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Altra Named Presenting Sponsor


CONTACT: Craig Thornley, WS 100 race director, rd@wser.org and
Colleen Logan, VP Marketing, 


The world’s oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail race announces multi-year presenting sponsorship agreement with Altra Footwear

AUBURN, Calif. – Altra Footwear has been named the presenting sponsor of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, Western States 100 President John Medinger announced today.

The three-year agreement builds on an already successful partnership that began in October 2015, in which Altra was Western States’ exclusive footwear sponsor.

The new agreement, in addition to awarding Altra presenting sponsorship status, also gives Altra exclusive rights to serve again as Western States’ official footwear sponsor and gives Altra title sponsorship for the Golden Ticket races for entry into Western States. The Altra Golden Ticket races include Bandera 100K, Sean O’Brien 100K, Black Canyon 100K, Gorge Waterfalls 100K, Georgia Death Race 68M, and Lake Sonoma 50M.

“Altra exceeded all of our expectations over the past year,” Medinger said. “We have been really impressed with how responsive Altra has been as our partner. More generally, Altra is just such a fast-growing, progressive, future-minded company. They are as involved as a company can be in ultra running, and they truly understand the ethos of our sport.

“We are very excited to have Altra as Western States’ presenting sponsor.”

Western States race director Craig Thornley added: “We’ve developed a great relationship with Altra over the past year. In 2016 they were instrumental in helping us deliver one of the most memorable races we’ve ever had. Their engagement at each training run was unprecedented in my experience as race director. Altra’s representatives provided free shoe demos, and gave out free shoes. What was even more impressive was the human touch – when you have Altra’s people ─ well-respected reps such as Zach Bitter and Ben Bartley and Altra co-founder Brian Beckstead there in person ─ interacting with our runners, sharing stories, training tips and providing their perspective and encouragement, it makes for a truly memorable experience for our runners. I can’t compliment Altra enough for how involved they became last year.

“We’re thrilled to have this presenting sponsorship agreement with Altra in place.”

Altra was well represented in the 2016 Western States Endurance Run, with five of the Top 10 men: Jeff Browning (M3), Thomas Lorblanchet (M4), Ian Sharman (M6), Kyle Pietari (M8) and Jesse Haynes (M10) and two of the top 10 women: Meghan Arbogast (F6) and Maggie Guterl (F8).

“Altra is proud to renew and expand our partnership with the first and one of the greatest 100-mile ultra marathons in the world,” said Brian Beckstead, Altra’s co-founder and Global VP of sales. “Being part of the legendary Western States race in such a meaningful, long-term way is a dream come true for me as an ultrarunner. Altra is committed to running footwear innovation for the road, trail, track, treadmill and gym.  As athletes, we fully understand the importance of footwear and have a high expectations in our continued quest for footwear perfection.”

ABOUT ALTRA: Altra Footwear is now the third largest trail shoe brand sold in run specialty with three of the top seven trail-running shoes, according to data from NPD: Altra Lone Peak, Superior and Olympus.

Altra’s running shoe innovations are born from long hard runs in the Wasatch range, just minutes from Altra’s Utah headquarters. Founder Golden Harper, a former All-American runner who loves to run to the top of difficult mountain summits, invented a cushioned Zero Drop shoe and a foot-shaped toe box, features that are now found on every Altra shoe. Co-founder and Global VP of Sales Brian Beckstead completes at least one ultramarathon each year, including Eco-Trail Norway in 2016, Ultra Trail Mont Blanc and the Wasatch 100 in 2015 and Ultra Trail Mt Fuji in 2014.

Altra’s recent awards the 2016 “40 Under 40 Award” from Sporting Goods Business for Harper and Beckstead; in July of 2016 the Altra Lone Peak 3.0 Neoshell MID won “The Apex Award” from Polartec and the original Lone Peak Neoshell won “Top Gear Picks” from Gear Junkie; the Altra Olympus 2.0 won “Editor’s Choice” from Trail Runner and “Comfiest Runner” from Backpacker; the Altra Performance Half Zip jacket won “Most Innovative” from UltraRunning magazine and many more.

Follow @AltraRunning and #ZeroLimits on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and at AltraRunning.com. Altra® Footwear is a brand of ICON Health & Fitness, the world’s leading health and fitness innovator, based in Logan, Utah.

ABOUT THE WESTERN STATES 100-MILE ENDURANCE RUN: The Western States 100-Mile Endurance run, first held in 1974, is the world’s oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail run. Held on the last weekend in June in Squaw Valley, Calif., Western States brings together approximately 360 runners from across the globe and from all 50 states for what is considered the world’s most competitive and prestigious 100-mile trail race.

Altra Elite Athlete Jeff Browning took third place at the 2016 Western States Endurance Run, crossing the finish line with his children, from left, Annie, Abraham, Benjamin. Photo credit: Joe McCladdie

Altra Elite Athlete Jeff Browning took third place at the 2016 Western States Endurance Run, crossing the finish line with his children, from left, Annie, Abraham, Benjamin. Photo credit: Joe McCladdie

WS 100 announces new “Wait List” feature for 2017 event

Although much of the same entry process remains in place, the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run Board of Trustees announced on Monday, July 25 a new “general wait list” to accompany the field of 369 runners chosen during the race’s lottery on Dec. 3, 2016.

The 50-person “wait list” will also be chosen during December’s lottery. If any entrant withdraws from the race for any reason, the spot will be given to the next runner on the general wait list. A refund structure with corresponding deadlines has also been instituted for runners who choose to withdraw prior to the event.

According to Western States Board President John Medinger, the structure of a wait list will help the Run stay at its Forest Service permit limit of 369 runners.

“We realize the odds of being chosen in our general lottery are still pretty low – last year we had a record 3,510 applicants,” Medinger said. “In the past, we’ve ‘overbooked’ our initial entry list, anticipating that some runners will drop out due to injury or other factors. But it’s become increasingly difficult to forecast how many. With our new wait list, we’re ensuring that we will start exactly 369 runners.”

Much of the Run’s qualifying process remains the same. Runners are still required to complete a qualifying race in the allotted time during the qualifying period (the 2017 Run has a Nov. 9, 2015 through Nov. 6, 2016 qualifying period).

Once individuals have submitted their online applications from Nov. 5-12, 2016, entrants will be selected via lottery on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 in Auburn, Calif.

Once the field of 369 runners has been set, 50 more applicants will be selected from the lottery for an ordered general wait list. If any entrant withdraws from the race for any reason, the spot will be given to the next runner on the general wait list.

The only exception to this is if a sponsor or aid station designated runner withdraws from the race; the sponsor or aid station will be allowed to designate another qualified runner who has qualified and applied for the 2017 Run. If no replacement is designated, then the spot will be given to the next runner on the general wait list.

The refund structure for runners who withdraw is as follows:

Entrants who withdraw from the Run by May 1 will receive a 75 percent refund of their entry fee (not including the online fee);

Entrants who withdraw from May 2-June 9 will receive a 50 percent refund;

Entrants who withdraw from June 10-June 20 will receive a 25 percent refund;

Entrants withdrawing after June 20 will not receive a refund.

Runners who are not chosen in the original lottery remain “in the hat” for the next year’s lottery. Runners on the wait list who decline the opportunity to join the field of 369 will maintain ticket counts in the next lottery. If an individual is entered in the race at any point – e.g., is part of the 369-runner field – ticket counts will start over at the next year’s lottery.

The 44th presentation of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run will be held on June 24-25, 2017.

2016 WS 100 Press Release


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


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.