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2016 Runner Survey Results

Here are the results of the independent WSER Runner Survey from the June 25-26, 2016 race, conducted by ultralive.net.

All runners have to go through check-in the day before the race in Squaw Valley and the survey team was positioned at the entrance of the check-in. Participation was completely voluntary and 94% of starters took some extra time to answer the questions. And we were able to correlate the data to finish times to make the analysis even more interesting.

Here are the surveys from 2014 and 2015.

Survey Questions

The runners were asked the following questions:

  • Number of 100’s completed
  • Number of years running ultras
  • Will they use a crew?
  • Will they use a pacer?
  • Did they attend the Memorial weekend training camp
  • Shoe brand
  • Sock brand
  • Pack Type
  • Lighting system
  • Did they pay for coaching services?

For 2016 edition of the WSER, there were 353 official starters, 280 finishers (79.3%) in under 30 hours, and 102 finishing (28.9%) under 24 hours for the coveted Silver Buckle.

The survey had 351 participants and all of the sub 24 hour finishers are included in the survey. A total of 277 of the 280 finshers (99%) are in the survey.

Note: All graphs show numbers related to runners who participated in the survey and finished the race. DNS and DNF are not included in the final graphs.

Finish Hour

For sub 24 hour finishers, 30 out of 102 (29.4%) finished in the 23rd hour of the race to get a silver buckle. In the last two hours of the race, there were 113 (40%) finishers. The busiest times on the track are between 4-5 AM and 9-11 AM on Sunday morning. The graphs show the distribution of finishers by hour (15 hours to 29 hours). The first graph shows the average number of years running ultras compared to finishing time. The data implies that the number of years of experience does not correlate to a faster or slower finish time. The second graph shows the number of runners utilizing a crew or pacer compared to finishing time. Of the survey participants, 25 finished without a crew and 36 finished without a pacer. And 17 hardcore participants finished without a crew and pacer (NCNP). And finally, 4 of the 17 NCNP earned a Silver Buckle.

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survey_2016_crew_pacer (2)

Shoes

For the third year in a row Hoka was the dominant shoe for all finishers regardless of the group. Altra is now a strong second shoe of choice regardless of the finish time. Brooks fell to third most popular shoe with the overall finishers. Some runners did plan to change shoes during the race and may have changed to a different brand, but the data reflects only the brand that they started the race wearing.

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Socks

Injinji was the clear choice again for all finishers. Drymax’s popularity increased since last year though it still remained a close second in both groups.

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survey_2016_sock_sub24

Paid Coaching Services

There was a slight increase in the number of athletes using coaching services but it is still a relatively low percentage of the finishers. Maybe because a lot of the coaches actually ran the race this year. Or ultrarunners are an independent bunch and don’t like a training schedule. The percentage was nearly identical to last year (2015 – 17.2%)

Although most of the data presented here reflects only finishers, it is interesting to include that of all starters, 40% used a coaching service.

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survey_2016_paid_coaching_sub24

Memorial Weekend Training Camp

The training camp held on Memorial Weekend was well attended by both types of finishers and both groups had nearly identical percentages. While previewing the course definitely helps it is not required to finish the race.

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survey_2016_training_camp_sub24

Lighting

For the second year in a row, Petzl was the favorite light brand for runners finishing the race.

This year only first place finisher Andrew Miller (sub 16 hours) ran without the assistance of a light as compared to 5 in 2015.

survey_2016_lighting

survey_2016_lighting_sub24

Packs

Ultimate Direction dominated again as the choice of pack for both sub 24 hour and overall finishers. For the faster runners (sub 24), the Salomon pack was second favorite and Nathan was third. This order flip-flopped for the overall finishers.

Handhelds: many runners did not carry a pack. 32% of the sub 24 hour finishers preferred this method. Only 19% of the overall finishers used handheld bottles.

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survey_2016_pack_sub24

Data Accuracy

  • 353 runners started the 2016 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run
  • Ultralive.net team surveyed a majority of those runners through the registration process at Squaw
  • Final survey reflects N = 351 athletes though individual questions may vary if athlete did not answer or know answer
  • All graphs reflect data from the group of athletes who completed the race (277 of the 280 finishers completed the survey)

 

Credits

The team would like to thank all of the runners who took time to talk with us and answer these questions.

Many thanks to the ultralive.net survey team: Kara Teklinski, Emily Yu and Jessi Goldstein.

Analysis by Kara Teklinski and Ted Knudsen.

2016 WS 100 Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: John Trent, media relations, (775) 842-4871, president@wser.org

43rd WESTERN STATES 100-MILER FEATURES WIDE-OPEN MEN’S RACE, POTENTIALLY CLASSIC MATCHUP IN WOMEN’S RUN

A first-time champion will be crowned in men’s race; women’s race features defending champion Magdalena Boulet

For the first time in several years, the men’s race of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run appears to be wide open, with several of the world’s top ultra runners vying on June 25-26, 2016, to become a first-time champion. The women’s race will feature defending champion Magdalena Boulet, a former U.S. Olympic Marathon team member, who will be challenged by one of the deepest women’s fields in recent memory.

A field of more than 360 entrants from more than 30 countries, and more than 40 states will make the 43rd annual, 100.2-mile trek on Saturday morning from Squaw Valley, Calif., the site of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games, before finishing at Placer High School in Auburn, Calif.

Western States, known as the world’s oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail run, has a 30-hour time limit.

Boulet, 42, of Oakland, Calif., made her Western States debut in 2015 and despite going off course briefly early in the run, won in 19:05. The former UC-Berkeley track and cross-country standout has had a strong spring of training and racing, highlighted by her victory in the Canyons 100K (held in the iconic “Canyons” section of the Western States Trail) in May.

Boulet will be pressed by a number of strong female runners, including Kaci Lickteig of Omaha, Neb. The 29-year-old known as the “Pixie Ninja” finished second to Boulet in 2015, and posted a strong win on the mountainous Silver State 50-miler in Nevada in May. At least 20 other women have the potential of finishing in the women’s top 10, among them 55-year-old Meghan Arbogast, of Cool, Calif., who will be attempting to finish her 10th Western States – all in under 24 hours.

Another notable women’s entrant is Gunhild Swanson, 71, of Spokane Valley, Wash., who established the race’s over-60 record in 2005 in 25:40. She again made history last year with her dramatic finish, sprinting through the final 100 meters on the Placer High track with hundreds of assembled spectators screaming and cheering. Swanson finished a scant six seconds under the run’s 30-hour time limit to become the oldest female finisher in Western States history.

With two-time defending champion Rob Krar choosing not to run this year, Western States will crown a first-time champion for the first time since Krar’s first victory in 2014. The top returning runner from last year’s top 10 is Thomas Lorbanchlet, of France, who finished fifth. The field doesn’t lack talent or accomplishment, however, as among the entrants are Francois D’Haene, a former Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc (UTMB) champion who finished 14th at Western States last year; David Laney of Portland, Ore., who finished third at UTMB last year and was eighth at Western States in 2016; Sage Canaday, of Boulder, Colo., a former U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier who has excelled on the American tour of 50-mile and 100K distances; first-time 100-mile runner Jim Walmsley, of Flagstaff, Ariz., the JFK 50-mile and Sonoma 50-mile champion; and perhaps the most consistent 100-mile racer in the world in Ian Sharman, of Bend, Ore., who has placed in the top 10 at Western States for six consecutive years.

In an effort to celebrate the event, the Placer County Visitor Bureau has created two large banners which will be flying in Auburn. The group is also organizing a beer garden across from the track from 7-11 p.m. on Saturday. The finish line is open to the public and all are encouraged to attend. The first male will finish sometime around 7:30 p.m. or 8 p.m., with the first female to finish around 10 p.m.

WHAT: 43nd running of the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run

WHEN: Saturday, June 25, 5 a.m. start at Squaw Valley, Calif., finish at Placer High School, Auburn, Calif. More than 360 trail runners from more than 30 countries and more than 40 states to compete.

Western States is Now Cup-Free

This year WSER is dumping the cup. In other words, aid stations will no longer provide cups for drinking. Instead, runners and pacers will need to carry their own cups, or better yet simply rely on their water bottles or hydration packs in order to drink beverages at the aid stations. Collapsible cups will be available at the WSER store for runners who may wish to purchase one before the race.

Our new cupless initiative is just one small step in our continuing effort to adopt more sustainable event practices. It will keep an estimated 21,000 disposable cups out of the waste stream and save the race approximately $900 in operation expenses each year.

WSER is also continuing to partner with Placer County and members of the Placer High School Music Boosters to recycle as much as we can. Special containers will be placed at all aid stations and throughout the finish line area to collect aluminum and plastic beverage containers, which the Boosters redeem to support student participation in Placer High School’s various music programs.

210982 - Trash & Recycling Labels-proof 4

The remainder of our race’s garbage is processed through Placer County’s One Big Bin recycling program. Placer is one of only six counties in California that operates a mixed waste Materials Recovery Facility also known as a dirty MRF which functions to separate recyclable materials from the waste stream. The MRF has enabled the county to achieve a 100% participation rate in its recycling program, and successfully diverts up to 50% of the overall materials it collects from our landfill.

Race director emeritus Greg Soderlund, a transformational figure in the history of Western States, passes away

For a man who never lost his cool, whose thin, veined hands were always steady, whose voice was gentle and understatedly calm and informed by an uncommon amount of patience and decency and who lived his life as a race director by a simple code – “Never let your runners see you sweat” – there was always one sight that made him pause and think about what would lay ahead for the runners of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run.

“That headwall,” Greg Soderlund once told a friend a few years ago. Soderlund held a cup of his favored Starbucks in his hand, stretched his long legs and pointed them to the nearby mountains and the majestic stone headwall rising golden in the sun-drenched morning a couple of thousand feet above the floor of Squaw Valley. Soderlund flashed one of his trademark grins, which always seemed to border on being shy, as if he was always careful, caring of how far his conversation was to pull you in. “Even with all of the training and the preparation, running Western States can become something of an abstraction.

Greg Soderlund

Greg Soderlund

“But when our runners drive to this spot for the first time, and they look up at that headwall, Western States becomes completely and surprisingly very real to them. You can see it in their faces, and read it in their eyes. For the first time since the lottery in December, they realize they’ve taken on a full challenge that, for many of them, is a challenge of a lifetime. And that’s what I try to always remember as the race director of our race. Western States has to be special. It has to be something that our runners will talk about their entire lives – a day, a night, and maybe a next day, that when they talk about it years from now, it has changed their lives forever.”

True to his word, Soderlund, who served as Western States’ race director for 13 years, from 2000-2012, with an additional year as a consultant, made each Western States he directed memorable for thousands of runners and thousands more of volunteers and race personnel.

The Run that he wished would change lives did just that.

Lives that were altered included his own.

“It’s changed my life,” Soderlund said of Western States in a 2013 interview, not long after he announced his retirement due to health considerations. “It’s been my focus for 13 ½ years.”

Soderlund, who had battled cancer for more than three years and had remained active until only the past few weeks, passed away at around 8 p.m., on Monday, April 11, with his wife, Mary, at his side at the couple’s home in Sacramento, Calif.

Soderlund was 68 years old.

John Medinger, president of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run Board of Trustees, called Soderlund a “giant” in the sport.

“He was our race director for 13 years – the most unflappable RD ever,” Medinger said. “Nothing ever seemed to bother him. He was one of the kindest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. He did everything the right way – a true giant in our sport.”

Added Mo Livermore, one of the Run’s founders and the longest-serving member of the Western States Board: “It was that twinkle in his eye, and that wry grin … It made you smile, just to be around Greg. With irrepressible optimism and boundless enthusiasm for all things Western States, Greg energetically, masterfully, and carefully nurtured the growth and development of the organization at a challenging time in the race’s history, while honoring and preserving its founding principles and core values.”

As Livermore noted, it was Soderlund’s remarkable abilities of organization, tempered by the warmth of his personality, which drew others to him, galvanized the volunteer base of the Run, and set Western States on a course of unprecedented and historic growth and world-wide notoriety, firmly cementing its place on the ultra landscape as the most competitive 100-mile trail run in the world.

Under Soderlund’s direction, Western States saw its annual lottery swell to nearly 2,000 applicants from only a few hundred before he assumed his duties. Working closely with presenting sponsor Montrail, Soderlund helped Montrail develop a series of Western States qualifying races, called the Montrail Ultra Cup, which fostered greater competitive depth of the elite men’s and women’s fields, making Western States “the” first choice of the sport’s most talented trail runners. In addition, Soderlund’s tenure as race director was marked by trail maintenance efforts, volunteer numbers, sponsorships and medical research projects that all reached record levels.

Mark Falcone, a longtime Board member and also the Run’s longtime trail boss, said a Soderlund strength was the great breadth of abilities he possessed. Soderlund, Falcone said, was very involved not only in the management of the Run, but in establishing the foundation of trail work volunteers that continues to power the event today.

“The Western States Trail itself was Greg’s love,” Falcone said. “I remember in 2004 when he started the push to get Duncan Canyon open (following a devastating 2001 fire). He pulled in so many great folks and started the true collaboration of trail stewardship.

“The best part of all of this is Greg fostered this joint trail vision with the goal of preserving the forest and the event’s true route. He deserves so much credit for making this happen.”

Falcone then chuckled, recalling further when fellow Board and trail team member Donn Zea acquired the talents of an explosives expert that helped rid the trail of dangerous remnants of burned-out trees. The rather shaggy-looking explosives expert, to put it mildly, did not exactly inspire initial confidence in Soderlund, who had served in the military during Vietnam and was always impeccably dressed, in freshly pressed clothing and with a clean-shaven face.

And yet, Falcone said, Soderlund quickly found common ground with the explosives crew.

“The best part of the Duncan adventure was Donn’s Yosemite Sam Acme Explosives Crew,” Falcone said. “The look on Greg’s face when we blew up trees with, yes, dynamite, was pure boyish. Greg’s smile … a memory seared into my brain. The Western States Trail will always have his spirit.”

“I can say quite literally Greg had a wonderful impact on my life,” added Zea, who recalled it was through his work with The Forest Foundation, one of the Run’s eventual partners in an agreement that was forged with Soderlund, that brought Zea more actively into involvement with the Run. “I’ll never forget the look on his face at the 2006 lottery when, on my last of 10 draws from the Gatorade bucket, I handed him the ticket with my name on it and he gave me that Soderlund grin.

“I will miss him.”

Board member Tia Bodington first met Soderlund during the Western States Memorial Day Weekend Training Camp in 2001.

“I was camping at the group camp near Foresthill, and this guy shows up and starts to put up a tarp to protect some race gear,” said Bodington, who is also race director of one of the country’s most successful 100K’s, Miwok, in the Marin Headlands. “He was struggling to do it by himself so I wandered over to help and discovered that he was none other than the Western States RD – Greg Soderlund. We corresponded about race management periodically ever since then and I learned a lot about race directing from Greg, but that first day in 2001 is what made a huge impression on me – when all is said and done, it is the race director’s job to make sure every detail is taken care of.”

Ironically, the Run that Soderlund would help elevate initially received a pleasant “no” from him when he was asked if he would like to be a candidate to succeed the retiring Norm Klein as race director.

It was 1999, and Soderlund was already an eminently successful RD of four major northern California ultras, plus the Four Bridges half-marathon in Folsom, Calif.

“I looked at it and said, ‘No,’” Soderlund recalled in 2013. “To be fair to the other races, I knew I just didn’t have the time (for Western States).”

Eventually, though, Soderlund did become a candidate, and by early 2000 he was in charge of the world’s oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail run.

“My initial impression of Greg was his incredible ability to take a 360-degree view of the Run and appropriately allocate his attention from the least complex to most complex details,” said Charles Savage, who was president of the Board when Soderlund was chosen. “There was no panic button on his dash. Greg was great with volunteers and to his credit he attracted a devoted team who would do anything to help out at the Run.”

Added Medinger, also on the Board then: “Greg was the obvious choice … the only choice, really.”

Soderlund very quickly took his role seriously.

“Somebody once said Western States is like getting married,” he said. “For six months, you wake up every morning and think about it. For six months, you go to bed each night and then you dream about it. Every day for six months, it’s the first thing and the last thing you think about. So, yes, I was feeling a lot of pressure that first year to make sure we got everything right.”

Denis Zilaff, a Western States Board member who has also been a key player in the development and success of the California International Marathon, was a friend to Soderlund for more than 25 years. He remembered Soderlund, a trained surgeon’s assistant, as someone who was exceedingly caring of all runners, of all ability levels.

“At every training run or race, Greg passed on words of wisdom,” Zilaff said. “He knew why runners get into trouble or fail to finish races and he would always caution runners about those issues. I’ve heard Greg give advice to those as experienced as (five-time Western States champion) Tim Twietmeyer as well as the person running his first ultra. This combination of organization, caring and mentoring made Greg special and set him apart from other race directors.”

For Twietmeyer, a five-time race champion, 25-time finisher and past president of the Board, Soderlund represented the perfect amalgam of scientific knowledge, insight into the human condition, and a strong spirit that even if it didn’t always find perfection, worked every day to achieve it.

Soderlund served in the Vietnam War as a surgeon’s assistant in a MASH unit and for many years was considered one of the top orthopedic surgical assistants in Sacramento. There were few crises – or seeming crises – that Soderlund hadn’t already calmly faced.

“Greg had this great balance between organization, with attention to detail, and an easy-going, calm personal style,” Twietmeyer said. “I’m sure his military background and hospital work taught him to be calm in a crisis. What glued it all together was that he was fun to work with. He had this great balance which is really remarkable.”

Twietmeyer said he always liked to tease Soderlund that as race director of the world’s best-known ultra, “Greg was earning about 45 cents an hour because he worked so endlessly at improving the event. It was all in fun, because I knew how Greg was: He’d work every hour of the day to get the race just the way he envisioned it. He told me that he obviously wasn’t in it for the pay, that his real reward was seeing the outpouring of runner elation and the genuine ‘thank you’ he’d receive as he hung the medallion onto the neck of another finisher.

“He knew by experience how finishing the race changed people’s lives and wanted to see that first-hand by being there to greet them at the finish line.”

Gary Towle, Western States’ longtime treasurer who quickly became one of Soderlund’s closest friends following Soderlund’s appointment as RD in 2000, said Soderlund was never de-railed by setbacks. This included the painful process of regular home-administered dialysis treatments over the past few years as Soderlund battled cancer. His cancer had included removal of both kidneys.

Despite the constant checks of pathology and dialysis, there was always a sense of optimism, Towle said.

“Greg was always future-oriented,” Towle said of Soderlund, who maintained a vigorous walking schedule, along with daily sets of pushups.

Soderlund recovered enough of his fitness during his illness to walk the Davis Stampede Half-Marathon in 2014. And, there was even a time where he engaged in a running duel for a mile with a landscaper who was sitting on an excruciatingly slow moving lawn mower.

“I think I got the better of him that day,” Soderlund said, chuckling. Of his cancer, Soderlund said he honestly did not have time to fill his days with negative thoughts. “I don’t give myself time,” he said. “I see all the positives.”

He was also a devoted husband. His wife of nearly 30 years, Mary, was always a key contributor to the Run, and, Soderlund often said, the perfect partner.

“She’s been my cheerleader, my advisor on business decisions – she’s got a good business head on her shoulders,” Soderlund said. “I would constantly run things by her, even before I would call the board president. There’s a lot of Mary in this race, too, though people may not realize it.”

Towle recalled that one of Soderlund’s final “good days” occurred on April 2, during the American River 50-Mile, a run that starts in Folsom and winds up the American River drainage to the Auburn Overlook, which is only a stone’s throw away from Placer High School and the finish of the Western States 100.

“I picked Greg up at his house and we went to his favorite restaurant in Auburn,” Towle said. “He wolfed down a huge breakfast and we headed for the AR 50 finish line where he visited all his running community buddies and cheered on the finishers. After the women’s winner, Devon Yanko, finished, I asked Greg if he wanted to head home. Greg said, ‘Not until Tim finishes. He should be in about 7:50.’

“Tim finished in 7:49. Greg cheered him in, and was ready to go home to rest.”

Details of a memorial service, which will likely be held in a few months, will be made available via the Western States website.

Dr. Bob Lind, pioneering medical director and key figure in history of Western States, passes away at age 81

Dr. Robert Lind, founding board member, medical director emeritus and a towering figure in the history of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, passed away on March 2.

Lind, who had been battling cancer, was 81.

“Bob was a genuinely kind and enthusiastic man,” said John Medinger, president of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run Board of Trustees. “He contributed hugely to the advancement of medical knowledge of endurance running, and encouraged hundreds of distressed runners to make it to the finish line. An old-school doctor, he famously said that he’d examine a runner and make a determination by ‘looking into his eyes to see if his soul had separated from his body.’

“He was a huge part of the Western States family. It’s hard to imagine the race without him.”

As Medinger indicated, Lind’s influence on the Run was profound.

Lind’s association with Western States began in August 1974, when a family friend, runner and Tevis Cup competitor Gordy Ainsleigh ran the 100-mile distance of the Tevis Cup from Squaw Valley to Auburn in under 24 hours. Lind, a physician from Roseville, Calif., had served as the medical director for the riders of the Tevis Cup. He was on hand throughout the day and night to monitor Ainsleigh’s physical condition.

Over the next three decades, until his retirement in 2006, Lind would serve as Western States’ medical director, meticulously recording vital signs and other medical data on lined sheets that after each Run, he stored in his garage at his home in Roseville. The data have since become a living medical record of the Run. Lind’s medical assistance for a race field that grew from three finishers in 1977 to a federally mandated limit of 369 runners over the final two decades of his tenure, has often been credited for the Run’s increasingly high finish rates.

Western States runners through the years took Lind’s sagacious advice on fueling and pacing to heart. They would quote verbatim the understatedly thoughtful instructions Lind would deliver during the run’s pre-race briefing in Squaw Valley.

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Five-time Western States champion, 25-time Run finisher and board member Tim Twietmeyer recalled listening to Lind in the spring of 1980 during a Western States clinic at the old State Theatre in Auburn, Calif.

“The race folks talked about the event and Doc Lind talked about the medical implications of trying to run 100 miles,” Twietmeyer said. “We then went for a 20-mile run from Green Gate to the finish, and I got destroyed. The one phrase he used that day and continued to use over the years was, ‘A pint’s a pound the world around.’ How could I ever forget that? His point was that as your weight goes down during the race you’re losing fluids and you need to pay attention to that so that it doesn’t go too low … once too low it’s hard to get back to something normal.

“The old doctor adage, ‘if you listen to your patient long enough they’ll soon tell you what’s wrong with them’ held true for me with Dr. Lind, only it was more like, ‘if you listened to Dr. Lind enough he’d soon tell you the secrets to finishing Western States.’”

Twietmeyer, whose association with the Run goes back 36 years, said that in all that time, he never saw Lind lose his temper, or grow short with any crew, volunteer or runner. Twietmeyer said Lind had a Dr. Welby-like patience with all he encountered.

“I’ve never seen him flustered,” Twietmeyer said. “I actually had him as my personal physician for a bit and that was one of his endearing qualities; he was soft-spoken but really knew what he was talking about. He’d occasionally stump me when he’d start dropping a mitochondria or two into the conversation, but that gave me a reason to do some homework on that when our conversation was over.”

Twietmeyer took a long pause, then added, “Dr. Lind was one of the Western States originals. The event wouldn’t be where it is today without him.”

Lind, a board member from 1977-2006, was the driving force behind the development of Western States’ medical research program, which is universally considered the most successful and influential of any medical research program associated with a race in the sport of ultra running.

Lind encouraged exercise physiologists and human performance researchers from throughout the country to visit California each June to conduct studies that have since provided the foundational knowledge, key performance breakthroughs and innovative ways of understanding how the body withstands the physiological stresses of 100-mile runs. Lind has long been credited with creating numerous medical protocols that continue to be considered best practices by ultra events worldwide.

Some of the earliest research studies concerning the physiology of endurance running can be found at Western States, starting with a 1980 study (published in 1981 in the New England Journal of Medicine) conducted by a team of researchers led by Dr. Walter Bortz of Stanford University.

western states 2003 Dr Lind

According to Bortz, it was Lind’s inquisitive and collaborative nature that helped pave the way for his research team, and others that were soon to follow. Lind welcomed them all to conduct studies in Western States’ special “outdoor laboratory.”

“Bob Lind was incredibly generous in his support and encouragement of medical researchers from throughout the world … he always made them feel welcome, and made sure their work was given the respect it deserved at Western States,” Bortz recalled in an interview several years ago. “Without Bob Lind, there would not have been this impressive body of medical research that has been conducted at Western States. Bob set the stage, and he did so in the most collaborative and encouraging manner possible.”

And then there was the shotgun. Lind had grown up on a farm in Iowa. He had taught his sons, Paul and Kurt, to safely handle the family’s single-shot, 20-gauge shotgun. Before every Western States, Lind would take two shotgun shells, and with the precision of a jeweler, he’d carefully stencil on the shell’s casing the inscription, “WS 100,” followed by the date of that year’s run. Then, when race morning would arrive for Western States’ runners, Lind, at 5 a.m., would discharge his shotgun into the chilled Squaw Valley air, sending the runners officially off.

ShotgunShells

Lind performed his starter’s duty like clockwork, throughout his association with Western States, including for the final time on the morning of June 27, 2015. Weakened because of his cancer treatments and steadied by Paul and Kurt, a smiling Lind fired his 20-gauge into the air to start the 2015 edition of the Run.

Paul, who finished the 2015 Run in under 24 hours in honor of his father, said later that the shotgun start of each Western States was a major moment for his otherwise low-key father, as well as for the entire Lind family.

“Starting a race like Western States with a whistle or a horn just wasn’t appropriate,” Paul said. “You need to start a race like Western States in a special way. It’s a very sacred thing.

“With the shotgun, we’ve kept it in the family.”

IMG_0071

It was this sense of family that many individuals who met Lind over the years felt. It was most notable in his presence, when Lind would engage in long, deep and meaningful conversations about the lore of the run, as well as the secrets of Western States success he had unearthed as medical director.

Mo Livermore, one of the founders of the Western States Endurance Run organization, recalled that in August of 1977, as 14 runners from four states wandered around the edge of the old horse pasture at Squaw Valley waiting for the Friday briefing to begin before the very first “Western States Endurance Run”, it was Lind, yellow legal pad in hand upon which to record the runners’ weight and vital signs, who greeted her with a welcoming grin.

“From that first hello, Bob was always so kind and considerate,” Livermore recalled. “His first question to me was, ‘Well, what should we check the runners for?’ I was a 25-year-old endurance rider with no medical background who had been asked to just help out as a timer for the event; he was an eminent physician who was now asking me to be on his team. Bob waited patiently for my answer, listening intently as I stammered nervously, drawing on the full extent of my medical knowledge, which at the time had only to do with horses, ‘Uh, pulse and respiration?’”

Livermore added that Lind’s impact on the Run went far beyond medical assistance. She said it was Lind’s empathetic nature and his genuine interest and care for all the people he met, that made him special.

“Bob’s wisdom and perspective, combined with his gentle manner, guided all of us who were part of that first Run safely through the wild unknown, setting the stage for the creation of a permanent event,” she said. “Bob became a founding member of the Western Sates Endurance Run Foundation Board, leading the development of the medical teams which have helped ensure the safety of runners throughout the decades. He was fascinated by the challenge of running the Western States Trail, and his interest, skills, and spirit empowered countless runners to push away their demons to reach a successful finish. It was Bob’s beaming smile and persistent, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer encouragement that helped me out of a lounge chair at the 70-mile point after sleeping for more than two hours, effectively launching me down the trail for a finish. That buckle is one of thousands which shines with Bob’s light.”

The Lind family, in a statement, added: “Our Dad was above all a compassionate humanitarian, for all the runners, finishers, non-finishers, crews, aid station folks and volunteers, and always sought to advocate human health, welfare and well-being.”

Lind, as many indicated, was an important psychological presence for the Run. He had said in an interview in 1980 that running Western States was not exactly normal behavior – though physiologically, running 100 miles over demanding mountain terrain was entirely doable. Fueling, hydration, pacing, cooling the inner core of the body through external application of ice and the consumption of cold fluid, never over-exerting to the point of exhaustion, were central entry points in Lind’s understanding of the stresses Western States’ runners faced.

Context, both medically and psychologically, he believed, was everything. What was perhaps not considered normal behavior on a neighborhood street in Roseville could be considered entirely normal on the fourth Saturday of every June on the Western States Trail.

“You’re pushing human endurance beyond the point where anybody knows what the hell is happening,” Lind told People Magazine in 1980, explaining why he felt it was important to monitor blood pressure, pulse, and urine throughout the Run’s then five medical checkpoints. “If you went into a hospital and had these tests done, every one (of Western States’ entrants) would be rushed to the Intensive Care Unit.”

By the mid-1980s, Lind, with his proven experience of treating endurance runners under the extreme duress of heat, elevation, and rugged terrain, was considered one of the leading voices of physiological performance in the world.

He was an early proponent of heat training – “The difference in salt loss can be tenfold or more between people who are acclimated to the heat and those who are not,” Lind was quoted in the best-selling “Runner’s Handbook” in 1986. Lind also loved his home remedies, which included novel ideas such as eating potato chips and ice as way to ward off low sodium levels at the end of races. “The salt and ice in the mouth form a solution of concentrated salt,” Lind told the Chicago Tribune in one interview. “It’s as good a technique as we’ve found for preventing low sodium levels in a large number of athletes.”

Lind, though a medical practitioner by profession, often expressed his admiration of the runners of Western States in poetic, almost mystical terms. When he spoke of WS runners, his words would become elegant, and rich with imagery, like a last wash of daylight.

“For the runners who finish in more than 24 hours but in less than 30 hours, you have two suns to work through, which can present significant metabolic problems if you are not careful,” he once said. “It’s interesting to note, however, that with the second sunrise can come renewed hope and motivation. Western States runners are often very optimistic people by nature. Our runners, perhaps more than any other runners on the planet, clearly understand that a second sunrise can mean a rebirth and a renewed chance for success.

“The second sunrise is a powerful psychological tool. We realize that with rebirth, with renewal, there is still time to get to the finish. The spirit sometimes can find ways to inform and soothe the body. It’s a fascinating process to witness. Even as a doctor, I am always moved by the way our runners handle such moments.”

Lind is survived by sons, Paul, a two-time Western States finisher, of Challis, Idaho, and Kurt, of Turlock, Calif., as well as four grandchildren.

A Celebration of Life for Bob will be held at the Granite Bay Golf Club on Saturday, April 23rd, at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Western States Endurance Run Foundation, “in honor of Bob Lind, M.D.” for the preservation, maintenance, and improvement of the Western States Trail. (WSER, 8300 Niessen Way, Fair Oaks, CA 95628).