Human beings are capable of some amazing things if we just put our minds to it: sending astronauts to the moon…cheese in a can… and running 100 miles in one day.
The annual Western States 100 mile endurance run happens this weekend. Nearly 400 ultra-marathoners start running at Squaw Valley at 5am and don’t stop til they cross the finish line at Placer high school’s stadium 100 miles later…as long as they don’t drop out along the way or are able to finish in under 30 hours. A good time is 15 or 16 hours. Last year, a 73 year old woman finished under the 30 hour time limit with less than thirty seconds to go. 73 years old! The race winner was so impressed with her determination, he left his hotel room and ran with her the final mile.
This year’s run is going to be interesting; record snowfall in the Sierra has kept volunteers busy clearing clearing trails, and weekend temperatures are expected to be brutal: Saturday’s forecast calls for 100 degrees and while it’ll be cooler at higher elevations, lead runners typically hit lower-elevation canyons in mid-to-late afternoon where temperatures can often be significantly hotter along the canyon floors.
I’ve been lucky enough to work the run as a volunteer for several years in a row, including last year at Robinson Flat, which is the first full aid station for runners after they’ve left Squaw Valley, at mile 30. For anyone wanting to see the runners, the two best places are Foresthill… the first runners start coming through early-to-mid afternoon and it’s awesome to see them and their “support crews” — who are usually just friends and family. The next best place is Placer high’s stadium. Get there early Friday evening for the first runners to come through, or go Sunday morning to see the true grit of the race–the “normal” folks who have been on the trail for 27, 28, 29 and 30 hours. It’s an amazing display of heart, resilience and determination. For more info, click here. Meantime, here is video and some photos from last year’s event… including, below, former MLB player-turned-ultra runner (and Oakland A favorite) Eric Byrnes rolling into Robinson Flat with a great pace.