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DIANA FITZPATRICK ELECTED PRESIDENT OF WESTERN STATES

Diana Fitzpatrick was elected president of the Western States Endurance Run Foundation’s Board of Trustees in the organization’s annual vote for board officers.

Fitzpatrick becomes the first woman to serve as president of the Western States Endurance Run Foundation. She is the ninth president in the history of the Run.

Since joining the board in October 2012, Fitzpatrick has helped lead several ground-breaking initiatives for Western States. She played an instrumental role in guiding the implementation of Western States’ drug testing program in 2017, helped craft the policy that has afforded female participants a pregnancy deferral for up to three years and developed the framework for the Run’s transgender athlete policy. All three policy initiatives have been lauded throughout the sport. In 2018, Fitzpatrick, then 60 years old, made race history when she became the oldest female in Western States history to break 24 hours and earn a coveted silver belt buckle. Fitzpatrick’s time was 23:52.

Diana Fitzpatrick

An attorney who lives with her husband, Tim, in Larkspur, California, Fitzpatrick has long been actively involved in the running/ultra community. She and Tim coach the cross country teams at Marin Catholic High School. Fitzpatrick has also served as a volunteer running coach for inmates at San Quentin Prison.

“Diana’s track record speaks for itself,” said John Medinger, who had served as Western States president since 2016 and now that his presidency is over, still retains a spot on the board. “She would be the first person to try to deflect this sort of praise, but she is without question an influential and extremely important voice in our sport. She knows how to sweat the policy details and she also knows how to connect with people about the 47-year-old story that is Western States. She is going to lead Western States into innovative and exciting directions. The race is in very good hands.”

Fitzpatrick said she was “humbled” to be chosen president.

“I am honored, humbled and excited to take on this new role,” she said. “The goal will always be to continue forward as a team and let our passion for this event take us to new heights.”

Added Race Director Craig Thornley: “Diana hasn’t shied away from the challenging issues in our sport. She’s encouraged the race to be proactive and progressive in all aspects of our mission. She brings a wealth of experience and insight to the job as a key board member, creator of some of the most impactful policy we’ve ever implemented, high-level runner, coach, and race director (for several years Fitzpatrick and her husband were RD’s for the successful Headlands 50K).”

Fitzpatrick’s election as president adds another chapter to the prominent role that women have played throughout Western States’ 47-year history. Mo Livermore, who has served on the Western States Board since it was first formed in 1977, is one of the pioneering female figures in the sport of ultra running. Livermore along with friend Shannon Weil were co-race directors at a time when there were few female race directors in any running events in the world. The two served as co-RD’s from 1978-81 as Western States surged in popularity. Livermore then served as race director in 1982 and 1983. Before Livermore and Weil, it was Drucilla Barner, secretary of the Western States Trail Foundation and associate of Tevis Cup founder Wendell Robie, who encouraged Gordy Ainsleigh to make his run from Squaw Valley to Auburn with the horses of the Tevis Cup in 1974.

Livermore said: “It’s always a pleasure to work with Diana, whose appreciation and understanding of the foundational values of Western States blend authentically with her respect for each athlete and the particular issues each may confront. Her comprehensive analyses yield a standard of excellence which inspires, and her kind, thoughtful approach helps lead the Board towards decisions which reflect both the imperatives of the present and the challenges of the future.”

The other officers elected during Sunday’s vote in Auburn, California, were: Vice Presidents – Topher Gaylord, Tim Twietmeyer; Secretary – Allyson Thomas; Treasurer – Karl Hoagland. Hoagland will take over from Dr. Gary Towle, who after 38 years as the organization’s treasurer, will still remain a member of the board.

The board also announced that Dr. Andy Pasternak, a physician and ultra runner from Reno, Nevada, will now assume duties as WSER’s medical director. Pasternak has been the long-time medical director at the Tahoe Rim Trail 100-miler, and has served on the boards of Nevada State Medical Society and Washoe County Medical Society. He has also been the doctor, along with his wife, Dr. JoAnn Ellero, for the Peachstone, or “Cal 2” aid station at mile 70.7 of Western States. Pasternak succeeds Dr. Robert Weiss, one of the country’s leading kidney disease researchers/practitioners from UC-Davis.

Presidents of the Western States Endurance Run:

1978-1986, Curt Sproul
1987-1991, Doug Latimer
1992-1996, Tony Rossmann
1997-2000, Charles Savage
2001-2005, John Medinger
2006-2010, Tim Twietmeyer
2011-2015, John Trent
2016-2019, John Medinger
2020, Diana Fitzpatrick

HOKA ONE ONE NAMED PRESENTING SPONSOR

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WESTERN STATES CONTACT: Craig Thornley, WS 100 race director, rd@wser.org.

HOKA ONE ONE CONTACT: Gordon Wright, Outside PR, gordon@outsidepr.com

HOKA ONE ONE NAMED PRESENTING SPONSOR OF WESTERN STATES 100

The world’s oldest 100-mile trail race announces presenting sponsorship agreement with HOKA ONE ONE®, including “Golden Ticket” races

AUBURN, Calif. – HOKA ONE ONE® has been named the presenting sponsor of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, WSER President John Medinger announced.

“As one of the leading premium running brands in the world, HOKA has a recognized place in our sport as an innovative voice for competitors of all abilities,” Medinger said. “In the past few years, HOKA has shown what a tremendous reach it has not only for trail runners, but in telling the human stories that are so integral to the heartbeat of our sport.”

“Every year part of Western States’ job is to provide the canvas that will help tell 369 individual stories. Our partnership with HOKA will unquestionably help us bring those 369 stories into greater focus.”

Added race director Craig Thornley: “We are extremely excited that HOKA has made such a strong commitment to our mission as an organization, which is to serve the ultra community as one of the thoughtful leaders in our sport and culminates each June with putting on the highest-quality, yet intimate 100-mile experience we can possibly present for all of our runners. As we visited with HOKA, it was clear that our historic mission clearly resonated with their values as well. This is an agreement that is going to greatly benefit the experiences of our runners.”

“HOKA was born in the mountains and gained an early foothold in the trail ultrarunning community, so it is only natural that we would help put on the original trail 100-mile race,” said Mike McManus, Director of Global Sports Marketing for HOKA ONE ONE. “The Western States Endurance Run is an iconic event with an incredible community behind it, and one where some of the best-known legends of ultrarunning are born. We are beyond thrilled and proud to be the presenting sponsor.”

Also as part of the agreement, the traditional “Golden Ticket” series of races will be re-branded the “HOKA ONE ONE Golden Ticket Races.” The series, which allows the top two female and male finishers in each race to gain entry to that year’s Western States, for 2020 will consist of January’s Bandera 100K in Bandera, Texas; February’s Black Canyon 100K in Spring Valley, Arizona; March’s 74-mile Georgia Death Race in Dawsonville, Georgia; April’s Lake Sonoma 50-miler in Lake Sonoma, California and The Canyons 100K in Foresthill, California.

ABOUT THE WESTERN STATES 100-MILE ENDURANCE RUN: The Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, first held in 1974, is the world’s oldest 100-mile trail run. Held on the last weekend in June in Olympic Valley, Calif., Western States brings together runners from across the globe and from all 50 states on an iconic trail through the historic California Gold Country for what is considered the country’s most competitive 100-mile trail race.

About HOKA ONE ONE® 

HOKA ONE ONE® produces premium performance footwear for athletes of all types. Born in the mountains, HOKA ONE ONE shoes were initially distinguished by their oversized midsoles; today they are designed with the same enhanced cushioning, inherent stability and problem-solving inspiration to meet the running, walking, fitness and outdoor needs of a wide variety of users. With a bold and often unexpected approach, HOKA ONE ONE empowers athletes of all levels to feel like they can fly. For more information, visit hokaoneone.com or follow @hokaoneone #timetofly.

WSER/WSTF Volunteer Steward Program Announcement

The Western States Endurance Run Foundation (WSERF, organizer of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run) and Western States Trail Foundation (WSTF, organizer of the Tevis Cup), in partnership with the American River Ranger District and Truckee Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Auburn State Recreation Area (ASRA), wish to announce the creation and implementation of a new model to maintain and improve the trail(s) used by both events.  The new Volunteer Steward Program, modeled after successful approaches used to maintain the Pacific Crest Trail and Tahoe Rim Trail, will rely on relatively small well-trained and highly committed groups of volunteers to maintain and improve the Western States and Tevis Trail system.

Although the courses for the Western States Endurance Run and the Tevis Cup vary in certain areas, they share the same trail over the majority of their 100 mile reach.  Both organizations have a long history with respect to use of the trail system, and have individually and in partnership built and maintained much of the trail that exists today.  Therefore it makes sense to draw from the resources of both organizations to create a focused and efficient system for trail maintenance and improvement.

This new system of trail management will be lead by John Catts (WSER finisher and volunteer, and equestrian), with support from Nicole Wertz (Tevis Trail Manager).  To facilitate trail management, the Western States trail system has been segregated into eight Trail Sections.  Each Trail Section has a designated Trail Section Lead, and these Section Leads are currently in the process of assembling their respective Trail Section Teams.  With a defined management structure and designated Section Leads our goal is to work closely with the USFS and ASRA to identify trail maintenance needs, and work with the USFS and ASRA to both maintain the trails and plan and implement special projects.

The Trail Sections and Trail Section Leads are as follows:

  • Robie Equestrian Park to Watson Monument – Jim Mather
  • Watson Monument to Red Star Ridge Aid Station – Craig Thornley
  • Red Star Ridge Aid Station to Robinson Flat – Kynan Matz
  • Robinson Flat to Pacific Slab Mine – Mark Falcone
  • Pacific Slab Mine to Foresthill – Chaz Sheya
  • Foresthill to Rucky Chucky/ Poverty Bar – Tim & Austin Twietmeyer
  • Rucky Chucky to Browns Bar Trail at Quarry Road – Jay Marsh
  • Browns Bar Trail at Quarry Road to Finish Lines – Kassandra DiMaggio & Andy Mayo

  Although a number of our Section Leads have current chain saw and first aid (with CPR) certification, we have set up training classes to keep our Section Leads and their core team members current with their training, and to provide training for those not yet certified. We have encouraged our Section Leads to participate in trail crew leadership workshops.  With a higher level of training and skill our Trail Section Teams should be able to more efficiently respond to trail related issues, and help plan and implement both regular maintenance and special projects over a greater portion of the year. 

With respect to entrants selected to participate in the Western States Endurance Run, and their mandatory volunteer requirement, the WSERF and WSTF want to continue to encourage participants to give back to our community, so the volunteer requirement will remain in effect.  Although there may be fewer opportunities to fulfill an 8-hour volunteer requirement on the Western States Trail system, there will likely be a one or two trail work opportunities each year that will be advertised on the WSER (wser.org) and Tevis Cup (teviscup.org) webpages.  These events will likely be special projects where we need greater numbers of people to move or place materials.  We will still organize the Robinson Flat Trail Work Campout and Celebration (June 21/22, 2019) to complete trail work in the High Country in advance of WSER and the Tevis Cup. And you are encouraged to join one of our Trail Section Teams by contacting a Section Lead or John Catts (trails@wser.org).

In addition there are many other opportunities to help our trail community, by volunteering your time to either do trail work or work an aid station or vet check (see the WSER and Tevis volunteer pages).  As an example The Canyons Endurance Run has already planned local trail work days on April 13/14, May 11/12, and July 6/7, with signup at ultrasignup. Because this is a shift in how the WSER and Tevis Cup trails have been maintained in the past (a handful of core individuals and a number of large volunteer days), it will take some time to optimize our new Volunteer Steward Program. So please feel free to join a team, provide constructive feedback, or participate in our Robinson Flat Campout to learn how you can help.

Foresthill Firefighters Association Community Service Project

Western States Endurance Run, Foresthill Firefighters & Smokey want your help to protect the trails we run on and the community at the heart of WSER.

The What: In the spirit of our Mission Statement, the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, in partnership with the Foresthill Volunteer Firefighters Association (FVFA) is endorsing a community service fundraiser project inspired by our community of runners.

The How: The theme for this effort is: “Gifts of Runner Origin”.

Western States runners, crews, and spectators are encouraged to bring a gift that is unique to, and represents, the places we call home. Donated items will be accepted during registration and packet pickup near the Start Line at the Squaw Valley Ski Resort on Thursday and Friday June 21-22. All donated items will be collected by FVFA volunteers and delivered to Foresthill where they will be available for purchase during race day festivities on Saturday, June 23 and the Annual FVFA Garage Sale in August.

100% of proceeds will support the Foresthill Volunteer Firefighters Association.

The Why:  Firefighters and Fire Districts in California and across the country work to protect the forests, mountains and range lands that trail runners rely on to pursue our passion. They also provide emergency medical services. Every runner can help make a difference.

For Additional Information or Questions Contact:

njcomstock3@gmail.com (802) 233-4059  or
jgcomstock3@gmail.com (802) 233-0823

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.