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The 2024 race lottery will be conducted on December 2, 2023 8 a.m. PST at Placer High School

Real-time lottery results beginning at 8 am PST

Live broadcast beginning at 7 am PST

Please visit the 2024 entry process page for details on qualification and lottery registration details.

The number of applications received each year greatly exceeds the number that can be accepted. The annual lottery is the method used to select those who will participate.

Everything starts with this: Our permit with the U.S. Forest Service limits us to 369 runners. Why this odd number? In 1984, Congress enacted the California Wilderness Act, which created the Granite Chief Wilderness. The Western States Trail crosses the Granite Chief Wilderness, at about miles 6-10. Normally, organized events are not permitted in wilderness areas but, as Western States pre-existed the wilderness designation, we were able to get the race “grandfathered” into the legislation, with the proviso that we have no more runners than we had prior to the passage of the act. In 1984, it happened that there were 369 starters and that has been the magic number ever since.

In order to start exactly 369, beginning in 2017 the race uses a wait list model.

The annual lottery was instituted in an effort to provide for the fairest means possible of choosing the starting field. Registration for the lottery is open for a period of three weeks in November. You must have run a qualifying race within the qualifying period in the allowed time. If selected in the lottery drawing, runners will be sent an invitation from Ultrasignup to complete registration, including paying the entry fee.

All other runners’ names are put into a “hat” and drawn at random by members of the audience at a public lottery held at Placer High School in Auburn each fall.

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, raffle, or Golden Ticket spot) will have additional tickets in the hat when entering their next lottery, regardless of whether it is the next year or a future year, thus improving the probability of being selected. Every lottery applicant will receive 2^(n-1) tickets in the hat for each 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 times, they will have four tickets in the hat when entered in the lottery the third year (2^2), eight in fourth year (2^3), 16 in fifth (2^4), 32 in sixth (2^5), etc.

Beginning with the 2019 lottery, runners may choose to exercise their One-Time Lottery Bye which gives runners with accrued lottery tickets the opportunity to skip one lottery cycle and maintain their consecutive lottery status at 2^(n-1). No qualifier or reason is needed to exercise this Bye.

During the period between the close of registrations in November and the December lottery, the contents of the hat can be inspected online.

The probability of being selected is a function of the number of applicant names in the hat versus the number of slots available to be filled. For example, the number of entrants in the 2017 hat was 4248, with a total ticket count of 11021. Based on a draw of 250 and using a monte carlo simulation, the probability of being selected with a single name in the hat was 2.5%, with 2 tickets 4.9%, with 4 tickets 9.5%, with 8 tickets 18.1%, with 16 tickets 33.0%, with 32 tickets 55.1% and with 64 tickets it was 80%.

The lottery is open to the public, and all runners, friends and family are encouraged to attend. Special prizes are given to lottery winners who are present. Also, a Bonus Drawing at the end of the lottery gives those present “one last chance” to be selected. The lottery is held in the Placer High School Auditorium, 123 Agard St. in Auburn, CA on the first Saturday in December.

Lottery History

1 Year2 Year3 Year4 Year5 Year6 Year7 Year8 year9 yearTicketsWait ListNotes
20081350Fire year, race cancelled
2009no lotteryRollovers, two-time losers, autos
20101693Last year for two-time losers
2011178612865002286electronic drawing
2012194012214612583378electronic drawing
2013229514864802071223555manual drawing
201427041727561258106524307manual drawing
20152566142764128113657246601First year of 2^(n-1)
2017424824271023397256112312110212017First year of wait list
20195862311312816974551919530201192019First year of Byes
2020666432501447914549315126549278722020COVID-19, Race Cancelled
2021no lottery2021Dropped consecutive year requirement
20226208331810637225143281865918297242022First year of portal
202371693560157873152537423212737541,3922023electronic drawing