Earlier this week, heads were turned in the ultrarunning world when the Western States 100 announced that, beginning in 2022, several 200-mile races would become Western States qualifiers. Now, just two days later, the Western States Board of Trustees has announced that the Western States 100 would become the Western States 200 beginning in 2022.
“For years we have been looking at ways to thin the herd of people applying for our race,” said current Board President Diana Fitzpatrick in a statement this morning. “We recently concluded that our race was simply too easy, so we are now making it twice as long.”
According to the Western States website, the race will become a 200-mile out-and-back course from Olympic Valley to Auburn and back to Olympic Valley in California.
“We were really inspired by Dan Barger’s exploits last year,” notes longtime Western States Trustee and 25-time finisher Tim Twietmeyer. “When Dan was successful in running his own version of the 200 miler, we knew then that it was possible. With his experience, we are confident we can pull this off.”
The race will still begin, as it always has, on the fourth Saturday in June at 5:00 a.m. from the base of Olympic Valley. Runners will run the traditional course to Auburn, round the track at Placer High School, and then proceed back up the road to Robie Point and on back toward Olympic Valley.
“We want to preserve some of the important traditions of the event,” said Race Director Craig Thornley, “so all runners who arrive at Placer High School within 24 hours will be presented with a silver buckle which they will carry with them back to Olympic Valley. All runners who arrive back in Olympic Valley within 60 hours will be permitted to keep their silver buckles. For those who fail to arrive back in time, they will need to exchange their silver buckle for a bronze buckle.” The race will also have an absolute cutoff of 72 hours.
We reached men’s course-record-holder Jim Walmsley to ask what he thought of the new course, which will drop elevation significantly to Auburn only to regain it on the way back to Olympic Valley, “I think it’s a perfect course on which to negative split. And you’ll learn the whole route in the first half of the race, so there’s no chance of wrong turns on the way back.”
Of all the meaningful memories that Western States finishers cherish, perhaps the most important is the opportunity to circle the track in Auburn and have Tropical John Medinger announce your name to the assembled masses. Knowing how important this is, the race organizers have worked to have Tropical John announce the arrival of runners to both the turnaround at Placer High School and the finish line in Olympic Valley.
“You know, the pandemic taught us a lot,” said Tropical John when he was reached for comment at his home in Arizona. “The most important thing we’ve learned is that you don’t have to be present to be present!” So, for about 58 hours of the 2022 race, Tropical John will announce the race via Zoom from the comfort of his own couch. His trusted spouse Lisa Henson will also continue to work with him. “We’ll make lots of trips to the Starbucks around the corner, and Tropical John has enough Hawaiian shirts to put a new one on each hour. We’re ready for this endurance event,” said Henson gleefully.
Reigning women’s champion Clare Gallagher is also looking at the bright side of this new opportunity. “You know how much fun I like to have when I race. I’m hoping for a snow year and the opportunity to butt slide on snow all the way down from the Escarpment to the finish line in Olympic Valley. What a ride this will be!”
Finally, Thornley notes, “We know everyone will be concerned with the start/finish arch because, as many people know, we have one arch that we erect in Olympic Valley and then take down and transfer to Auburn. For the 2022 race, we are adding $5 to the registration fee so that we can purchase a second arch, and this time we are thinking it would be best for it to be a blow-up arch.”
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Their flagship lager, Miller High Life, also known as the “Champagne of Beers,” has long been a favorite at the Western States finish line. Smooth, crisp and hearty, Miller High Life will be the perfect beer with which to celebrate a 200-mile finish.
Call for Comments
- What do you think about the evolving plans for the Western States 200?
- Very simply, has the Western States 100 gotten too easy?