot harder, even at Robinson Flat it felt harder than what it did last year.
iRunFar: But it looked, from an outside perspective, it looked like you were enjoying yourself more or having more fun, but not really?
Croft: No, definitely, I think my attitude kind of changed going into this one. I think it was more I had to prepare quite a lot mentally because my build-up had quite a few things that didn’t go to plan. So, I had an Achilles issue, then two sprained ankles, and then I got COVID-19 when I was in Flagstaff. And so I think, my coach, Jon Wyatt had told me after I recovered from COVID-19, he was just like, “Don’t tell anyone you had it.” Because he didn’t want it to become a mental thing going into States.
iRunFar: Because then you’re going to get talked…
Croft: Exactly. You can talk yourself out of it, which I think was, yeah, I like that advice. I just had to really get my head in the game probably a bit more than normal, because I just felt like things hadn’t gone straight to plan.
iRunFar: Yeah. So how was your race up in the high country? I know at some point you hooked up with Emily Hawgood, your teammate. When did that start happening?
Croft: I caught up to Emily just coming into Robinson Flat, and so then Paul Lind, he told us to work together, like not push each other but just like, yeah, run together and then check in that each, that everyone was… That we were eating and drinking and so yeah, it was just awesome to have her company and like probably a highlight of the day. Just felt kind of like a Sunday long run for a bit.
iRunFar: Probably took some mental strain off?
Croft: Yeah, yeah, I feel like if I wasn’t running with Emily, those miles would have felt a lot tougher.
iRunFar: Got it. So maybe that’s why you looked so sort of fresh or happy at Robinson Flat.
Croft: Yeah, a little bit of acting.
iRunFar: Yeah. So you move into the lead not long thereafter, correct?
Croft: Yeah, I was going down to El Dorado Canyon, I still wasn’t feeling good but then I got in the water and then that climb out I started feeling stronger.
iRunFar: How long… Did you dunk or did you just sit in there?
Croft: No, I just, just full body immersion. Yeah, and then I kind of got into race mode a bit more there, so it was good.
iRunFar: And what did that mean for you? Did you start pushing a little bit more?
Croft: I started pushing a bit more and I just started feeling good. And then, because I felt up until that point that the course was kind of owning me, and I felt that I took a bit more control from there.
iRunFar: So, you felt, did you feel stronger at that time on the climbs or the descents?
Croft: It was the climbs, it was feeling good. Yeah.
iRunFar: So, you’re running up those climbs in the canyons in the middle of the day. Are you hiking some of those as well?
Croft: Well I feel like the one out of El Dorado is at a grade that you can run quite a bit of it. And then, yeah, I think it’s the first canyon, Duncan, where we hiked most of it, it’s quite a bit steeper.
iRunFar: Got it. So you’re out in the front of Western States, you’re not even halfway there, how are you approaching the race at that point? To run fast and hard? To mete your effort out?
Croft: I think it’s 100 miles; you’ve got to do your own thing. I was just concentrating on myself and then I knew I was picking up Alex Varner there and so, yeah, he brought the chat and we were just, we had a really good time. The miles clip by pretty quickly and then yeah, I don’t know I just got into a good flow with him.
iRunFar: Yeah, I won’t repeat some of the topics of discussion that he relayed while crossing the river.
Croft: We ran up behind a couple of guys and they are like, “Gee you guys are having an interesting conversation!”
iRunFar: And indeed you probably were.
Croft: We definitely were, yeah, you forget you are running 100 miles when you’ve got a good chat.
iRunFar: And that’s good, right?
Croft: Yeah, totally. Didn’t want to take it too seriously, like what we do is pretty crazy. And so you’ve got a have a bit of fun out there, while you’re doing it.
iRunFar: While you’re joking around and laughing and having a good time, you’re still taking care of your, having a good time but…
Croft: Oh yeah, totally, I’m still racing hard.
iRunFar: Turns into a fun outing.
Croft: Yeah, totally.
iRunFar: I did hear, in between running with Emily and running with Alex, were you listening to tai chi podcasts?
Croft: [laughs] No, I wasn’t. I’ve been working with this guy on the mental side of things.
Croft: And he sent me, the day before the race, the guy called Lerdsila [Chumpairtour], who is Muay Thai.
iRunFar: Okay, sorry, this is playing telephone.
Croft: No, no, no, it’s about this guy who is really good at what he does but he’s outcome independent and he just loves what he does so when you enjoy what you do, you have good flow. And so I was just trying to channel that.
iRunFar: Was that out of a plan to think about that or were you in a low point?
Croft: No, I think that’s a really good approach to things. It’s just, yeah, I think last year I was trying to really force it when I had real lows. But yesterday I was just trying to go with it and kind of, yeah.
iRunFar: Accept of those little lows when they come?
Croft: Yeah, just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
iRunFar: Doesn’t always have to get worse, right?
Croft: No, not at all. And you’ll come out of the lows eventually.
iRunFar: What was your kind of lowest point during the race?
Croft: It was probably just going up to Pointed Rocks at the end. I was just done and Martin Gaffuri is trying to get me to eat more and I’m just like, checked out at that point. So yeah.
iRunFar: I would love to hear what you actually said in response to that.
Croft: I just stopped talking. And he was like, “Should I stop talking?” And then I just like didn’t respond.
iRunFar: So, you’re having trouble eating, are you still feeling like you’re moving pretty well?
Croft: I’m moving okay but it’s just that point where you’re ready to get to the finish.
iRunFar: But you weren’t like, “Oh crap, the wheels are coming off?”
Croft: No, definitely not. But I think you’re never safe until you get to the track.
iRunFar: Yeah. I remember running Western States early, eat and drink until the white bridge.
Croft: Yeah. Like anything can happen, you can do an ankle or whatever.
iRunFar: That said, I seen you cross the river with Alex, it looked like game over because you looked so strong and in control and mentally still energized.
Croft: I was in a good place there. Yeah, I don’t know much more to say about it.
iRunFar: So, you ended up running a really amazing time. You win the race. Is that everything you could’ve hoped out of the day?
Croft: Yeah, it was just like I said in the interview after the race, it’s just super fun. Like, with Alex and Martin and David are just like, the best crew. They had the dinosaur costumes.
iRunFar: Was being chased by dinosaurs down the Place High track something you knew about ahead of time?
Croft: Well we were just, because we supported a race in New Zealand and I was like the Pink Panther and Martin was the devil and it was just so much fun. But we decided we need to start our costume game. And so we were looking online for cougars, but there were none so we went with some dinosaurs, which [Stephen] Kersh pointed out actually works well because t-rex for Terrex.
iRunFar: Oh, wow, yeah, I had not put that together.
Croft: Pretty well-planned.
iRunFar: I know off-camera we talked about this last year, are you running 100 miles again anytime soon?
Croft: Varner was like, “I’ll see you in 364 days?” And I was like, “No you won’t. I was like, I will not be needing your services next year.”
iRunFar: So it sounds at least for the moment, that you’ve checked the Western States box?
Croft: Yeah, I’ve had two good experiences, fun experiences, and I love Western States, the event, and the volunteers are amazing. But there’s a lot of other races out there.
iRunFar: Joking aside, are there other 100 miles that interest you?
Croft: I would like to do UTMB.
iRunFar: Yeah. You’re not done with the 100-mile distance?
Croft: No, I’m not done with it. But then it’s just the thought of running, what is it? Like seven hours, eight hours more, I guess there’s a lot of hiking in there, too.
iRunFar: There’s some walking, yeah. How about the rest of this season? You got anything else lined up?
Croft: Maybe something in October. Like I originally signed up for CCC, but that was kind of just in case something happened at States.
iRunFar: Cross that one off.
Croft: Yeah, I think so, because like last year I wasn’t recovered in time, just mentally. So I think I’ll do like last year, Les Templiers or something around October.
iRunFar: Nice. Nice fast race?
Croft: Yeah, and then just like slowly recover and kind of start building back up.
iRunFar: I wouldn’t ask this question to most people, but you end up traveling around the world a lot. Are you based in the US a little longer? You’re going to Europe right now? Back to New Zealand?
Croft: I’m going to Mexico. Just for a beach holiday for a few weeks, and then I’ll head over to Europe.
iRunFar: All right, well congratulations on a fun race and a fast race and a great race.
Croft: Awesome, thanks. And thanks to iRunFar for coverage.
iRunFar: Thank you.