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This Will Never Catch On: The Birth Of An Icon

On Sunday evening after the Cal St Memorial Day Weekend Training Run we have a special evening planned for you. Gordy Ainsleigh, Shannon Weil, and Dr. Bob Lind will talk about the birth of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run. The discussion will be facilitated by 25-time WS finisher Tim Twietmeyer and 10-time finisher John Trent.

In 1974, with the inspiration and encouragement of Drucilla Barner, the first woman to win the Tevis Cup and Secretary of the Western States Trail Foundation (Tevis Cup), Tevis veteran Gordy Ainsleigh joined the horses of the Western States Trail Ride to see if he could complete the course on foot. Twenty-three hours and forty-two minutes later Gordy arrived in Auburn, proving that a runner could indeed traverse the rugged 100 miles in one day.

1974 Western States Trail Ride Start List

1974 Western States Trail Ride Start List

In 1975, a second runner, Ron Kelley, attempted the same feat, only to withdraw within two miles of the finish with ample time remaining.

In 1976, Ken “Cowman” Shirk ran the 100 miles, finishing just 30 minutes over the 24-hour mark.

In 1977, 14 men from four states participated in the first official Western States Endurance Run, which was held in conjunction with the Tevis Cup Ride. Runners were monitored by Dr. Bob Lind at the three veterinary stops set up for the horses, and although the race organization transported the entrants’ gear, runners were responsible for producing all of their own supplies, except water. Three runners finished the course: Andy Gonzales, age 22, in the record-breaking time of 22:57, and Peter Mattei and Ralph Paffenbarger, ages 53 and 54, who tied in 28:36 (and the 30-hour award was born!).

In the fall of 1977, the Board of Governors for the Western States Endurance Run was formed as part of the Western States Trail Foundation. It was made up primarily of the handful of runners and riders who had helped monitor the progress of the 14 pioneers earlier that summer. The Run organization later became its own entity and is now known as the Western States Endurance Run Foundation.

1978 heralded a dramatic increase in both interest and participation in the Western States Run. Culminating a year-long effort by the inspired “Gang of Four” (Phil Gardner, Mo Livermore, Shannon Weil, and Curt Sproul) to create an independent event, the race took place in June, a month earlier than the Tevis Cup Ride. The event mushroomed to include 21 aid stations and six medical checks, thanks to an ever-growing corps of loyal volunteers and the support of the Placer County Sheriff ‘s Communications Reserve and the Search and Rescue Unit. Sixty-three adventurers ran the race, and the first woman, Pat Smythe, finished in 29:34.

  • What: “This Will Never Catch On: The Birth Of An Icon.” Discussion with race founders Gordy Ansleigh, Shannon Weil, and Dr Bob Lind, facilitated by Tim Twietmeyer and John Trent.
  • When: Sunday May 25, 2014, 6-9 p.m.
  • Where: Canyon View Community Center, 471 Maidu Dr, Auburn, CA
  • Cost: Free
  • Food: Firetrail Pizza will be on site selling pizzas beginning at 4:30 p.m.

Western States Trail Fund Run

On September 28th, the Western States Trail Foundation (The Tevis Cup) will be hosting a trail run to benefit the Western States Trail.  All net proceeds from the event will be earmarked to restoration efforts of the trail section impacted by the 2013 American Fire.

To sign up for the event, go the Active.com event registration page:

The event includes 5k, 10k and 10 mile courses. After your run, enjoy grilled hotdogs, hamburgers and refreshments.

Unable to join us for the event? Make a minimum contribution of at least $35 (or more if you’re feeling really benevolent) to the WSTF Trail Fund Run Donation Page, or a check via the WSTF Office, and they’ll send you a commemorative run shirt from the event.

Please direct your questions to the event run manager at wstfrunmanager@gmail.com

The 10-Mile Course

The 10-Mile Course

Swinging Bridge Update

Dear members of the Western States Trail community,

Over the past several days, excellent progress has been made in containing the American Fire. It is important to note that although the fire is now contained, it is still actively burning and the Forest Service is now in the process of identifying areas in need of repair. The Forest Service has cited falling hazard trees and repairing control lines with heavy equipment as areas that need to be addressed quickly. Because of this work, the fire area will remain closed until it is deemed safe for the public. The Western States Trail is closed between Michigan Bluff and Robinson Flat. The closed area includes the area where two bridges were damaged but are still standing. We are including two photos of the bridges to show you the current state of the bridges that have been damaged. The Forest Service has assured us that as soon as safety permits, qualified personnel will inspect the bridges to determine their foundational integrity and identify repairs needed before the public can safely use these structures.

The Swinging Bridge post-American Fire looking west (towards Devil’s Thumb side).

The little bridge on the way down to Swinging Bridge from Last Chance

Both of our organizations wish to counsel you to be patient as this process proceeds and to please follow the safety instructions that the Forest Service has issued to the public. There are still many hot or unsafe areas that qualified personnel are still showing great caution, including the canyons where the damaged bridges are located. Again, we have been assured by the Forest Service that once these areas can be safely accessed, fire repair personnel will evaluate all hazards necessary for the trail and bridge repairs to take place. We have also been assured that when these inspections take place, the Forest Service will share their findings with the public. We promise you that our organizations will actively be involved in discussing the next steps of repair and rehabilitation with the Forest Service.

The Western States Trail has been subjected to a severe trauma over the past several weeks. We are confident, however, that in working with the Forest Service, we can, as a community, help the Trail continue to be the great resources it has been for so long for so many. There will be opportunity to help the Trail regain its beauty and integrity soon; for the time being, however, we must continue to respect the Forest Service’s instructions regarding closed access and the safety of the public. As conditions change and new information is gathered, we will share it with you via our website and our social media channels.


John Trent
Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run Foundation

Kathie Perry
Western States Trail Foundation

American Fire Burning Near Last Chance

A fire is burning near the WS course. Epicenter is due north of Swinging Bridge and west of Pucker Pt.

Epicenter of American FIre and WS Trail. Map by Steve Hallmark

To follow the fire:



Don’t Trash The Trails

by John Blue
Originally published in UltraRunning magazine. Reprinted with permission.
You’ve got a few hours to kill so you find your way to a favorite trail. You lace up your shoes, grab a water bottle, and disappear down the single track. Fir needles and dirt crunch under your feet as the troubles you took home from work slip your mind. You relax into the run and your breaths come easier.

Then you round a bend and see something crumpled on the ground next to the trail: the spent wrapper of an energy gel. Instinctively, you touch the pocket in your shorts and feel for the gels you’ve packed along for the run. You no longer feel so much a part of nature as you feel a part of a dysfunctional family.

Trash found after a WS training run. Photo by Gary Wang

You shake your head and think bad thoughts about the idiot who left his trash on the trail. Your stride slips a little as you think, for a split second, of stopping and putting the wrapper in your pocket.

But you don’t want to stop right then and, besides, you don’t have any place to put someone else’s sticky gel packet. So you run past the litter and continue on down the trail, lost in your quiet thoughts.

This seems to be happening more and more frequently as more and more runners hit the trails. “The sport grew nine percent last year so lotsof new runners are moving from the roads to the trails, I suspect.” says Greg Soderlund, long­time race director of the Western States Endurance Run. “Littering isn’t acceptable in either venue but the new trail runners may not have the same respect and appreciation of the trails as the veterans do.”

Earlier this spring, a friend and I were running along the American River Parkway, after a popular, local road race had taken place. In a two-mile stretch, we saw a hundred or so gel packets lying on the ground.

As soon as I finished the run, I shot an email to the race director, who assured me they had a clean-up crew scheduled for the next day.

The following day, I noticed a significant improvement but there was still an unacceptable amount of litter along the trail. When I reached my turnaround point, I picked up a discarded plastic grocery bag and collected a couple dozen GU, Clif Shot, Hammer Gel, and Power Gel wrappers over a one-mile stretch.

You may not be surprised to learn I was feeling pretty critical of my fellow runners by the time I dropped the grocery sack full of trash into the garbage can. “But these are road runners,” I thought, “My trail running buddies are different, more respectful.”

The following Sunday, I went for a solo run from the Auburn Dam Overlook, down the American River Trail. It was a damp spring morning, and there had been a large number of runners on the trail the day before. The trail was showing signs of wear and tear from all those aggressive trail shoes and the weekend’s rain.

What surprised and disappointed me was the amount of litter on the trail.

I’m sure the folks dropping things on the Parkway were thinking, “It’s a race. The race volunteers will clean up after me.” But the people on the trail that weekend were just on a training run.

I have to admit, I’ve dropped things on the trail. We all have. You get back to your car and discover the zipper on your pack is open and a half dozen gel packs have gone missing. For this reason alone, we should all be willing to pick up the litter we see falling out of the pack of the person in front of us.

Sometimes, I’ll pick up a few pieces of trash and then get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of it, often making a mental note to bring a trash bag on my next run. If everyone was willing to pick up just one dropped gel packet or bar wrapper, that would be enough. But because most of us aren’t willing to pick up even one piece of trash, it accumulates. And that accumulation of trash, beyond the simple aesthetics of it, is where the risks lie.

‘Trail runners should understand that running on State Park trails is a privilege and we all need to pitch in and take responsibility and clean up after ourselves,” says Julie Fingar, American River 50 Mile Endurance Run RD. “Everyone, novice or veteran can benefit from hearing the message, ‘Pack it in, pack it out.”‘

If we truly love this sport and want to have continued access to these beautiful trails we run on, we need to take care of them. Not everyone who spends time in these woods is happy to see our trail races take place there. There are other user groups (horseback riders, hikers, bird watchers, hunters, environmental extremists) who aren’t particularly thrilled to see us racing through these wilderness areas. Most trail race directors will tell you that there are people actively working to stop their event from even taking place. It is critical to our sport that you do not provide them with more reasons to protest these events.

There are rules. They are simple rules and there are few of them.

As Fingar said: Pack it in, pack it out. If you drop something, stop and pick it up. Be responsible for your group. If you see that the runner in front of you has dropped something, tell them — or just pick it up yourself.

Save it for the trash can: If you are in a race,and in an aid station, you should try to put your garbage in a trash receptacle. (If you try and miss, don’t worry about it. The volunteers will cheerfully pick it up for you.) If you aren’t in an aid station, put the wrapper back in your pocket and throw it away when you get to one.

Finally, I would like us all to try an experiment. The next time you are on a run, make it a point to pick up the first empty gel packet or bar wrapper you see on the ground and put it in the trash. (Just one thing!)

We all occasionally drop something. If each of us makes it a point to pick one thing up during every run — the odds are good the most we’ll ever see is that one thing.

If this becomes the new normal, someday soon you could slip out onto that trail and shake off the dark and dreary concerns of daily living and see nothing but the trail as you dreamed it. A dream perhaps, but as Walt Disney said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Let’s have the courage to pursue this one.