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Frequently Asked Questions

Entry

I’d like to run Western States. Where do I begin?

Your first step is to complete one of the qualifying runs listed for the coming year’s Western States Run. Choose your qualifier from the List of Qualifying Runs. If it is already near the end of the qualifying period (2nd Saturday of November), be sure to look at the next year’s qualifying races.

How do I enter?

With the exception of the automatics, all applicants must sign up for the annual WS Lottery. Applications are accepted exclusively via UltraSignup.com during the Lottery entry period, a one-week window that opens each November.

How much is the entry fee?

The entry fee is $410.00, payable upon being selected in the Lottery. It’s always possible that the entry fee could be adjusted for future events.

When will my credit card be charged?

The entry fee will be charged to your credit card immediately upon your acceptance in the lottery.

Can I enter by mail?

No, you must apply online at UltraSignup.com.

Do I need to qualify prior to entering?

Yes, the qualifying window closes in early November of the year preceding the Run. You must run a qualifier from our qualifying list during the qualifying period for the year you wish to run. You will be removed from the lottery applicant list if you did not run a qualifier. Please don’t ask or try to apply if you haven’t run a qualifier.

What is your refund policy?

Once you have been selected via the Lottery (or as an “automatic”) your credit card will be processed immediately. Beginning with the 2017 race, WS has used a tiered refund model.

Do you maintain a wait list?

Yes, beginning with the 2017 race, we will choose an additional 50 names at the lottery for an ordered wait list. As runners withdraw from the race, people on the wait list will be given an opportunity to register for the race. Please see our news announcement for more details.

What is the raffle?

The raffle is one of the ways we have of raising money to support the charitable mission of the WSER Foundation including medical research, trail preservation, education and community service. 100% of the money received from the sale of raffle tickets goes to these efforts. Tickets are $5 each or $4 each for 10 or more.

There are two raffle drawings each year: Friday before the race in June, the other immediately after the close of the lottery drawing in December. Each drawing awards a free, automatic entry to the WS Run that is 12 to 18 months away. Winning entries are transferable.

Visit the raffle page for additional details.

If I gain entry into the race but cannot participate due to an injury or illness can I apply and get an automatic entry the following year?

No. Western States has a No-Rollover policy, but depending on when you withdraw you will be eligible for a partial refund of your entry fee. The only exception is if a woman becomes pregnant.

Lottery

How does the lottery work and when is it?

A detailed explanation can be found on the lottery page. The lottery is normally held on the first or second Saturday of December preceding the Run, starting at 8:30 a.m. and generally lasting until about 11 a.m.

When is the lottery entry period?

The lottery entry period opens for one week (only) in mid-November of the year preceding the Run. Refer to the lottery page for details.

Who can attend the lottery, and where is it held?

The lottery is open to the public and held in the auditorium at Placer High School, 123 Agard St., Auburn, CA.

How many tickets will I have in the lottery?

Each runner who enters the lottery and fails to gain entry into the Run (and otherwise doesn’t gain an entry via other means such as an aid station, sponsor, or Golden Ticket spot) will have additional tickets in the hat when entering the lottery the following year, thus improving the probability of being selected. Every lottery applicant will receive 2^(n-1) tickets in the hat for each consecutive failure to gain entry where n is the number of years applied. As an example: If a runner applies and fails to gain entry two consecutive times, they will have four tickets in the hat when entered in the lottery the third consecutive year (2^2), eight in fourth consecutive year (2^3), 16 in fifth (2^4), 32 in sixth (2^5), 64 in the seventh (2^6), 128 in the eighth (2^7), etc.  Conversely, if a runner enters the lottery one year, is not chosen and does not enter the following year, they will not have a extra tickets in the hat when applying the year after that.

What are my odds of getting selected in the lottery?

The odds depend on the number of Lottery entries we receive and their corresponding ticket counts. In recent years, less than 5% of all applicants have been selected.

When do you post the results of the lottery to the website?

Results are posted close to real-time on ultralive.net. Final results are posted to the wser.org website soon after the drawing.

How will I be notified if I am accepted or rejected?

Results will be posted on ultralive.net close to real-time and then posted to wser.org soon after the drawing.

Pregnancy Deferrals

Will the names of women who use the pregnancy lottery deferral be on the website?

There will be a list of names each year of all people who skip the lottery using either the one-time bye or the pregnancy entry deferral. The list will not state whether the person used their one-time bye or the pregnancy entry deferral — it will just be a list of names for that year.

I am six months pregnant and have a qualifier. Should I enter the lottery or request a pregnancy lottery deferral?

You can do either one but entering the lottery is probably the better choice. If you get picked in the lottery, you can request a pregnancy entry deferral and you will be able to hold on to your race entry for three years. If you don’t get picked, you can request a pregnancy lottery deferral in the next lottery as long as you’re pregnant or give birth during that lottery’s qualifying period.

I was selected in the lottery and found out I was pregnant one month before the race. I’d like to use the pregnancy entry deferral but I don’t want anyone to know that I am pregnant yet.

Any information regarding the reason for your withdrawal from the race will be kept confidential. You must notify the race director and your name will be taken off the entrant’s list. There will be no further public comment from us regarding your withdrawal from the race. If you decide to enter the race later using your entry deferral, your spot will be designated on the website as a pregnancy entry deferral. 

Is the pregnancy lottery deferral only for pregnancies that occur during the 12 month qualifying period for that lottery?

No. The pregnancy lottery deferral also can be used by women who entered the prior lottery pregnant (which means they had a qualifier), as long as they are pregnant or give birth during the qualifying period for the current lottery.

I have a qualifier and gave birth prior to the lottery. Should I ask for a pregnancy lottery deferral or enter the lottery?

You can do either but your safest bet is to get a pregnancy lottery deferral. If you decided to enter the lottery and were lucky enough to get picked, you could obtain a pregnancy entry deferral. However, if you enter the lottery and don’t get picked, you wouldn’t be able to get a pregnancy deferral for the next year’s lottery, unless you got pregnant again during that lottery’s qualifying period.

It is my first time in the lottery and I’m pregnant. Should I use the one-time bye or the pregnancy lottery deferral?

No. The one-time bye and pregnancy lottery deferrals are only for people who have accrued lottery tickets and want to maintain their consecutive lottery status in subsequent lotteries. If you haven’t been in the lottery before or don’t have any accrued tickets, then you don’t have any reason to use a bye or deferral.

I have a pregnancy-related situation that isn’t covered by your policies. Is there anything I can do?

While our goal was to be as generous and inclusive as possible in creating these policies, we realize there may be some cases involving pregnancy, miscarriage, or other things that aren’t covered. If you have a situation that you’d like considered on a confidential basis, you can contact the race director who will refer the matter to our gender committee to see if there is some kind of accommodation that can be made.

Runners

What can I expect on arriving at Squaw Valley, CA, for Check-In?

On Thursday, runners, crews and pacers are trickling into the Valley. We offer important clinics for runners and crews on Thursday. You can hike or run to the summit to get a feel for the first four miles of the course. On Friday, you will be very busy with runner check-in, drop-bag arrangements and a mandatory briefing. The Friday pre-race activities are usually completed by 3 p.m.

I’m flying to the race, where should I land?

If you’re flying to the race, you can land in Sacramento or Reno and drive to Squaw Valley. Squaw Valley is two hours driving time from Sacramento and one hour from Reno.

How do I get to the start of the race?

Squaw Valley (aka, Olympic Valley) is 42 miles from Reno, NV, 96 miles from Sacramento, and 196 miles from San Francisco via Interstate 80. The Valley entrance (look for the Olympic Towers) is on Hwy 89, 8 miles from Truckee and 6 miles from Tahoe City (the North Shore of Lake Tahoe.)

From San Francisco/Sacramento/Northern California: Take Interstate 80 northeast into the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Exit at Truckee, onto Highway 89 SOUTH, towards Lake Tahoe/Tahoe City/Squaw Valley. Follow Highway 89 south 8 miles to the Squaw Valley Rd. Exit. Turn RIGHT and follow Squaw Valley Rd. to the base of the mountain.

From Reno, NV and Eastern U.S.: Take Interstate 80 WEST into California and on to Truckee. (Approx 30 miles from Reno) Take the Highway 89 SOUTH Exit towards Lake Tahoe/Tahoe City/Squaw Valley. Follow Highway 89 south 8 miles to the Squaw Valley Rd. Exit. Turn RIGHT and follow Squaw Valley Rd. to the base of the mountain.

How do I fulfill the Service Requirement that is required before running WS?

Since 1998, the Western States Endurance Run has required eight hours of service by each entrant as a way of giving back to the running community. This service can be in the form of trail maintenance or volunteer services at any organized running event or ultramarathon. This is required of all entrants regardless of residence.

Pacing or crewing is NOT considered a volunteer service to an event. This requirement must be fulfilled during the 15-month period leading up to the Run. If the Service Requirement is not completed, you will not be allowed to participate in the Run. See the Service Form.

Are there training runs offered?

Yes. See the Training Runs page. The first run is in late February, and the others are in late May, during Memorial Day Weekend. It is a tremendous advantage on race day if you have taken this opportunity to familiarize yourself and any pacers with the canyons and “nighttime” sections of the course.

Do I need to be entered in the upcoming race to participate in the training runs?

No. The training runs are open to all runners. The individual training runs are 20 miles in length, except one that is 32 miles long. If you are new to ultrarunning, this is a good chance to learn the ropes. We just ask that you maintain an 18 min/mile or 30 hour 100 mile pace.

Is there a lost & found for gear that’s gone missing during the race?

Yes. All such items found at the checkpoints are transferred to the finish line area and laid out on tarps at one end of the stadium field. Unclaimed items, including drop bags, not claimed by 3 p.m., Sunday of race weekend, may be disposed of. Please do not leave valuables in your drop bags.

Volunteers and Spectators

How can I volunteer to help out during the race?

The race is always in need of medical professionals, aid station personnel, runner tracking, trail sweeps and start and finish-line helpers. If you’d like to volunteer, look at our volunteering page and then fill out the request form. We will do our best to fit you in. We will make the form available in January before the race.

Where can I go to view the race as a spectator?

Not all of the WS course is accessible to the general public on race weekend. Many of the checkpoints are restricted to race officials only, due to limited space for parking and to the need to keep the narrow access roads clear for fire and rescue equipment. Members of the press are asked to request press credentials well in advance of the race.

You can, however, see a lot of the race (and related activities) first hand:

  • Squaw Valley Start: On the Friday of race weekend, you can observe the check-in process and listen in on the runner briefings. You can also watch the Race start at 5:00 AM on Saturday morning, although it is still quite dark at that hour.
  • Robinson Flat Checkpoint: The front runners start to arrive at about 9:30 AM, Saturday, and continue coming through until the 1:50 PM cutoff time. Note that Robinson can only be reached via the Foresthill Divide Road out of Foresthill. Allow about an hour for the trip as the road, although paved, is narrow and steep in places. Parking is very limited at Robinson: you will need to park about a mile short of Robinson Flat at Sailor Bar and take a shuttle bus to the aid station.
  • Foresthill Checkpoint: The front runners start to arrive as early as 2:30 PM, depending on trail/weather conditions. There is plenty of parking available in town and lots of places to view the runners. They will enter the checkpoint area in front of the school just north of downtown and proceed along the main street before rejoining the trail at the south end of town. The latest time for runners to reach Foresthill is about midnight.
  • No Hands Bridge Checkpoint: This checkpoint is open to the public. Park beside the roadway, just past the Highway 49 bridge at the North Fork/Middle Fork confluence. Walk in via the graded dirt access road, about 50 yards. The front runners may arrive as early as 7:30 PM. 30-hour runners need to cross No Hands no later than about 10:00 AM, Sunday morning.
  • Placer HS Stadium Finish: The first runner may arrive as early as 8:00 PM. 24-hour runners must arrive by 5:00 AM, Sunday morning; 30-hour runners by 11:00 AM. Runner progress information is available from volunteers with laptops near the finish line, and runners are identified by the announcer as they enter the stadium for their “home stretch.”
As a spectator, can I walk out on the trail during the race?

Spectators are asked to stay within 1/4 mile of the checkpoints. This limit is the same as that demanded of runners’ crews.

Also, do not provide food, beverages or other assistance to runners outside the main checkpoint areas. Doing so may risk their being disqualified.