I am thrilled to see the Western States Board and Craig Thornley take the bold step to amend their qualifying standards. And, while they fell just short of my long-held conviction that a 100 mile requirement is appropriate, they have moved the event in a direction that it needed to go. By requiring at least a 100K finish in under 16 hours in a small pool of races that meet their collective approval they have raised the bar and maintained their long-term commitment to producing an egalitarian event.
This decision should be applauded and celebrated. Over the past decade interest in Western States has exploded and in response to that growth the organizers have struggled to maintain the event's character, remain true to their roots, adhere to the ethical and environmental standards that are dear to them, and provide fair and open access to the event. These new standards do all those things and more.
In my opinion, a related consequence of this action will be to enhance the entire sport of ultra running, not just Western States. By providing a short-list of races in which to qualify that have incentivized Race Director's to produce quality events in a broad geographical areas which I can only imagine will be good for the sport. And, not surprisingly, they have immediately added a certain appeal to the 63 races on their list.
Bravo Craig and Western States! Great job.