1974 ⋅ The Way it all Began 1 Starter, 1 Finisher — 100%
On August 3, 1974, Gordy Ainsleigh joined the 198 Tevis Cup horses on foot. Twenty-three hours and forty-two minutes later he arrived in Auburn, proving that a runner could indeed traverse the rugged 100 miles in one day.
1975 ⋅ Ron Kelley Gives It a Try 1 Starter, No Finisher — 0%
Ron Kelley ran the Tevis Cup Ride, starting on July 26th with the horses as Gordy had done, but he withdrew at No Hands Bridge, despite being on track for a sub-24-hour finish.
1976 ⋅ Then Cowman 1 Starter, 1 Finisher — 100%
Ken “Cowman” Shirk hooted and hollered his way through the Tevis Cup course, starting July 10th, finishing just 30 minutes over the 24-hour mark. He was paced by his pal Gordy Ainsleigh for the last 25 miles.
1977 ⋅ “This race is gonna be BIG!” 14 Starters, 3 Finishers — 18.8%
The first official Western States Endurance Run! Fourteen men from four states ran with the Tevis Cup horses, starting on July 30th. Three “aid” stations were planned at the horses’ veterinary checks, where Dr. Bob Lind was the first official M.D. for the runners.
Only 22-year-old Andy Gonzales, the eventual winner and sole sub-24-hour finisher in the record-breaking time of 22:57, was monitored after Michigan Bluff, since all other runners had dropped out or were “too late.” Peter Mattei and Ralph Paffenbarger, ages 53 and 54, continued on their own, arriving at the finish line in a then-unofficial 28:36. Their performance and persistence resulted in the decision to provide official finisher status and an award to sub-30-hour finishers.
In November of 1977, the first Western States Endurance Run Board of Governors was established under the corporate umbrella of the Western States Trail Foundation. Members were Gordy Ainsleigh, Andy Gonzales, Jim Larimer, Bob Lind, M.D., Mo Livermore, Peter Mattei, Ralph Paffenbarger, M.D., Paul Reese, Joe Sloan, Curt Sproul, Kathy Tellington, Don Walker, and visionary Shannon Weil, who kept maintaining, “This race is gonna be BIG!” Turned out she was right.
1978 ⋅ The Run Breaks from the Ride 63 Starters, 30 Finishers — 47.6%
Culminating a year-long effort by the infamous Gang of Four (Phil Gardner, Mo Livermore, Shannon Weil, and Curt Sproul) to create an independent event, the race took place on June 24-25, a month earlier than the Tevis Cup Ride.
The event included 21 aid stations and six medical checks; 63 adventurers, including five women, entered. It was the first year of the sub-30-hour finish award.
Andy Gonzales won for the second year, and Pat Smythe became the first official woman finisher (and winner) in 29:24. Some of the runners were paced by horseback riders!
1979 ⋅ WSER Goes Global 143 Starters, 96 Finishers — 67.1%
The Western States Endurance Run became an international event, with 143 athletes drawn from three foreign countries and 21 states. This was the first year that a qualifying standard was required to enter — certification of having run 50 miles in under 10 hours. Aid station cut-off times were also established for the first time.
Winner Mike Catlin overslept on race morning, July 7th, reaching the starting line ten minutes after everyone else. Skip Swannack became the first female buckle winner (21:56) and was also the first winner of the Thurmond-Drucilla Barner trophy.
1980 ⋅ Closest Women’s Finish, 251 Starters, 124 Finishers — 49.4%
Much of the first ten miles was covered with snow as 250 athletes challenged the course on June 28th. Another repeat occurred with Mike Catlin winning. The first two women, winner Sally Edwards and second place Bjorg Austrheim-Smith, finished two minutes apart. Runners used a boat to ford the swollen Rucky Chucky crossing.
1981 ⋅ Lottery Instituted 251 Starters, 146 Finishers — 58.2%
A lottery system for race entry was established due to the increasing number of entries and the need to limit the number of entrants. Acknowledging the unique camaraderie and mutual respect which flourishes among runners of the Western States Trail, leaders Doug Latimer and Jim Howard decided to tie for first place, crossing the finish line together at 9:02 PM on June 27th. The first two women finished in the top ten overall, with Bjorg Austrheim-Smith prevailing over Sally Edwards, reversing their finish order from the prior year.
1982 ⋅ “Newcomer” Jim King Wins 278 Starters, 176 Finishers — 63.3%
June 26, 1982: Dispelling the accepted theories of ultramarathon pacing by running nearly all of the hills on the course, Jim King became the first Western States “newcomer” to win the race. Bjorg Austrheim- Smith won again. “Desperate Dreams — I” by Centreburn Productions became the first Western States film shown to a national TV audience.
1983 ⋅ Year 10 — the Big Snow 282 Starters, 196 Finishers- 69.5%
The first 24 miles of the course were covered with snow on June 25th, punctuated by steep climbs over drifts as high as 15-20 feet. The route had to be changed to avoid treacherously full Duncan Creek, yet the race times were consistent with those of past years from Last Chance on.
Over 30 top runners followed leader Jim King’s footprints in the snow when he took a wrong turn at the Red Star Ridge aid station, which for the first time in race history had to be accessed by helicopter. Jim Howard overtook Jim King in the final 1/2 mile to win by one minute! Bjorg Austrheim-Smith became the first “three-peat” women’s winner.
Centreburn produced and syndicated “Desperate Dreams — II.” The first Friend of the Trail award for outstanding volunteer service to the Run was awarded to Ermin and Nettie Sands.
1984 ⋅ Congress Threatens 369 Starters, 250 Finishers — 67.8%
Outside Magazine rated the Western States Endurance Run as the “toughest endurance event in the world.” Congress enacted the California Wilderness Act, which created the Granite Chief Wilderness Area. This threatened the Western States’ continued use of the four miles of historic trail which lie within its boundaries and stimulated a four-year effort among ultrarunners nationwide to allow the Run to use the trail. Jim King notched his second WSER win on July 7th; Judy Milkie was the first woman.
The Little Cougar Award was established for people who make extraordinary contributions to the Run.
1985 ⋅ Hey Everyone — it’s 100.2 Miles! 294 starters, 163 finishers — 55.3%
The Western States course was measured to the nearest 1/10 mile, and it officially became a 100.2-mile event. The 1985 event was dedicated to the memory of Wendell T. Robie, founder of the Western States Trail Ride and its offshoot, the Western States Endurance Run. ABC Wide World of Sports televised the race on its popular 90-minute show. Teri Gerber is first woman and Jim King becomes the first men’s “three-peat” winner, June 28, 1976.
1986 ⋅ Big Numbers 415 Starters, 210 Finishers — 50.6%
The highest ever number of starters (415) enjoyed the June 28th debut of the tricky California Street Trail as a permanent addition to the course. The race was televised once again by ABC Wide World of Sports. It was Norm Klein’s first year as race director. Chuck Jones was the first to cross the finish, and Kathy D’Onofrio topped the women’s field.
1987 ⋅ An Out-of-Stater Wins 353 Starters, 183 Finishers — 54.9%
Unfazed by the stifling heat (114° recorded in El Dorado Canyon) on June 27th, Mary Hammes of Fort Worth, TX, became the first non-Californian (man or woman) to win the Western States. Herb Tanzer overtook Steve Warshawer in the last six miles to win overall.
1988 ⋅ Granite Chief Trail Granted 341 Starters, 250 Finishers — 73.5%
Pursuant to Congressional guidance, the U.S. Forest Service granted permission for the Western States Endurance Run to continue forever its historic use of the trail within the Granite Chief Wilderness Area. This decision culminated four years of negotiation and appeal, led by Antonio Rossmann.
Doug Latimer became the first person to win a 1,000-MILE Buckle, finishing in the top ten for the tenth time. Winners Brian Purcell and Kathy D’Onofrio led the field on June 25th, which produced the highest number of finishers ever (250).
Golden Gaters Productions produced a nationally syndicated film about the Run.
1989 ⋅ Ann Trason’s Debut 372 Starters, 246 Finishers — 66.2%
Phenomenal Ann Trason was the women’s winner and became the first woman to finish in the top ten on the 100.2-mile course, June 24th. Mark Brotherton was the top finisher while Jim Pellon won his 1,000-Miles — 10 Days Buckle, becoming the first person to win ten silver buckles consecutively. Bjorg Austrheim-Smith became the first woman to finish ten consecutive years.
NBC Sports World aired this year’s film, produced by Golden Gaters Productions.
1990 ⋅ More Big Numbers! 351 Starters, 208 Finishers — 59.2%
Over 1,000 athletes from 46 states and 12 foreign countries submitted entries to the June 23, 1990 race, which was won by Tom Johnson and Ann Trason. Three finishers were disqualified due to rule violations by their crews.
A cougar and a brown bear were spotted by several runners in the neighborhood of the Cal-4 (Ford’s Bar) aid station.
1991 ⋅ The Coldest and the Wettest 368 Starters, 242 Finishers — 65.8%
June 29th was the coldest, wettest race in Western States history. Heavy pre-race rains at Squaw Valley, snow flurries on Emigrant Pass and frigid temperatures in the high country, which required aid station personnel to chop up the energy bars with axes, created an unusual race. 46° was the high at Robinson Flat, with 74° being the highest temperature recorded anywhere along the course. Tom Johnson (15:54:05) and Ann Trason (18:29:07) repeated their impressive wins, each establishing a new course record. For the first time, two runners in the 60+ division, Rob Volkenand and Dick Laine, won silver buckles.
1992 ⋅ Trail Protected 374 Starters, 230 Finishers — 61.4%
On June 25th, two days before the race start, the U.S. Department of Interior entered the Michigan Bluff to Last Chance Trail in the National Register of Historic Places, capping a two-year cooperative effort by the U.S.F.S. (Tahoe National Forest), the Western States Trail Foundation and the Western States Endurance Run. The phenomenal Ann Trason (18:14:48) shattered her course record and finished third overall. Tim Twietmeyer won both the race and his 11th silver buckle. One finisher was disqualified for breaking a rule.
1993 ⋅ The Year of the Sierra Triangle 387 Starters, 209 Finishers — 54.0%
In the race starting on June 26th, many runners succumbed to the triple whammy of 105° temperatures, deep snow in the high country, and the ever-challenging California Trail. This was a combination of conditions which led to the lowest percentage of sub-24-hour finishers since 1977. Ann Trason extended her magnificent winning streak to five consecutive years, and Tom Johnson joined Jim King as a three-time winner of the Western States.
1994 ⋅ Celebrating 20 years! 379 Starters, 249 Finishers — 65.5%
Happy Anniversary! On June 25th, marking 20 years of the Western States Run, the WSER celebrated the achievements of pioneer Gordy Ainsleigh, who finished the race for the ninth time. Ann Trason stunned us yet again by finishing second overall to two-time champ Tim Twietmeyer.
At age 67, Ray Piva became the oldest person to win a silver buckle. In an inspiring demonstration of determination, desire and guts, Joann Hull entered the Placer High School stadium with less than two minutes on the clock, and crossed the finish line with just 16 seconds to spare (29:59:44).
Brass plaques honoring the achievements of all who meet the challenge of the Western States Trail were placed at the start and finish lines.
1995 ⋅ The Year of the Endless Winter 371 Starters, 198 Finishers — 53.4%
With a final snowstorm just one week before the June 24th Run, the Sierra was blanketed with the largest snowfall ever recorded — 836 inches! Following the 1983 “Snow Route,” runners plowed through 24 miles of the white stuff and then soldiered on through the lower elevations where temperatures soared to 107 degrees. Helicopters supplied the Lyon Ridge and Red Star Ridge aid stations, and a 20-person Snow Patrol “swept” the first 24 miles of trail. Runners were ferried across the raging American River in rubber boats, hand-pulled by dedicated volunteers.
Tim Twietmeyer and Ann Trason repeated their impressive wins and one-two overall finishes, with Gabriel Bautista of the Tarahumara finishing a strong third. Gard Leighton, 60, became the oldest person to win the coveted 1000-Mile 10-Day Buckle with ten sub-24-hour finishes. Due to the exceptional trail and weather conditions, the absolute finishing time was extended to 32 hours. This made 28 runners (14% of those finishing) particularly happy!
1996 ⋅ No Hands Bridge OK’ed 373 Starters, 227 Finishers — 60.9%
The famous No Hands Bridge, an integral part of the WSER course, was closed to all travellers this spring by the Bureau of Reclamation due to concerns about its structural stability. Through the monumental efforts of many, most notably Norman Klein and Tom Winter of the WSER, and Larry Suddjian of the Western States Trail Foundation, the Run was allowed to use the bridge on race weekend, June 29-30.
With beautiful weather, just enough snow to be picturesque, and a high rate of completion, 1996 was another banner year for Western States. It was Ann Trason’s eighth consecutive win, despite coming off a record-breaking victory at Comrades in South Africa just 12 days before. She was third overall to Tim Twietmeyer’s spectacular and unprecedented fourth victory. Tim also brought home a 15th silver buckle, to lead the pack in all-time finishes.
1997 ⋅ Course Record! 369 Starters, 257 Finishers — 69.9%
Fabulous weather and a virtually snow-free course combined on June 28-29 to produce the second highest finishing rate in race history! In his first finish at Western States, Mike Morton, of Maryland, smashed Tom Johnson’s 15:54:05 course record by over 13 minutes (15:40:41), and he became the first non-Californian to win the race overall.
Amazing Ann Trason took home her ninth consecutive Western States Cougar award for winning the women’s division, after repeating her incredible Comrades/Western States “double” of 1996 (twelve days and half a world apart.) Twelve women finished in under 24 hours, more than ever before.
The Stationmasters Award was established to honor aid station captains with 15 years of service. Now that’s dedication!
1998 ⋅ Celebrating 25 years! 381 Starters, 258 Finishers — 67.5%
El Niño worked its magic on Western States, June 27-28. The infamous weather pattern of 1997-1998 created challenging conditions of slippery ice and mushy snow as the race was conducted for the third time in history along its alternate “snow course.” First access for crews was the 55-mile point — Michigan Bluff. A hefty 14% of the total finishers took advantage of the two-hour “snow extension” finishing time.
The indefatigable Tim Twietmeyer skated through to his fifth victory and 17th silver buckle. Premier ultrarunner Ann Trason notched her tenth consecutive Western States win and retired the original Thurmond-Barner Cup. Ray Piva, age 71, became the oldest finisher on record, and 70-years-young Link Lindquist and Beacham Toler each completed the race as well.
Transition towards the selection of a new Race Director began post-race, capping a challenging year for all involved with the organization of the event. Pete Brost and Ed Moore of the U.S. Forest Service graciously honored the WSER with a very special gift, affirming the mutual respect and commonality of purpose our two organizations share.
1999 ⋅ The Year of the Rookie 335 Starters, 216 Finishers — 64.5%
Western States first-timers blew away the competition on June 26th: Scott Jurek notched a solid victory at his first WSER, leading wire to wire; impressive Suzanne Brana advanced steadily through the field and triumphed in only her second 100-miler, exemplifying the strength and determination of a true champion. Sixty-years-young Werner Schweizer jetted in from Switzerland to improve his age group’s record (22:08:36, Harold Carling, 1994) by one hour and 24 minutes, finishing an amazing 13th overall (20:44:07).
Perfect weather and stellar trail conditions, with just enough snow and fallen trees to be picturesque in the wake of a La Niña spring, contributed to a wonderful day, marked as always by the incredible work and unfailing good humor of the army of invaluable volunteers stationed all along the Trail.
The race was Norm Klein’s swan song after 14 years, and it heralded a new dawn for Western States, as a warm welcome was extended to incoming Race Director, Greg Soderlund.
2000 ⋅ Scott #2, Ann #11 385 Starters, 222 Finishers — 57.9%
Staving off early challenges and withstanding unrelenting pressure from some of the best ultrarunners in the business, Scott Jurek rolled along to his second consecutive win on June 24th. This great competitor had spent the previous Tuesday clearing downed trees from the trail. Ann Trason raced through the Highway 49 checkpoint at 11:11 p.m., clinched her 11th win at Western States as she crossed the finish line in 11th place overall. Kenji Okiyama and Ryoichi Sekiya of Japan both finished among the top 20 men, and Hiroko Okiyama was ninth woman, amazing feats for foreign runners new to the Western States Trail.
The U.S. Forest Service acquired the historic Pacific Slab Mine at Last Chance, completing public ownership of the historic Last Chance-Michigan Bluff Trail listed in the National Register.
2001 ⋅ Scott #3, Ann #12 396 Starters, 267 Finishers — 67.5%
Marking the Run’s second “consecutive three-peat,” Scott Jurek raced into Western States history, celebrating with Ann Trason after her 12th win on June 23rd. Tim Twietmeyer began a new page in the record books, gliding to his 20th consecutive sub-24-hour finish (including five victories), in second place. For the first time since 1981, two women (Ann Trason and Emma Davies) finished in the top ten, and Jim Scott joined his brother Dave Scott in the 1000-Mile buckle club, the first pair of family members to accomplish this feat.
KVIE, Sacramento’s PBS affiliate, produced “A Race for the Soul” to much acclaim, filming a field which enjoyed perfect weather and recorded its highest ever percentage of sub-30-hour finishers. Shannon Weil introduced the “Free WSER Entry” raffle to raise money for trail preservation.
Post-race, late summer… The Star Fire raged through the High Sierra for over three weeks, destroying 16,761 acres, including parts of Red Star Ridge and Duncan Canyon. It was contained by the efforts of 2,300 firefighters from 34 states, at a cost of $27 million.
2002 ⋅ Scott #4; Ann #13 372 Starters, 255 Finishers — 68.5%
Scott Jurek continued his streak on June 29th to a four-peat and another PR. Ann Trason held on for an amazing but very tough 13th win. Emma Davies crossed the finish line 16 minutes behind Trason. Davies’ time was good enough for the second fastest women’s time and the fastest non-winning time ever. At age 55, Nancy March became the oldest female to break 24 hours, and she also set a new course record for the 50 to 59 age group.
Following the fire of 2001 between Red Star Ridge and Duncan Canyon aid stations, the upper course was modified to avoid the damaged areas and help facilitate restoration of the forest. From Red Star Aid Station the runners would run directly to Robinson Flat Aid Station, eliminating the Duncan Canyon Aid Station entirely. To make up for lost mileage, Little Bald Mountain Aid Station and the Pucker Point Trail were added.
2003 — Scott #5; Ann #14 405 Starters, 272 Finishers — 67.3%
On June 28th, Ann Trason’s and Scott Jurek’s winning streaks continued. Scott’s unprecedented fifth consecutive overall win time of 16:01:18 was the third fastest in the event’s history. New men’s and women’s 60-69 age group records were set. Roger Dellor ran 20:28:05 to better the previous men’s record of 20:33:19 set by Werner Schweizer in 2001. Christa Rebstock blasted Helen Klein’s 1989 record time of 29:25:03 with her 26:41:00.
Despite relatively warm temperatures (a high of 99° in Auburn), 96 runners broke the 24-hour mark, and the 67% finishing rate topped the overall average of 63%. Among the sub-24-hour finishers, 14 were women, the highest number to achieve this since 1997 (12). An independently produced film of the 2002 event, “Running Madness,” was shown during pre-race festivities. Former Race Director Norm Klein returned in the role of finish line announcer.
Due to the stature and prestige of the city’s signature endurance events, the Western States Trail Ride and the Western States Endurance Run, in April 2003 the Auburn City Council unanimously voted in favor of a proclamation declaring Auburn “The Endurance Capital of the World.” At the annual State of the Community ceremonial dinner, the Auburn Chamber of Commerce posthumously presented the Friend of Auburn Award to Wendell T. Robie for his community involvement and founding of the Ride and the Run.
2004 — Scott’s Course Record! 366 Starters, 278 Finishers — 76.0%
Scott Jurek’s remarkable streak continues. He has won six years straight, and each year he has run faster than the year before, besting the course record on June 26th with a time of 15:36:27. Scott’s six wins are the most by any male. Only Tim Twietmeyer comes close with five wins. Nikki Kimball, in her first 100-miler, runs like a veteran and dominates the women’s field with a time of 18:43:25.
Owing to relatively benign weather, no snow, and the continued diversion around Duncan Canyon, there were many personal bests with 76% of the field finishing, highest in the history of the Run.
2005 — Scott’s Finale 400 Starters, 317 Finishers — 79.2%
Scott Jurek pulled away from early leader Vincent Delebarre by mile 55 to notch his seventh consecutive WSER win on June 25th. He announced shortly thereafter that he would not return to WSER in 2006 as a competitor. Women’s winner, Annette Bednosky, who flew in from North Carolina the night before the event, ran unassisted by a crew and was assigned a volunteer pacer at Foresthill.
A late snowmelt created high flows at the Rucky Chucky River Crossing, forcing the runners to cross by boat. Helga Backhaus crossed the finish line for the tenth time. Helga, a nine-time sub-24-hour finisher, had spent the previous four years recovering from a severe leg injury. Her doctors said she would be lucky if she could ever walk again. Her 2005 WSER finish (29:58:09) is a sterling example of the spirit and tenacity of all WSER finishers. Gunhild Swanson set a women’s 60-69 age division record of 25:40:16, breaking Christa Rebstock’s 2003 record of 26:41:00 by more than an hour.
The City of Auburn, in support of its “Endurance Capital of the World” title, recognized the Run with a public arts project. World-renowned muralist Rip Cronk painted a mural of actual WSER runners on the four 40-foot-tall Dawson fuel tanks. The project, located at the corner of Blocker Dr. and Nevada St., was completed in August of 2005.
2006 — Return to Duncan Canyon 399 Starters, 210 Finishers — 52.6%
Slow times and a low finishing rate characterized the 33rd WSER on June 24th. The 52.6% finish rate was the lowest since 1986 (50.6%). Only 53 sub-24 silver buckles were awarded, the lowest since 1995 (32), and only five runners finished under 20 hours, the lowest total in modern history. These statistics were attributed in large part to the heat and lack of shade in the newly restored section of trail into Duncan Canyon, combined with triple-digit temperatures in the canyons on both Saturday and Sunday and a low in Auburn of 73ºF on Sunday morning.
During 2005 and 2006, volunteers led by WSER Foundation Board members Mark Falcone and Tim Twietmeyer spent over 1,000 hours making the trail passable in Duncan Canyon, which was badly burned in the Star Fire of 2001. These volunteers removed more than 500 trees from the trail in the 13-mile stretch between Red Star Ridge and Robinson Flat.
Graham Cooper won in 18:17:28 and Nikki Kimball was third overall and first woman (19:26:51), her second WSER victory. Finish line drama occurred when frontrunner Brian Morrison collapsed on the track and was unable to reach the finish unassisted, leaving the winner’s spot open to Graham.
Tim Twietmeyer made WSER history with his 25th sub-24-hour finish and received a special buckle along with a shadow box containing all 25 of his finisher’s buckles. His family was awarded the first-ever “WSER Good Sport Award” for their 25 years of crewing Tim.
A live Webcast allowed people with Internet access to track the runners from anywhere in the world. It was a resounding success, with the count of distinct visitors to ws100.com estimated in excess of 23,000 on race weekend.
2007 — Koerner & Kimball Lead the Pack 392 starters and 270 finishers — 68.9%
June 23rd: Hal Koerner won in 16:12:16, and Nikki Kimball was eighth overall and first woman (18:12:37), her third WSER victory.
In October 2007 the Western States Endurance Run in collaboration with the Trust for Public Land (TPL) succeeded in negotiating the sale of Pointed Rocks Ranch from the Cowell Foundation to California State Parks! For 20 years we have worked for this moment, often with anxiety as proposals for subdivisions and refuse transfer stations were made for this property.
On June 7, 2008, we celebrated the dedication of Pointed Rocks as the first State ownership in the Auburn Recreation Area. Our great thanks to the California Resources Agency, Cowell, and TPL for protecting this keystone land on the Western States Trail!
2008 — WS Run Cancelled Due to Wildfires.
For the first time in its 35-year history, the Run was cancelled due to a number of uncontrolled wildfires that were active near the WSER course in the weeks leading up to the scheduled June 21st event. In addition to the risk that fire could sweep across the trail during the event, the health risks associated with breathing the smoke that blanketed the entire region were significant.
The WSER Board of Trustees consulted with its local and state race partners, including the U.S. Forest Service and the Placer County Air Pollution Control District, in coming to the decision to cancel the 2008 event.
Given the close proximity of at least two fires that were within two miles of the race course and a critical access road, as well as the deteriorating air quality stretching from the start in Squaw Valley to Auburn, Calif., the Board determined that cancellation, rather than postponement or the use of an alternate course, represented the safest and most prudent decision.
2009 — Koerner (again!) & Ortiz Win 399 starters and 238 finishers — 59.6%
June 27th: Hal Koerner finished in 16:24:55, his second straight win, and Anita Ortiz was ninth overall and first woman in 18:24:17, her first WSER victory.
2010 — Goeff Roes Sets Course Record 423 starters and 328 finishers — 77.5%
Geoff Roes finished in 15:07:04 on June 26th, a new course record, and Tracy Garneau was 20th overall and first woman in 19:01:55, her first win at WSER.
2010 was a “Snow Year,” meaning that the course was altered to avoid deep, lingering snow in the high country. WSER runners having to cross snow drifts is not unusual, but in 2010 it was clear the week before the event that it would not be possible for our volunteers to set up the aid station at Lyon Ridge, a key runner safety checkpoint.
The revised route broke away from the usual course about 1½ miles short of Lyon Ridge. It then followed an old logging road down into Picayune Valley, along the northern edge of French Meadows Reservoir and rejoined the main trail at the Duncan Canyon aid station. The snow route was nearly identical in length to the bypassed route.
2011 — International Runners Take Top Honors 375 starters and 310 finishers — 82.7%
On June 25th, Kilian Jornet of Puigcerda, Spain, finished in 15:34:24, and Ellie Greenwood of Banff, AB, Canada, was the winning woman in 17:55:29, finishing 18th overall.
2011 was the second “Snow Year” in a row. As in 2010, the course was altered to avoid deep, lingering snow in the high country. It was clear in the weeks before the event that, not only would manning the aid station at Lyon Ridge be unworkable, but that access to Robinson Flat would remain blocked as well, despite heroic efforts by Placer County personnel to clear the roadway in.
Again, the revised route broke away from the usual course about 1½ miles short of Lyon Ridge. It then followed an old logging road down into Picayune Valley, along the northern edge of French Meadows Reservoir and up to the Duncan Canyon aid station. From there it followed part of Mosquito Ridge Road and sections of the normal trail in a loop that reached Millers Defeat checkpoint at the correct elapsed mileage. The 2011 snow route was identical in length to the normal route.
2012 — Course Records, Age-group Records! 381 starters and 316 finishers — 82.7%
June 23rd: Following two years of running on snow courses, WSER was run on the traditional course. Timothy Olson, 28, of Ashland, OR, became the first runner to break 15 hours, clocking a 14:46:44, bettering Geoff Roes’ course record of 15:07:04, set in 2010. Ellie Greenwood, 33, from Banff, AB, Canada, destroyed Ann Trason’s 18-year-old course record of 17:37:51, becoming the first female ever to run under 17 hours in a time of 16:47:19, placing 14th overall.
Dave Mackey, 42, from Boulder, CO, broke Tsuyoshi Kaburaki’s 40 to 49 age-group record with a time of 15:53:56, placing fourth overall. Rory Bosio, 27, of Soda Springs, CA, broke Ann Trason’s 18 to 29 age-group record with a time of 18:08:06, the fourth fastest women’s time in the history of the Run.
With record low temperatures, an amazing 148 runners broke 24 hours for another modern course record, and 82% of the field finished, matching the 2011 finish rate.
2013 — Conventional Wisdom Out The Window 383 starters and 277 finishers — 72.3%
The conventional wisdom prior to 2013’s race was that temperatures that would reach 102 degrees would slow the winners and greatly decrease the finishing rate of the field to somewhere around 50 percent. So much for conventional wisdom. Timothy Olson, 29, repeated as champion in a time that was just as blistering as the conditions – 15:17:27, good for fifth-fastest in race history. Olson outlasted hard-charging 36-year-old WS rookie Rob Krar, who finished a little less than five minutes behind in 15:22. Pam Smith, a 38-year-old pathologist from Salem, Ore., made a triumphant return to the race just a year after finishing in 28:58. Her winning time was 18:37 and Smith’s ninth-place finish marked the first time a woman had finished in the overall top 10 since 2009. Out of 383 starters, 277 finished for a 72.3 percent finishing rate (seventh-best since 1977), including 95 silver belt buckle recipients.
2014 — Foresthill The Moment of Truth for Krar, Howe 376 starters and 296 finishers — 78.7%
Both men’s and women’s winners Rob Krar, 37, of Flagstaff, Ariz., and Stephanie Howe, 30, of Bend, Ore., used the Foresthill aid station at mile 62 as a springboard to their victories. Krar, runner-up to Timothy Olson in 2013, patiently remained within striking distance of leader Max King to Foresthill before unleashing a 2-hour, 3-minute split (the fastest time ever recorded on race day) on the 16-mile Cal Street Loop to the River Crossing. From there, Krar motored to Green Gate in 20 minutes on his way to the second-fastest time in race history, 14:53:22. Howe, in her 100-mile debut, confidently took the lead near mile 33 and was cruising to what looked like sure victory when her knee began to lock up on the climb from Bath Road into Foresthill. Thanks to some good advice from her pacer and fiancé, Zach Violett, Howe decided to either run in place or walk back and forth in every aid station afterward to prevent her knee from stiffening. The strategy worked to near-historic results: Howe’s victory in 18:01:42 was the fourth-fastest in women’s history behind only WS legends Ann Trason and Ellie Greenwood. In all, 296 finishers, including 129 sub-24-hour finishers, found the warm but not hot conditions (a high of 89 degrees in Auburn) to their liking.
2015 – Krar repeats, Boulet makes smashing debut … but Swanson steals the show 371 starters and 254 finishers – 68.5%
Rob Krar defended the men’s title with one of the most memorable runs on record, finishing in 14:48:59 after breaking the race open with a dramatic move from Michigan Bluff. Krar was only two minutes behind Timothy Olson’s course record on a day when temperatures were warm from the start and reached well into the 90s at the river crossing. Magdalena Boulet, 41, of Oakland, Calif., and a 2008 U.S. Olympic marathoner, rebounded from a wrong turn not long after the Robinson Flat aid station to win the women’s race in her WS 100 debut in 19:05. And yet, it was the Run’s final moments that captured the attention of all. First, with a little less than four minutes to spare before the 30-hour cutoff, the Run’s youngest female finisher, Katie Trent, 22, of Reno, Nev., finished. Youth had been served, but age had yet to be fully recognized. Gunhild Swanson, 70, of Spokane Valley, Wash., was vying to become the first over-70 female to ever finish the race. Swanson, who was joined over the final mile by several friends and supporters, including Krar, who had run stride-for-stride with Swanson in his flip-flops once Swanson had cleared the final Robie Point aid station, entered the track with a little less than two minutes to spare. The sun-baked Placer High crowd then rose to its feet as Swanson had less than 50 meters to go. With the fevered cheering of the crowd reaching an absolute, chaotic and magical crescendo, Swanson determinedly rushed across the finish line in the history-making, age-defying time of 29:59:54, which then sent the crowd into utter pandemonium. The race’s 254th and final finisher had not only made race history, she had stolen the show in what observer called, “our finest hour … ever.”
2016 – Miller, 20, becomes youngest-ever champion, Lickteig becomes fourth-fastest woman, Walmsley’s “What If …” run 353 starters and 280 finishers – 79.4%
Tactical execution and strategic patience were the names of the game for both 20-year-old Andrew Miller, who showed a maturity beyond his years in becoming the youngest men’s champion in Run history, as well as for Kaci Lickteig, 29, of Omaha, Neb., who posted the fourth-fastest time in women’s history. It was a wild day of unexpected twists and turns, as Jim Walmsley, 26, of Flagstaff, Ariz., tore through the course at record-setting speed. Walmsley was more than a half-hour ahead of Timothy Olson’s course record pace at mile 62, and, after briefly coming off the line at the river crossing at mile 78, Walmsley was still 17 minutes ahead of the course record at mile 89. Soon after, however, Walmsley missed a key turn near mile 92 and ran off course for at least two miles before realizing his error. By then, Miller, a college student attending Northern Arizona University whose plan had been to start conservatively – he had been as far back as 11th place in the high country – was told by his crew at the Highway 49 crossing at mile 93.5 that he was now in the lead. Miller then ran a blistering 61-minute split to the finish to make history in 15 hours and 39 minutes. Lickteig, who knew she would be in for a battle with defending champion Magdalena Boulet, also ran a strong and steady race, taking over the lead for good after Red Star Ridge (mile 16) when Boulet withdrew due to illness. Given the warm conditions, Lickteig’s winning time of 17:57 was one of the finest performances in Western States history. Only one other woman (Ann Trason, who ran 17:37 in 1994 when the high temperature reached 91 degrees in Auburn) had run under 18 hours with race day temperatures in the 90s. Walmsley eventually made his way back onto the course and finished in 20th place in 18:45. 72-year-old Wally Hesseltine nearly made history as the Run’s oldest finisher, arriving on the track with less than a minute remaining before the 30-hour mark eclipsed. Valiantly pushing himself to near-exhaustion, Hesseltine, to the thunderous applause of hundreds gathered for the sport’s “Golden Hour,” crossed the finish line in 30:02. The “Golden Hour” proved remarkable yet again, with an unofficial record 64 runners finishing in the Run’s final hour, between 29:00 and 29:57.
2017 – Sandes and Bradley for the Win 369 starters and 248 finishers – 67.2%
An extended heat wave in late June caused a massive last-minute snowmelt that left the trail in the high country a mess. Runners had to negotiate mud, water, erosion and snowdrifts for more than a dozen miles. The conditions, combined with a hot day (and night – the overnight low temperature was 75ºF, warmest in race history), led to generally slow times.
Jim Walmsley ignored the rough trails and hot conditions to run at course record pace before succumbing to stomach issues at mile 70. This left the door open for savvy veteran Ryan Sandes of Cape Town, South Africa to win in 16:19:37.
Cat Bradley of Boulder, Colorado also took the lead on the California Street Trail, and held off a late charge by Magdalena Boulet to win in 19:31:30.
Once again the “golden hour” didn’t disappoint, with last finisher Karen Bonnett-Natraj sprinting to the line in a dramatic 29:59:51, good enough for an age-group win.
The race instituted a wait list for the first time, with runners accepted into the field as others withdrew. Drug testing was also instituted at the finish line for elite runners.
2018 – Walmsley’s CR puts the past to rest; a memorable women’s debut by Dauwalter – 369 starters and 299 finishers – 81%
After taking a wrong turn in 2016 near mile 90 while on course-record pace, and then dropping out at the river in 2017 after running too ambitiously in a muddy and snowy high country, Jim Walmsley knew there was a lot at stake in 2018. The 28-year-old from Flagstaff, Arizona, delivered in a big way. He bided his time until the Lyon Ridge aid station, running with friend (and eventual men’s runner-up) Francois D’Haene. From there, Walmsley made the most concerted and consistent run ever recorded in Western States history. His winning time of 14:30, run on a day when near-record temperatures were predicted and the high neared 100 degrees in Auburn, broke Timothy Olson’s 2012 course record of 14:46. Courtney Dauwalter, 33, of Golden, Colorado, showed why her meteoric rise in the world of ultra running since 2016 was something worth watching. Dauwalter, high-fiving volunteers in all aid stations, ran the second-fastest time in race history in winning the women’s race in 17:27. Of note was Dauwalter’s amazing 2:31 split (the previous best was 2:33 set by the legendary Ann Trason) from Foresthill to the river crossing — the fastest time ever recorded for a woman on the Cal Street Loop. Even with the hot temperatures, the field of runners showed remarkable strength and smarts. 299 runners finished (123 of them earning silver buckles) for an 81 percent completion rate. Age-group efforts were equally historic. 60-year-old Diana Fitzpatrick, a Western States board member, became the oldest woman in history to break 24 hours. Her time of 23:52 established a new 60 to 69 age group record. 73-year-old Nick Bassett of Cheyenne, Wyoming, became the Run’s oldest finisher ever when he crossed the finish line in a remarkable 29:09. Bassett’s effort replaced the second-oldest age group record on the books at Western States. Ray Piva, 71 years old in 1998, had held the honor as Western States’ oldest finisher for the previous two decades.
2019 – ‘Snow Year?’ Not quite. Another CR for Walmsley, stirring women’s win by Gallagher, highest finishing rate ever 369 starters, 319 finishers – 86%
There was enough snow in May (188 percent of normal in the Sierra) to lead many people to wonder if the course would be re-routed, or at the very least, would be slower. Thanks to the efforts of a trail team that literally chain-sawed some of the snow from the course in the final days as the snow receded on other parts, plus favorable temperatures on race day (high of 83 in Auburn, 74 in Foresthill with cloud cover early), Jim Walmsley produced yet another course record to win the men’s race while Clare Gallagher staged one of the fastest finishes ever to win the women’s race. 319 runners (the most ever when the Race has had exactly 369 starters) made their way to Auburn for an historic high-water mark 86 percent finishing rate, with 130 earning a silver buckle. The 29-year-old Walmsley bided his time until taking the lead for good after Red Star Ridge. His CR 14:09 set off a chain-reaction of fast times behind him. Walmsley’s training partner from his hometown of Flagstaff, Ariz., Jared Hazen, also eclipsed Walmsley’s old mark by running 14:26. All top three men broke 15 hours (Great Britain’s Tom Evans was third in 14:54) for the first time, and the top 10 men’s finishers all completed the Race in under 16 hours for another WS first. Gallagher, 27, who had only returned to her hometown of Boulder, Colo., a few days before the Race after raising awareness for Arctic refuge space in Alaska, took the lead after leader and defending champion Courtney Dauwalter succumbed to an injury at Green Gate. From there, Gallagher and second-place finisher Brittany Peterson, 33, of Pocatello, Idaho, dueled for the win. After Peterson pulled to within three minutes of Gallagher at the Quarry Road aid station (mile 90.7) Gallagher surged away in historic fashion. Her 51-minute split from Pointed Rocks aid station (mile 94.3) was more than likely the fastest split a woman has ever recorded over that stretch of the course. The old record for the fastest finish was held by Ellie Greenwod in 2011, who ran 1:07 from the old mile 93.5 Highway 49 Crossing aid station. Gallagher’s winning time of 17:23 was the second-fastest in Race history while Peterson (17:34) and Kaci Lickteig (17:55 for third) became the first trio of women in Race history to all break 18 hours in the same year. 68-year-old Scott Mills of Oceanside, Calif., who recorded his 20th finish and also was the oldest finisher in the race, became just the seventh runner in Race history to achieve 20 or more finishes during their Western States career. The “Golden Hour” produced yet another remarkable finish, with 47-year-old Lane Shimonishi of Hawaii entering a rollicking Placer High School track with only about 90 seconds remaining. He crossed the finish line to an eruption of cheers with 22 seconds to spare in 29:59:38.