Here are the results of the independent Western States Endurance Run (WSER) Runner Survey from the June 29-30, 2019 race, conducted by ultralive.net.
WSER runner registration takes place in Squaw Valley Friday before race day and 2019 allowed for another year of the ultralive survey team to be in position. Runners are happy to participate while they wait in line for check-in providing us a 94% participation rate of the 369 starters.
Here are the surveys from 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.
The runners were asked the following questions. Data was recorded by bib number allowing us to correlate the responses to finish times to make the analysis even more interesting. All data however is compiled and reported anonymously:
- 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
- Hydration System
- Pack type/brand
- Lighting brand
- Watch brand
- Did they pay for coaching services?
- A few questions about lodging for the race to share with host sites
This year’s race saw a new course record and the top 10 men all finishing under 16 hours. Of the 369 starters we saw 319 finishers (86.4%) under 30 hours of which 130 (35.2%) finished under the coveted 24 hour mark for a Silver Buckle.
A total of 296 of the 319 finshers (92.7%) 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.
For sub 24 hour finishers completing the survey, 45 out of 130 (37%) finished in the 23rd hour of the race to get a silver buckle. In the last two hours of the race, there were 90 (30%) finishers. The busiest times on the track are typically between 4-5 AM and 9-11 AM on Sunday morning and 2019 proved no different. The graphs show the distribution of finishers by hour (14 hours to 29 hours).
The cool temperatures in this year’s race definitely attributed to the high finish rate of 86.4%.
This is the sixth year Hoka was the most popular shoe (36.1%) for all finishers with Altra staying in second place with 24%. Salomon (9.5%) again was ahead of Brooks (6.8%) which was the second most popular shoe just four years ago (2015). The rankings remained the same for the top 3 most popular shoes with the sub-24 hour finishers as well. We acknowledge some runners did plan to change shoes during the race and may have changed to a different brand so we asked that they provide the brand they planned to start the race wearing.
Injinji was just barely the favorite over Drymax for the most popular sock choice for finishers. And it was Drymax over Injinji for the sub-24 hour finishers. The “other” category was quite large this year and runners seem to like a large variety of socks.
Paid Coaching Services
More than 30% of the runners use a paid coaching service overall. Sub-24 hour finishers were slightly less likely to use a coach. And it is interesting to see that nearly half of the runners with a DNF used a coaching service.
Memorial Weekend Training Camp
The training camp held on Memorial Weekend is a great weekend to get on the course for those running, supporting or spectating the race. Only a third of the runners in the survey attended the camp. However, attending camp does not seem to decrease the chance of a DNF as 38% of the runners who did not complete the race were at the training camp.
Petzl’s remains the favorite light brand for all runners regardless of finish time (sub or over-24 hour) with Black Diamond second again. All the top 10 men completed the race (under 16 hours) and did not require a headlamp!
This was a new question this year and the most popular method is a combination of pack and bottles. Overall half the finishers surveyed used a pack in their hydration system. For sub 24 hour finishers just hand held bottles was the most popular method.
Salomon was the top choice for all runners (sub 24 and overall) with Ultimate Direction and Nathan in second and third.
Another new question this year was about what kind of watch (in most cases a GPS watch) would be used. Just the brand was noted and not the model.
Garmin was the most popular watch followed by Suunto. Interesting that many runners chose to run without a watch at all.
Crew and Pacer
The use of a crew and/or pacer are personal preference during a 100-mile race but may be more popular at WS – what are your thoughts? The following chart shows the correlation of using a pacer or crew to finish hour. Crew use is basically 90% regardless of finish time (or DNF).
Special recognition should go to the 12 runners in the survey with no crew and no pacer. Four (4) of them managed to finish in less than 24 hours to earn a well deserved silver buckle.
369 runners started the 2019 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 = 346 (93.7%) athletes though individual questions may vary if athlete did not answer or know answer. And also note that this analysis was done by amateur statisticians and inspired by the Ironman “bike survey” in Kona.
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 David Canfield.
Any feedback or insights are welcome!