As anyone reading this knows, I am pretty obsessed by Western States. For some people, their dream race is Spartathlon or Badwater or Leadville. For me, it is Western States.
When I first obsessed about it having read a certain book, I didn’t know one other ultrarunner in the world. For me alone, I had no idea races were held that were longer than a marathon, let alone 100 miles. In the mountains. At altitude. In summer.
So whilst I now know how some people see this race as oversubscribed, overrated and not ‘tough’ enough, to that I say I don’t care. It is what got me into this sport and whilst it has opened up a whole lifetime (and more) of other races I would love to do, Western States will always be my motivator until the day comes I enter the small town of Auburn, California for one loop of the Placer High School track having run 100 miles from Squaw Valley. It is where trail 100 mile races began.
I crewed there in 2012 and am returning this summer to crew again and just be a part of it.
A few things have changed recently for Western States which I am really pleased about. In short, the change to application process and number of tickets in the hat for consecutive applicants is about to change. The list of qualifying races has been halved and they now include only select 100km and 100 mile races as recognised qualifiers. Immediately it is deemed that this will ensure a large decrease in applicants, having whittled out the 50 mile option.
In addition, a new formula has been incorporated which means each subsequent year you successfully qualify and apply but fail to gain entry you double your number of tickets in the draw. The below lays this out:
- First year applicants will have 1 ticket (2^0).
- Second year applicants will have 2 tickets (2^1).
- Third year applicants will have 4 tickets (2^2).
- Fourth year applicants will have 8 tickets (2^3).
- Fifth year applicants will have 16 tickets (2^4).
- Sixth year applicants will have 32 tickets (2^5).
Previously if it was your fifth year, you had five tickets, third year- three tickets and so on.
So, this diminishes my chance of getting in next year with just two tickets in the draw (if I complete my qualifier…) and heavily boosts the chances (quite rightly) of someone who has dedicated years to trying.
What it does mean, is that whilst unlikely statistically to qualify next year or the year after, my chances of running this race ever are greatly increased and, mathematically, as long as I qualify each year in theory I should be on that starting line at some point in the next two to eight years.
But what do I want to do between now and then? I am not going to list all of my dream races, but each year I don’t get into Western States I want to line something up equally good. Until recently, this was other 100 milers and whilst this is still the case, something else has also come to my attention. Two races in fact.
Ann Trason needs no introduction. But what does, is the fact she has recently become Race Director of something brand new: http://trasontrailruns.com/oer/course/100k/
This race takes in the latter two thirds of the Western States course, starting in Forresthill and heading out to Michigan Bluff before looping and re-joining the trail before heading all the way to Auburn. OK, it is not the Western States race, but it’s about as close as I can get right now, run by a legend, fully supported and most importantly there is no lottery. Sign up, pay and run.
There is also a shorter race that has just been announced on just the hot and tough Canyon section of the course: http://www.runcanyons.com/
I now know where I will be in September 2015 if I fail to get into ‘The Big Dance’. I’ll be at ‘The Littler Dance’ and experiencing first hand where it all began.