From the white-capped mountains of Squaw Valley, California to the rolling brooks of Auburn, the Western States Endurance Run is undoubtedly the world’s most grueling, yet gratifying endurance run. For 100.2 miles, over 300 of the grittiest, most tenacious runners traverse the vast valleys of California gold country, paralleling the sweet victory and salty defeat of gold miners in generations long past.
Storied as it is notorious across the globe, the Western States 100 follows a portion of the historic Western States Trail, crossing colossal canyons and hazy orange landscapes that you only thought existed in old Western films. We’ll break down some of the history behind this prestigious run, and talk about what to expect on June 28th, when the 41st annual Western States Endurance Run gets underway.
As an answer to a challenge posed by a Montana horseman, businessman and horse lover Wendell T. Robie went out with four other horsemen in 1955 and attempted to cover 100 miles of the historic Western States Trail in a single day. Needless to say, Robie and his horse, Smoke, completed the trail in just under 24 hours.
Robie and his horse made the trek again the following year, only with a large group of friends, and thus the Western States Trail Ride was founded. The ride would later become what it is known today as The Tevis Cup 100 Miles-One Day Ride.
In 1974, California native Gordy Ainsleigh, who had previously participated in the Tevis Cup, was without a horse for the first time in years. Rather than find a new horse, Ainsleigh decided to head out and conquer the trail by foot. Less than 24 hours later, Ainsleigh crossed the finish line in Auburn on his two feet. The same feat was accomplished two years later by Ken Shirk, who would finish in just over 24 hours.
In 1977, the very first Western States Endurance Run was held, drawing only 14 men. Of those fourteen, only three finished. However, the number of participants would gradually increase over the years. The rest is mere history.
The run begins with an 18,000 foot climb through Squaw Valley, following the very same trails treaded by 19th century gold miners. From the dusty apex of the trail at Watson’s Monument, runners descend over 22,000 feet through breathtaking peaks and rocky valleys into the sienna-colored roads on the outskirts of Auburn.
The trail crosses through remote, tranquil wilderness, where the elevation spikes and plummets over and over again. The unforgiving terrain alone makes the Western States 100 the penultimate race of endurance running.
What to Expect in the 41st Annual Western States Endurance Run
This year’s Western States 100 has 315 participants, including the likes of Gordy Ainsleigh and veteran ultrarunners Pam Smith, Rob Krar, and Nick Clark. All participants who complete the run in under 30 hours receive a bronze belt buckle, while those who complete in under 24 hours receive a special silver belt buckle. The first male and female participants to finish are awarded with the coveted Western States Cougar Trophy.
If you ever plan on stepping up to the world’s greatest endurance run, you’d better show up with a serious hydration solution. The HydraQuiver Double Barrel from Orange Mud is just what you need to make it to Auburn, featuring two 24oz. sports bottles in a handy hydration pack that’s both comfortable and easy to reach.
This durable hydration pack is worn between your shoulders, designed with padded arm sleeves and a slew of zippered pockets for storing your small belongings. The HydraQuiver even has a thick, antimicrobial back pad that won’t irritate your skin like most hydration packs.
To learn more about the Western States 100, visit https://www.wser.org/
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