Shorter-distance powerhouse Ruth Croft gave 100 miles a shot for the first time at the 2021 Western States 100, and came away with a second-place finish. In this interview, Ruth talks about using the 100-mile mindset to guide her effort all day, how the race for the women’s podium unfolded in the event’s second half, and if she thinks more 100 milers are in her future.
Be sure to read our results article for the full race story and for links to other post-race interviews.
Ruth Croft Post-2021 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, I’m with Ruth Croft, after her second-place finish at the 2021 Western States 100. Hi.
Ruth Croft: Hi, how are you?
iRunFar: The question is how are you?
Croft: I feel like in one day I’ve aged my body at least 10 years.
iRunFar: How old are you feeling at this exact moment?
Croft: Probably over 40, easily.
iRunFar: So you have finished your first hundred miler?
iRunFar: Have you finished your only hundred miler?
Croft: Possibly. At this moment. Maybe if you ask me in a week it might be a bit different, but, yeah, I’m pretty firm on not doing too many 100 milers.
iRunFar: We walked over here into the shade to do this interview and as we were walking you were saying that this race took a big toll on your body?
Croft: Yeah, I think it takes a massive toll on everyone’s, but I just… how I’m feeling, the fatigue, my stomach. I don’t want to be in the state very often. I just don’t think it’s very good for you as a human being.
iRunFar: How is this healthy?
Croft: That’s what I was questioning yesterday.
iRunFar: Alright, so let’s back things up to that beautiful, calm, cool starting line. Back up in Olympic Valley yesterday morning. How did you feel when the race started?
Croft: I was pretty relaxed to be honest and the goal is not to go out too hard and so I was running with Brittany [Peterson] for a while and there was a lead pack of girls that went ahead and I just kind of stuck with Brittany. We had Patrick Reagan just in front of us and I was like, I really don’t need to be ahead of him on this climb.
iRunFar: Given where he finished last time at this race?
Croft: Still I was just like, yeah, I ran quite a bit with Brittany and, then, Emily Hawgood coming into Duncan Canyon and both of them have done hundred milers before. Brittany, obviously, she knows Western States and they’re both coached by Paul [Lind], so I have a lot of respect for Paul so I knew that they know how to approach Western States so if I sat with them, I thought it would be a good place to start.
iRunFar: Was it hard to be that patient though because you race a lot of short distance races where the action starts pretty quick.
Croft: Yeah, but I just knew the hundred miles is such a long way and I could not afford to go out and have a massive suffer fest. I wanted to be conservative because I think otherwise it would just be a really long day out.
iRunFar: So was it, are you saying it was kind of easy to shut off that short distance racing part of your brain?
Croft: Yeah, you just have to. It’s not sustainable to approach it like I would a shorter race. So yeah, for me I thought it was going to be harder, but to be honest I felt like those girls at the front of the pack went out a bit hot, so I was hoping that they would cause some carnage up front and then we could come up from behind.
iRunFar: Which is kind of exactly what happened, ultimately.
Croft: Yeah it did, yep, eventually.
iRunFar: We saw you and Brittany Peterson together at a couple different aid stations, were you guys working together for a real long time or was I just coincidental?
Croft: We were kind of checking in with each other and Britt had said that she felt that the pace was quite hot and I also knew, I had looked up Ellie [Greenwood]’s—that first aid station, the time she had gone in and it was like 1:45, an hour, 45 and we had got in, in an hour 52 so I was like, did not want to be any faster than that. So Britt was saying it was a bit hot and so I was like, we weren’t pushing it.
iRunFar: When did the heat come? It felt like it came early.
Croft: Yeah, it did, but I also think that’s what Western States is about, it’s just about your management throughout the day. It’s about making sure you don’t blow out your quads, make sure you’re staying on top of your nutrition and just making sure at the aid stations you’re getting plenty of ice on board and just getting as wet as possible. So yeah, I think it did come early, but also there’s just so many aid stations that you have, chances to cool your body down if you have the right cooling techniques and that.
iRunFar: I think you really experienced, sort of the grandiosity of the American 100-mile experience, aid stations every hour, lots of ice.
Croft: 5 pounds of ice each and I said to my crew, if you forget something at the aid station I’m not going to get dehydration or stuff up here, it’s going to be fine.
iRunFar: You’re not going to starve on the Western States course.
Croft: I think I heard Eric Senseman had a quesadilla down at Cal Road.
iRunFar: Just stopping in at the food truck.
Croft: Yeah. Get what you want.
iRunFar: The next one will be Starbucks.
iRunFar: Get your cappuccino. Was there ever a switch to like, okay now I’m really racing or was it just management, management, management all day.
Croft: It was pretty much get to Foresthill, don’t blow your quads out and then start getting moving there. That’s when I picked up Alex Varner and it was super refreshing and he just kind of talked my ear off, so I forgot I was even running 100 miles.
iRunFar: He’s like a radio station you can tune into?
Croft: Yeah, he’s just like, tell me if you want me to shut up. I’m like, no you’re good.
iRunFar: Do I need to participate?
Croft: It was just a lot of uh, uh, okay, no. But yeah, I just went for a really kind of bad patch because it’s still–everyone says is quite hot until Foresthill, but it’s still superhot down to the river and there’s a lot of sections where is quite exposed and so I kind of had a rough patch going into Rucky Chucky, but then I was still able to get moving so it was good.
iRunFar: When did you move into second-place position exactly?
Croft: I passed Ragna [Debats] coming into Auburn Lakes Trail.
iRunFar: How are you feeling? You feeling like I’m going to hunt who’s in front of me? I’m going to run from behind me or I’m just going to survive this?
Croft: I was kind of just focusing on what was in front of me. I think I knew Beth [Pascall] was just a bit out of reach and so then I was just trying to keep eating and keep moving forward and just not worry about what’s happening behind me. I’m just hoping that I was able to get a bit of a pace on Ragna, a gap I mean on Ragna. Going into… I found out at the end she was only three or four minutes behind me at Pointed Rocks, which isn’t much. And then I was worried actually about Brittany, because I thought she was going to do what she did to Clare Gallagher, which is not what I wanted, and then she’d probably turn off her head torch as well and we wouldn’t even know she was behind us.
iRunFar: Until she was there.
Croft: So you’re kind of running scared but also I was not moving well on the descents, I was moving faster on the flats than the down hills, I was starting to hurt by the end.
iRunFar: What was it like to do that really cool final mile finish of this race and come onto the track and put 100 miles behind you?
Croft: Yeah, it’s awesome because going into it it’s just pretty daunting, like it’s a long way but just the whole day, just that atmosphere out there and just to get the full Western States experience was, yeah I really enjoyed it.
iRunFar: Finishing in the top 10 of this race, finishing in second place affords you with an automatic entry to 2022.
iRunFar: So should we now talk about that?
Croft: We don’t need to go there yet.
iRunFar: That’s not really good right now, Meghan. Are you continuing your adventures in America after the race?
Croft: I’m actually going to Costa Rica for a few weeks, leave on Tuesday, non-running holiday and then I’ll head over to Europe in the back half the season. I am signed up for CCC, but I’m also kind of aware that this has probably taken a massive toll and don’t want to go into it if my mind or body’s not in the right space for it.
iRunFar: I feel like Costa Rica recovery could be a really good way to speed recovery up.
Croft: Because I thought if I went straight to Europe and probably be tempted by the mountains to just do way too much running, too soon, so it was kind of a strategical holiday.
iRunFar: Now you’ll be tempted by the water and rum.
Croft: Which is a way better alternative. Then the mountains right now.
iRunFar: Amazing. Well it was really fun to watch you take a hit at your first hundred-mile race and it was really fun to watch you hit it out of the park.
Croft: Yeah, well thanks and thanks for all your coverage as well. I know my family and friends back in New Zealand really appreciated it.
iRunFar: Refresh, refresh, refresh.
iRunFar: Congrats to you, Ruth.
Croft: Thanks, Meghan.