Thursday, April 2, 2009

An idea to make Western States a better race

In my opinion, the Western States Endurance Run is the premier 100-mile race in the world. As such, it annually draws an extraordinarily competitive field of runners eager to test themselves against the best in the sport.

At the same time, the event has a rich history of egalitarianism. Run a qualifier, get picked in the lottery, and train your butt off. Assuming the planets line up, anyone who wants to run and is patient enough to wait out the process they can run on hallowed ground with the best in the sport. That, to me, is a great thing.

However, one aspect of the eligibility requirement that deserves reconsideration is the qualifying standard. To make the race better while still honoring the beloved history and tradition of the event I suggest that race administration require every registered entrant to complete a 100-mile trail race as a prerequisite to running the Western States Endurance Run.

In the early years of ultrarunning there were only a handful of 100-mile races to choose from. Today, these races form the foundation of the sport. Indeed, Wasatch, Leadville, Vermont, Angeles Crest, Hardrock and a few others stand as testimony to the staying power of well-run, highly successful 100-mile races. However, in addition to these “majors” there are currently over 50 100-mile races to choose from in North America. In fact, there are few weekends a year during which there is not a 100-mile race being run. The ease of finding a race in which to qualify is Reason #1 to consider the 100 Mile prerequisite.

Reason #2 is a bit more complex. Western States is a 100 Mile Endurance Run. As such, it is quite a bit different than its shorter, and equally popular, counterparts in the 50K, 50 mile and 100K distances. Just ask anyone who’s ever run a 100 miler what the difference is between a 50 and a 100. The answers will amaze you. In short, if you boil down the data, it will not be like comparing two different events it will be like comparing two entirely different sports.

In my 13 year ultrarunning career I have started (and finished) 21 100-mile races including 5 Western States’. While each race has been a unique experience, what they all have in common is the unknown aspect of the last 30 miles. Even after running 100 miles 21 different times I never know what’s in store for me after Cal 2 at WS, or Brighton at WF, or Chantry at AC, or Camp Ten Bear 2 at VT. I love that about 100 milers but it’s also what makes them different, mysterious and capricious.

I am suggesting that on the sport’s greatest stage, it would be best if every competitor knows the post-70 mile feeling prior to experiencing it at Western States.

Would you really want to play your first ever round of golf at Augusta National or have your first ever horse race at Churchill Downs? Indeed, you are not legally permitted to run your first marathon at Boston so why not make Western States something you need to earn? It could still be entirely egalitarian. In fact, it might be even more so when everyone on the starting line would have experienced, at least once, what it’s like to run down the trail at night with trashed quads on blistered feet feeling like they’re about to puke. It may be just me but that stuff doesn’t happen in 50 milers and 100k’s.

Perhaps I am being elitist. Perhaps, as a 100-mile guy, I am playing to my bias. If so, I am guilty as charged. However, I believe the essence of the race can be maintained and even enhanced by changing this aspect of the qualifying standard. I have not done the research but I have a hunch that there are a large number of runners out there who have started and not finished one 100-miler in their lives. My guess is that many of those runners have had that experience at Western States.

As egalitarian as the race wishes to be (and I support that notion 100%). 100-mile racing is not for everyone. Take a look at the record sometime. Take a look at the number of fast 50k, 50 mile and 100k runners who simply can’t get it done in a 100 miler. I don’t mean to be mean or rude to those people I am just pointing to the data. There are 7 hour 50 milers out there who have tried, and failed, in every 100 miler they’ve entered. Seems to me a 100-mile prerequisite would fix that.

I know this suggestion will not be popular with those folks out there who want to run Western States as their once-in-a-lifetime experience. In fact, those people may be pretty upset with me right now. They might be saying,

“Who the heck is this jerk spouting off about 100-mile prerequisites. Not everyone can hop off the couch, drop everything in their life, and run 100 miles.”

I know, I know. I get that. But, I am also saying that this is THE Western States Endurance Run -- the best 100-mile race in the world. To make it even better, make everyone run 100 miles somewhere else first. The race, and the sport, would be better for it.

This is the 3rd installment of the 2009 Western States Synchroblog Project. See what other ideas my fellow synchrobloggers have to make Western States better.

47 comments:

Jeff said...

I've heard it recommended in many places that your first 100-miler and your first Western States should be two different experiences.

As someone who hasn't raced longer than 50 miles, I think this is a good idea. Why shouldn't ultra-running have it's version of the Boston Marathon, and what better race to be that than Western States?

Damon said...

Andy,

I definitely agree with you, and this would really help alleviate the issues with the lottery and the difficulty of getting into the race.

At the same time, I have two good friends who did their first 100 at WS. One of them went on to finish the Grand Slam that same summer - his first four 100 mile attempts resulted in a GS completion.

Anonymous said...

Andy,
Totally agree. I've run 2 100's and they are a world apart from everything else.(You won both VT and RR)It would lighten up the lottery load for WS also. Good luck to you there this year. Wayne Bates

Justy said...

I have only experienced Western States through blogs, race reports, and books, but understand why it is held sacred in the Ultra community. This being said I agree that a 100 mile qualifier is a good idea. I have run a 50 and a 70, with the 70 being much harder mentally than the 50. I cannot imagine what I will go through from miles 70 - 100 when I attempt my first 100 at Massanutten in May. As you pointed out, Boston is "THE" marathon and most people must qualify to run it. You do not qualify by running a half Marathon, but a full Marathon. Why should WS be any different?

Brad Mitchell said...

Agree 100%. Haven't run WS, but it is on my list of to do's. And while I'm sure I have met the qualifing standards through my other races, there is no way I want WS to be my first 100.

Gretchen said...

I think you're right on target Andy. I've only finished one 100, and I definitely agree that it's a different sport that running 50's and below! This requirement would make the field as a whole better prepared, and thus more likely to achieve success. It could only be a good thing for WS.

jhalekas said...

Totally agree. And while we're at it, let's make all the Montrail Cup qualifiers 100's. I was lucky enough to qualify at an MC event, but I still think it's ridiculous that you can qualify for the "de facto 100 mile championship" by running a 50k...

Craig Thornley said...

Maybe we should take this one step further and only allow people to enter that have a WS finish.

andiesdad said...

New to the running scene, but not new to golf, the Augusta analogy made perfect sense. I've only seen Augusta, but the thought of being able to play on that course as a first timer is blasphemous.

As a new runner with a goal of running the WSER one day, at least playing a round or two on another 100 mile course should be a requirement.

Peter Lubbers said...

You hit the nail on the head. I've always thought that the qualifying standards were a bit too easy.

olga said...

I am in with a change, even though I qualified and got in by running my first 50 miler. I did, however, finish another 100 before I even thought of toeing the line of WS. And I am glad I did.

AJW said...

Jasper,

I agree that it would be great if the MUC races were all 100's. Which ones do you have in mind?

And, you were not only able to qualify for '09 with a great run at White River you were than able to get in for 2010 via the ttl rule. You're basically set for two years. Pretty sweet deal! The rest of us have to fight it out for top-10 this year.

And Craig, that is an even better idea. Make WS the qualifier for WS:)

Anonymous said...

In keeping with your "Western States Endurance Run is the premier 100-mile race in the world" statement I would keep the 50 miler, but make the qualifying time ridiculously hard, I'm talking world class hard. Keep the 100 standard as is for the everyman, who has done the work and gone the full distance.

Jamie H.

SeattleJohn said...

Andy,

Hmmmm, first time I have ever responded to a blog. Thanks for sharing and making me think. I feel compelled to say I really, really, really, deep, deep, down, down, don't agree with you. My question to you is, why? Why does that make Western States a “better race”.
My surface level response is - I may only run one 100 miler in my life. I may have followed WS for 20 years before getting up the gumption to run. I may sacrifice time from wife and 3 kids for months if not years to do this one "life affirming" thing. Then again, I may not do any of that. But why NOT WS as a first 100? Why does a newbie presence or lack thereof, make WS a "better race"????
But deep, deep, down, down I feel that what makes WS so great, so absolutely worth wanting to get in, and wanting to finish, is that it is accessible to everyone, even the first timer and not just those sure to finish. I love the mystic of Western States and I think making it appear to be more for the elites would take away from the mystic. Don’t you feel the fearful energy of the newbie’s presence leading up to and bursting out the start in Squaw Valley? It appears I will have to wait 5 years on my 2-time loser ticket, and have thought how nice it would be to make getting in easier, but then I think, no, then I wouldn’t want to get in as badly. And that is what is so great (for me) about WS.

John

King Arthur said...

I agree with you AJ.
It frustrates me, as an experienced 100 miler, to see first time 100 mile runners DNF because they didn’t respect the distance and the heat and the downhill.
But as a compromise I'd say make the 50 mile and 100k time limits tougher and/or change it to a trail race. I think an 8 hour road 50 is a lot easier to run than a 9 hour trail 50. It’s great that someone wants to run Western as their first 100 but being a back of the pack runner and making your first attempt at 100 miles on a course like Western is a lot to achieve.
My biggest issue with the easy time limits now is that it's just too random on who gets in or maybe I'm just unlucky.
Every time I don't get picked my desire to run it goes down a little.

peter d. said...

This seems ridiculous. "Only allow people to enter who have a WS finish?" So you basically close off the race to everyone but those who have finished. How do you get in the race then, if you've never raced before? It would be the same group every year. Lame. Also, if the Ultra Cup became all 100s, you'd alienate a lot of people who might want to participate, like myself. You guys forget that many trail ultrarunners are working their way to 100 miles via the 50k, 50milers, 100k. And I think WS acts as the championship for the Ultra Cup, which makes sense, the biggest and baddest race in the series. Yes, you probably should not run WS as your first 100, but most people are smart enough to know this. Some of you guys are so wrapped up in your own achievements and goals that you forget about the greater good of the sport. Run for yourself, run for fun, enjoy it, and stop complaining so much. good luck

Nick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick said...

Peter, I think maybe there was an element of tongue and cheek in the "WS as WS qualifier" comment.

As to the suggesting of making all MUC qualifiers 100 milers - great idea! Another suggestion re grading MUC qualifiers: even out the geographic distribution of the races. Why not choose a couple of qualifiers NOT on the left and right coasts? Plenty to choose from.

If WS is indeed the 100-mile championship race, then how about about a bit of love for athletes from the interior not wanting to register for an over-rated CA race months in advance in the hope they can scoop a top three.

Just a thought.

Craig Thornley said...

Peter d.

Of course I'm not serious about WS as a WS qualifier. But that is the direction AJW's suggestion is headed. WS was the very first 100. If they had a previous 100 as a qualifier then nobody could have run it.

peter d. said...

apologies, sometimes it's hard to pick up on sarcasm on these blog discussions. thanks

Anonymous said...

Agree 1000% As a pretty good 47 year old woman with numerous 100 mile finishes, I find it absurd that I end up going to the "easy" 50 milers to get qualifying out of the way.

Won't run wser until 2010 but I am quite sure that my 9:30s at AR say a lot less about my ability to finish WSER than 13 hours at Diablo or 29 at AC100.

No one should be able to run that race as a first 100.

AJW said...

Seattle John,

I wouldn't have written the post if I didn't think there would be some disagreement. I do understand the idea that some people see WS as that once-in-a-lifetime experience. However, with the incredible growth of the sport that may need to change to make the event sustainable.

Peter D,

Craig was certainly just joking. Kind of like how all of the Californians who moved to Oregon now want to prevent any more Californians from moving to Oregon:)

Nick,

Agree on the MUC qualifiers. If it was changed so that all the qualifiers were 100's, I bet the entire sport would have a nationwide boom if they chose a couple 100's from each time zone. How about Masanutten and Vermont in the East, Mohican and Heartland in Central, Leadville and Javelina in Mountain and AC and Cascade Crest in the Pacific. And, just for consistency throw in Resurrection Pass in AK and HURT in HI. Now that would be sweet and the whole country would be covered.

Of course, then you'd have to figure out what to do internationally but I'm sure that could be arranged as well.

AJW

Andy H. said...

Agreed - I'd like to see the requirements to get into Western States a little tougher. Are we talking about requiring a previous 100 miler in the year preceeding the WS you are entering or a 100 miler at anytime in your life? Seems it should be a 100 miler in the year preceeding the race you're entering.

But, on the egalitarian note that AJW addressed in his post, I'd also like to see the entry fees stabilized at a number that makes sense. I would hate to see the entry fee for WS continue to climb just because there are a lot of people willing to pay any entry fee to get into WS no matter how high. If the entry fee is raised too high, I fear we may lose some of that egalitarian aspect of the race as it would then be discriminatory against people who wouldn't be able to afford a high entry fee. To me, that would truly be elitist and unfortunate.

As for those 7 hour 50 milers out there that still haven't run a good 100 miler (I wouldn't say failed - I've finished a few), well I'm only 40, so I feel like I'm just hitting my stride. One of these days...

jhalekas said...

Andy,

My inclination would be to make the grand slam 100's the MUC cup. Leadville, Wasatch, Vermont. How perfect is that? It might also be nice to throw in whatever the USATF 100 mile championship is that year, but I don't feel strongly about that.

On another note, I've been assuming my TTL qualification for WS2010 was wiped out by getting in via MUC this year. Do you really think that still counts? I mean, I'll take an entry spot if they give it to me, but it doesn't seem quite right.

Of course, everything I thought I knew about the WS entry procedures was pretty much thrown out the window this year, so who knows what they'll decide to do in future years.

-J

ohionative said...

I agree with you completely. I have yet to run anything over 50miles But have my first 100miler this summer.
I believe that WS should be treated as a hallowed course for people who have shown they are ready for it. I would think WS could still be a "once in a lifetime" event even when not being their first 100miler.

SD100 said...

I want to tell you I hate you just so I don't have to be the 98th person to tell you that they completely agree with you. But, I have to be honest, you are the man. And yes, I do agree with your pristine read on this issue.

AJW said...

SD 100,

First off, I am accustomed, given my line of work, to being hated so I appreciate the comment. Second of all, your wit and spin of phrase is inspiring. In fact, I think we may be on to something.

Thanks for commenting and lets hope for the best, for all of us.

AJW

Will said...

This is definitely a very interesting idea. I think I'm leaning to not agree with the 100 mile qualifier. I've run 100 and would meet the criteria, but I think it would also be an amazing experience to run WS as your first 100, and I'd hate to take that away from anyone.

Paul Charteris said...

AJW,

I'll be there in Squaw with this as my first 100-miler. Don't hate me. I care about this race as much as anyone and I am unashamedly making this my first 100-miler. For the record I was a 2-time loser but belatedly got in the second year through an aid station slot (Golden Valley Harriers who run Cal1).

Last years Western States would have been my first 100-miler but of course that didn't happen. Immediately after the non-run I had to leave the US (my Visa had expired) to go home to NZ where there are no trail 100 milers. Granted, I am a special case of not having easy access to an alternative 100-mile run.

That aside, I bleed for this race. I've run every inch of that trail, I know the course inside out and backwards, I've run the f''n canyons more times than I care to remember, paced runners, crewed, volunteered at aid stations, joined the trail crew and attended every WSER-organized training run going. I have paid my dues and I feel like I have paid them in full. Sure, I have not run another 100-miler but I have earned my right to start THIS particular race.

Just how would the race and the sport be better if I went and did some other 100-miler? Would I respect Western States more? No. Be more appreciative of the opportunity to start? No. Fitter? Possibly, but likely no. More experienced at 100-miles. Yes, certainly, but I think I have already experienced a lot of what this race can throw at you without actually pinning a race number to my shirt.

See you in the canyons.

- Paul Charteris

Anonymous said...

“Perhaps I am being elitist.”
Andy,
I think you are on to something. A 100 qualifier I think makes sense. Also, there needs to be a better way to get elite runners into the race. Something is broken when the 7-time winner cannot get in.
Are you an elitist? ANDY, YES YOU ARE!!! Not because you suggest a 100 mile requirement to get into to States – I think that makes good practical sense. Rather, because I have posted specific questions via your blog, like how does your weight vary throughout the year, how much beer to you really drink and how do you control your weight? You are a bigger runner like me. Those practical questions from the average Joe go unanswered. Often I have seen you respond to posts from more elite runners skipping right over my poignant questions. Now, I know I ride you pretty hard on Craig’s blog, but that’s all in fun. That’s what makes you an elitist – frankly, when I email 7-time winner of States I get a better response than I do from you. Only in ultra running have I sat around the camp fire and had to listen to a bunch of 17-minute 5K runners self refer to themselves as “elite runners,” maybe that’s just the Central Oregon crowd.
Don't take this wrong, rather, you are one of the few ultrarunners that I can relate to, you are a bigger guy, with a family and a real job. When you do well in races you inspire me way more than the 135lb. light weight with no life that I cannot related to. Andy, you are the “Average Joe” runner with a family that gives them hell! I think they should deduct 15 minutes from your finishing time for every kid you have.
When the average Joe’s asks a question that is relevant, answer it – no matter his popularity in the sport. After all, I have ran 15:04 for 5K, though that was 20 years ago – I am far from elite!!!
-CB

Craig Thornley said...

@Paul, very well said. See you in Squaw.

@CB, please don't project that elitist attitude on all of us. Maybe in Eugene we have a very different perspective because there are 100s of runners that are faster than our fastest ultrarunners. It's not uncommon for us to be doing a workout on the bark and a couple of guys or gals will be finishing an easy run and pass us. And when they're running workouts, well, we look like the bunch of slow ultrarunners that we are (well, except S. Beck). Keeps you humble that's for sure.

@AJW, while I disagree with the idea of a 100 as a qualifier, I think you stated your case well and generated a great discussion. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

@LB
Don't take offense, I said Central Oregon, not Eugene -- I think some you guys still run in the 16's. For you non-Oregonians, Central Oregon is Bend/Redmond/Sisters.

Which brings an idea for a really good post. Where is the epicenter of ultrarunning?

Ashland
Eugene
Bend
Seattle
Boulder

Or does it take the entire State of California?

-CB

Runner Tammy said...

Hi AJW,

Your post is very thought provoking. Just coming off Umstead 100 (2 days ago), I agree with you that a 100 miler as a prerequisite makes sense.

Those last 30 miles (and really I would even say last 15 miles) are such a different experience than any other I have ever had. I cannot explain to people (runners and non-runners) how challenging it is to be out on the course in excrutiating pain, exhausted and mentally drained and have to decide to dig deeper then ever. I think a pre-Western 100 makes sense to give a sneak peak at this.

I speak as a back of the packer (28-30 hour finish times on relatively "easy" 100 mile courses represent my best effort). But it does seem that adding an additional pre-requisite seems reasonable.

Tammy

Meghan said...

Just out of curiosity, what are the stats on first timers that dnf at WS100? Compared to the well trained veterans who just have a bad day? I know some top 10 runners who have dnf'd, and some first time 100 milers who have placed in the top 10. I agree that the requirements should be tighter - I believe that 100k should be the distance standard, and I agree wholeheartedly with Paul C. There are so many smart ways to prepare, as he has shown, and some not-so-smart veterans who show up undertrained, slightly injured, but insist on starting. And regarding Boston - certain charity runners do not have to qualify except in this way "The B.A.A. accepts a limited number of new organizations each year, each to receive 15 waivers per year for a period for up to three years. These entries do not require a qualifying time but do require that runners acknowledge that they can complete a marathon within 6 hours and will abide by all other B.A.A. rules and regulations."

Rod Bien said...

Agree, of course with your requirement, AJW.
I would say I agree the most adamently with Jasper. Seriously, it is a joke that AR and WTC 50K are qualifiers for WS. Great events... both of them but hold no relevence towards a "contender" at WS. I think auto bids should go to the top finishers of a group of "mountain 100 mile races" from the year before. The winner of Wasatch or Leadville is much more relevent than the winner of WTC or even White River. You should have to scrape your teeth at an event that automatically makes you a player at WS.

Bill Cotton said...

"I have not done the research but I have a hunch that there are a large number of runners out there who have started and not finished one 100-miler in their lives. My guess is that many of those runners have had that experience at Western States."

I'm one. 2006, hot as hell but that's not the reason for the dnf. Lack of experience is more accurate. And I can tell you that knowing what I know now, I wish I would have waited and run a different 100 prior to WS just for the chance to figure out what the hell I was doing. AJW, I agree with you. This would enhance the WS experience, not detract from it. Bill C

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Like the majority of the readers commenting, I think this totally makes sense-- well put, Andy. This applies to elite runners, too, who have not shown any immunity from dropping out of States as their first 100-miler. ("Give me their spot next time-- I'll finish" I want to shout.)

Any responses from WS management?

Craig Thornley said...

JizzleWizzle,

Since you asked privately why I'm against this suggestion I'll repeat my thoughts publicly.

I wouldn't be surprised if you aren't getting a representative sample of opinions here. Think about the first timer who is sitting there reading your suggestion. It takes somebody with big cajones like Paul to say he disagrees. You're basically saying that the first timer is not worthy of their starting spot. Going against the Jiz ain't for the timid.

One reason for not liking it is because WS was the very first one and the race wouldn't have survived with this requirement. Gordy would never have been able to run. Most of the people in the first decade couldn't have run it. It is tradition and the spirit of doing something unknown. I value that.

But maybe more importantly, just because you've done a 100 doesn't mean you are going to prepare better than somebody else or that you're more worthy of a spot on the starting line. For me personally, I specifically chose to not do WS as my first because I wanted to reduce the number of variables. Arkansas was 100 miles but the terrain was much easier, there was no heat, and there wasn't the competition. But that's just the way I approach things. I generally don't recommend that people do WS as a first 100, but not always. Olmstead is a first-timer who is doing his homework. He will be prepared. It will be very exciting to watch him on race day (if I am close enough to see him). Everything for him will be totally unknown after 8 or 10 hours. That's exciting stuff for him but also for me.

Maybe we could get Gary Wang to crunch on the numbers as Meghan suggests.

Blog on, brother!

Anonymous said...

The roots of Western States is embedded in just better than average, offbeat runners, contemplating the other side of Emmigrant Peak and finding their way to Auburn so I'm in the camp of keeping things the same and the Boston marathon clubishness out. A 10:30 qualifier at AR will get you to the finish line at WS, even in a hot year, just so long as you do the work.


Bill L

Kangsan said...

AJW:

You state your case very well, but gotta say, I disagree. I also give you props for admitting from the start the elitist attitude, because it is.

Who ever said that the rules to get into Boston are right? I qualified and ran it in 2006, but don't feel like there should be a qualification at all.

Look, first come, first served for Boston. Once they meet some number limit that they feel they can accomodate, then close it. Unfortunately, Boston is elitist, and doesn't do it that way. Never did like that.

I'm glad Western States is not like that.

If there's a person out there who lives near the WS course and is a pretty good runner and, let's assume, just for argument's sake, that we already know the person would finish with a pretty good time in the WS.

This person has never run a 100 mile race. But s/he has trained hard and wisely, has run 50Ks, 50 milers, and even a 100K or two.

S/he lives right there in the geographical area of the course, but I'm going to tell them that they have to run some other 100 first? That just doesn't fly. That dog don't hunt.

And actually, the same goes for the person that lives thousands of miles away, whose dream it is to just run the WS100.

Sorry, but I'm not going to take that away from them.

Reading the responses a couple of days ago, there was one by someone who wasn't picked in the lottery and, in my view, was justifiably upset because some others, in his judgement, less worthy than him, were chosen.

Maybe in that case, there should be some review process that allows someone like him in. I think those are the anomalies that ought to be creatively addressed rather than the barring first timers.

I'd agree that perhaps the qualifying times should be tightened. That's not unreasonable. I think it is sub 11hours for a 50 miler now?

Lower that to 10 hours. Maybe 9.5 hours.

But if someone can complete a 50 in sub 10, or sub 9.5, I'll give 'em the benefit of the doubt that, if they were gifted and smart enough to do that, they can probably do alright in making a good run at WS, even if there IS a world of difference between a 50 and a 100.

But then I'd have to include some exception for "seniors".

If anyone is cocky, it's probably going to be someone a lot faster, not the person who sqeaks in to qualifying at 9:59 in a 50 (or 10:59). My view is that they'll probably be even more likely to plan and train wisely, so that they are there at the end in the WS100.

Did someone suggest that a certain amount of the top finishers in all the mountain 100s should have automatic entry into WS100?

If that is not already the case, I would agree with that. Top 10 in AC, Cascades. Leadville, Wasatch, and Hardrock should get in without question, without having to go through a lottery, and if they accept.

What would be a reasonable time run in a 100K to qualify someone to get into WS100?

What is it now? I do not know.

If the 50 mile were lowered to 10 hours, instead of 11, would 13 hours be reasonable for a 100K time that would qualify them?

Anyway, the above is just another view. You had a lot of folks initially that agreed with you right off the bat. That's fine. Their reasoning, and yours, is not crazy.

I just like the non-elitist quality of ultras, including WS, and hope it always stays that way.
Don't throw out the baby with the bath water.

If you or someone else were to succeed in changing the qualifying in this way about Western States, to me, it would be sad.

It reminds me of Aldo Leopold's comment in, A Sand County Almanac, when he spoke of the sorrow he felt when he witnessed the light going out of a dying wolf's eyes. Something wild and beautiful had truly been lost.

Good luck in all your races, except the one to change this about WS.

Respectfully,

Anonymous said...

Once upon a time I agreed with this. Respectfully, I now see it as a kind of elitism. It makes sense to do something to alleviate the bottleneck to get into this race, but that egalitarianism you mention is vital. I know too many people who've run this as their first 100. They did well.

To me it makes about as much sense to create a policy that prevents people from running the race more than twice in an any five year span (with exceptions for MUC winners and previous top ten finishers to keep the race a race). Not advocating it, but it's a shoe on the other foot thing. In discussing solutions, I always see people willing to bar entry to this race for someone else, never any category into which they themselves would fall.

-Chris

Anonymous said...

The requirements for getting into WS should be the willingness to train with optimal effort and desire. I have much greater issue with the runner that is not welling to give it 100% while determined runners are waiting years to get into this race. WS is not a foot tour of the Sierra's it is a race pure and simple. How can this determination be measured? Age group qualifying standards such as those used at Boston. If a runner shows the grit and determination to meet a tough AG standard then the chances are good that this runner will show the race and his or her competition the respect that it/they deserve.

I see no reason why there couldn't be a AG standard for 50 miles, 100k and 100 mile to qualify for WS.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I do think you're being elitist.

If I understand your argument correctly you are saying that WSER would be a better race if all the participants had run a 100m race before WSER.

On the personal level I can see that runners would be better prepared if they had done another 100m first, but I don't see how that translates into WSER being a better race.

I figure WSER would be a better race if the competition was greater and if the front runners ran faster, and I think there is simply no evidence that first-time WSER runners are holding front runners back, both on the course and in the selection process.

As you mention, there are plenty of 100m runs out there, so I think this new selection criteria would not take any significant pressure off the lottery process.

Finally, I think what makes endurance races great is the perseverance and the determination of runners to complete the race. Having volunteered at several ultras I've found that you see much more drama, grit, and struggling with the slower runners than with the fast ones, and I would hate to see that facet of ultra running lost.

For full disclosure, I ran WSER as my first 100m. I trained hard, ran well, enjoyed every minute of it, and didn't bring shame on the newbies :)

Anonymous said...

There is no better argument against the suggestion to make Western States better by requiring runners to have already run a 100 mile race than this year's WS100 women's winner, Anita Ortiz.

45, a mother of four, never ran a 100 mile race before in her life! Only had run one 100K.

Won the women's race by over an hour.

It's a tough race. All sorts of runners dropped, from a 7 time winner to others who had never run a 100 mile race, to folks of running histories, abilities and accomplishments in between these two extremes.

If folks want to get into the WS100, sign up for the lottery and take your chances like everyone else.

Once you are in the race, if you do not like it that you have to rely on getting in by lottery each year, make sure you run in the top 10.

The WS100 will always be good, will always symbolize quality. There is no need to make it better. Some argue it is already the best.

AJW, this comment is definitely not aimed at slamming you. Please do not take it that way.

This year's race was fatefully just a great case against the suggestion you put forth in this instance.

Congratulations on a great run, by the way.

Anyone should feel good just if they finished!

That was hot out there! Not easy.

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zagbag said...

I could be wrong but it appears neither Dan O or Paul C finished the 2009 race. I like the 100 as a qualifier. Same problem as HR100, too many people entering the lottery just because they can.