After earning his Golden Ticket entry at the 2019 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile and a three-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, France’s Seb Spehler finally gets to race the Western States 100. In the following interview, Seb talks about how he feels going into his first 100-mile race, why Western States is the one 100 miler he wants to do, and what it’s been like to wait three years for this weekend’s race.
Seb Spehler Pre-2022 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Seb Spehler. It’s a couple of days before the 2022 Western States 100. And we have Camille Bruyas translating for us today. Thank you, hello.
Seb Spehler: Hello. Thank you.
iRunFar: You are a California local now. You’ve been here for, is it the whole month of June?
Spehler: My third travel in California.
iRunFar: And this is not your first time to California, is this your third time racing here? The North Face 50 Mile Championships, the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, and now Western States?
Spehler: Yes. Lake Sonoma, I finished [second], Jared [Hazen] was the winner. North Face Challenge, I win the race. Yes. And Western States.
iRunFar: You must like California, you keep returning?
Spehler: I love USA, generally. I love California, it’s beautiful, sun, sunny. It’s cool for me, I love California.
iRunFar: This part of California is different from where you were in San Francisco and Sonoma. There are bears and lots of snow and big mountains. This is different, yeah?
Spehler [Bruyas translating]: Yes. It’s different than Lake Sonoma, the tracks are a little similar in the forest and it’s runnable like Lake Sonoma, so yeah, the beginning is different but the major part of the race is similar.
[car alarm sounds]
iRunFar: Now we have a car alarm! You have been on the entry list for Western States for a few years but because of COVID-19, you haven’t been able to come here. When did you originally get on this race entrants list?
Spehler [Bruyas translating]: Yeah, he had his ticket in Lake Sonoma three years ago.
iRunFar: 2019, yeah?
Spehler [Bruyas translating]: 2019. And yeah, he said thanks to the organization too, because last year it could be possible to come but it was really hard for the Europeans to come to the U.S., so he decided to [postpone] his travel and so yeah, thanks to the organization.
iRunFar: So, you have been waiting to run your first 100-mile race for now three years?
Spehler: It’s my first 100, yes.
iRunFar: But you have been waiting and waiting and waiting to do it.
Spehler: Yes, yes, yes. But it’s not a problem. Experience, experience, experience.
iRunFar: You are three years more experienced now.
Spehler: I’m very experienced.
iRunFar: I love it. You have excelled at lots of distances in shorter trail. 50 miles, below 50 miles, Trail World Championships distances. What makes you want to run 100 miles?
Spehler: Just Western States.
iRunFar: Just this one?
Spehler: The Western States is, it’s a race, my dream. Yes.
Spehler [Bruyas translating]: As a runner, Western States, it’s a dream for him. And yeah, his only 100 miles, yeah, like a dream.
iRunFar: So last year Ruth Croft ran her first 100 miles here and she said, “only one.” Will this be your only one also?
Spehler [Bruyas translating]: He just wants to discover a new distance and yeah, he likes 80 kilometers, 100k, and he doesn’t know if he will like 100 miles. So yeah, he can answer this question just after Western. Yeah, probably he wants to improve the number of kilometers or miles in his career. Why not?
iRunFar: I love it. Western States sort of has this, I don’t know, this thing built around it like an aura or history. What has it been like for you to see that from afar, from France, to want to do it and now to be here and be a part of it? What’s that like?
Spehler [Bruyas translating]: He heard about Western States since a long time, he knows that some French races are inspired by Western States, like Les Templiers. And he makes the trail running in France improve a lot with this old race in U.S. Yeah, he just wants to start the race and see, yeah, he is very excited about that on Saturday.
iRunFar: I love it. My last question for you, I saw on your social media a very interesting set of photos of a mama bear and two baby bears. You got to see little bears?
Spehler: For me it’s formidable. Because I very, very love the animals. California, for me it’s very cool, bear, coyote, found a snake. It’s fabulous for me.
iRunFar: The snakes are fabulous?
Bruyas: Yes, yes. All animals are super fine for him. So he really enjoy, he really enjoys this and he found this bear in Sequoia Park I think it was in 2019.
iRunFar: Okay, okay. Previous trip.
Bruyas: Yeah. But he saw a bear during a training last weekend. So yeah, yeah. But he was not scared, just like “wow, super nice.”
iRunFar: You’re very lucky to see bears.
Spehler: Yes, very. The first time I look at a bear in a car, it’s okay, it’s very cool. But in running, wow. It’s fantastic.
iRunFar: Different. Different when it’s just you and it.
Spehler: Yes. Just he and me. Not car, wow, fantastic.
iRunFar: Best of luck to you as you run the Western States course on Saturday and I’ll look forward to your animal stories afterward.
Spehler: Thank you.