The Western States 100 Award Ceremony : A True Endurance Event

Unlike my first two Western States synchroblog posts (a call for WS Board transparency and sharing WS memories), I’ll be […]

By on April 2, 2009 | Comments

Unlike my first two Western States synchroblog posts (a call for WS Board transparency and sharing WS memories), I’ll be terse and to the point. The awards ceremony for the Western States 100 needs to be shorter or in a different location. For the record, my vote is for the former. Read on to find out why I think this will be difficult, how it might be done, and how it shouldn’t be done.

Before getting into why and how I think the Western States 100 awards ceremony needs to change, I want to acknowledge that this is far easier said than done. I know that recognizing each and every athlete who covers the race in the allotted time has great significance to both the race and the runners. While I don’t remember receiving my first buckle at the 2004 WS awards ceremony, I do remember being heads down on a lunch table with Gary Knipling, chatting with my fellow Virginia Happy Trails Running Club members, and taking various photos with the group after the ceremony. I can recall few instances in which I’ve felt more pride in my ultrarunning that getting called up with the 19-hour group in 2005… in shaking the hands of other such runners, I felt like I was welcomed into a circle of achievement. I’m sure that others who achieve their goals, whatever they are, also feel the same sort of cementing of the achievement during the awards ceremony. The ceremony is also a place to cement friendships and rivalries, as I did following an epic journey in 2006 and a fierce battle for the under-30 age group victory in 2005. With all that in mind, something still needs to give.

From my first Western States award ceremony, I’ve thought it was too long. This was more than confirmed during the tortuous “hot year” awards ceremony in 2006 at which I felt nauseous and seemed on the brink of passing out for hours on end. I doubt I was alone. As noted above, I don’t think WS can do away with calling up each runner who breaks 30 hours. However, perhaps there’s a way to provide less information about each runner during the ceremony? In addition, since people know their finishing time in advance of the ceremony, why not ask for all folks in a given hour to assemble at the side of the presentation area at the same time and then individually recognize them. That would save tons of time as there would be at most 15 sets of long, labored walks to the front rather than 300 and folks would still get to be individually acknowledged. I’d also suggest cutting recognition of runners who finish in over 30 hours from the ceremony, but this is practice I can’t see being reversed. Don’t get me wrong – I know and admire the determined athletes who finish in over 30 hours; however, they failed to meet the stated standard for recognition. Perhaps even more controversial, but even more appropriate would be to cut all speeches, talks, and awards for those other than finishers. There are two days of well-attended events in Squaw Valley before the race at which other noteworthy accomplishments could be recognized.

So why don’t I favor a change in location? Well, for starters, I don’t know of any better options that the fields at Placer High. While the cafeteria may have worked in the past, the event has outgrown the confines of any single room in the high school. Besides, the cafeteria would be cramped and would still be uncomfortably warm in a hot year. More important, it’s splendid that the award ceremony is held at the finish for a multitude of reasons. First, it’s logistically easy for the race, competitors, and spectators. After a long day and night (and possibly day) of running or working, logistical ease is paramount. Second, there are few grander traditions in our sport than all those assembled for the award ceremony cheering whole-heartedly for those competitors finishing in the race’s final hour… or bravely continuing to the finish even after the cutoff time has passed.

Let me know what you think about the Western States 100’s awards ceremony. Too long? Too short? Just right? Needs beer? (j/k, it’s at a high school, folks!)

In this month’s Western States synchroblog what each contributor provides an idea to improve the race. The group may or may not stay on task. While I’d normally provide a glimpse into each contributor’s suggestion and provide a link directly to their post, I will have been out of the country for more than a week before this post is published, so those details weren’t available when I finished writing this post. Anyway, I know I look forward to reading what these guys have to say when I return from Morocco:

  • Craig Thornley wants to check your stride and your smile on the track
  • Sean Meissner agrees – extra buckles=pointless schwag
  • Andy Jones-Wilkins wants to ban 100 mile rookies from Western States
  • Scott Dunlap’s dreams of a Twittered Western States
Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.