Keep it fair. Keep it Simple. Raise the Bar.
The goal of having qualifying standards is to ensure that the runner knows what he/she is buying into, and to ensure that he/she has a reasonable chance to finish Western States within the time limit of 30 hours. Historically, the minimum standard has been the completion of a 50 mile run under 11 hours. WS has seen a dramatic increase in the number of applicants in its annual lottery, especially since the cancellation of the race due to fires in 2008. With a 369 starter limit imposed on the race by federal legislation, we accept about 400 runners each year. We reserve about 130 entries for race administration (aid stations, trail crew, sweeps, etc.), Montrail Ultra Cup winners, sponsors, raffle winners, overseas runners, members of the Western States Endurance Run Board of Trustees, etc., thus we draw about 270 names at the lottery each December. Here’s the history of the growth of lottery applicants since 2000:
- 2000 – 583 applicants.
- 2005 – 791 applicants.
- 2008 – 1,350 applicants (fire cancellation).
- 2010 – 1,693 applicants (last year for two-time losers).
- 2011 – 1,786 applicants (first year for multiple tickets in the hat).
- 2012 – 1,940 applicants.
- 2013 – 2,295 applicants.
The chances of being one of the lucky 270 drawn last year, with only a single ticket in the bucket, was a scant 7.9%. With the likelihood of continued increase in demand – which parallels the growth of the sport worldwide – if we continue with our current standards and races, the chances of getting selected in the lottery will soon be below 5%. We don’t believe that is good for the race or the runners who get a qualifying time, enter the lottery, and then get rejected in the lottery, some year after year after year.
The WSER Board of Trustees believes that the run should be open to anybody and is hesitant to make the standard faster or to require a 100 mile qualifying run. In 1974, Gordy Ainsleigh ran 100 miles with the horses but had never run 100 miles before that day. Many people who ran the race in the following years had also never run 100 miles before they ran from Squaw Valley to Auburn. The Board respects that history and still wants to provide the opportunity for a runner to stand at the start of the race, stare up at the steep mountains of Squaw, and have little idea of what lies ahead.
But, the Board also realizes that something needs to change to alleviate the increasing pressure on our lottery. Thus, the qualifying standards for entering the WS lottery beginning with the 2015 race are:
- 100K finish in under 16 hours or;
- 100M finish in time allowed by race.
We have limited the number of qualifying races to the largest trail 100 milers domestically, and the largest 100Ks that are also of significant difficulty. The 100K distance aligns better internationally. Worldwide, we’ve included the largest races but also have the goal of geographic diversity so runners from anywhere in the world have an opportunity to run a qualifying race. There are 63 races on the 2015 qualifying races list.
The 2015 qualifying run must be run from Monday, November 11, 2013 through Sunday, November 9, 2014.